Tag: Manufacturing & Logistics

Young Professionals Choose Delaware

Not many people are lucky enough to say that where they live has all the ideal factors, but when it comes to the citizens of Delaware, they can proudly boast about a place that is perfect for all aspects of life. Delaware has been experiencing an influx of young professionals who choose to live somewhere they know will provide them with job opportunities along with a welcoming community.

Over the years, while the size of the state has remained the same, the business and residential communities have grown. Residents of Delaware feel connected to each other, and this allows them to make meaningful connections. As interviewee Jason James points out, more people seek out diversity when it comes to their work and home lives. The younger workforce wants to become involved with people unlike themselves—they want to engage with others so that they can learn and become more in tune with their communities.

Because of these reasons, young professionals choose Delaware as it is a state whose diversity is growing each and every year. The range of diversity allows people to pursue a variety of interests, showing that Delaware is truly a place where anyone can come and thrive.

Kyle Gay: Delaware is a place to live, work, and play, for millennials and for people of all ages.

Kyle Barkins: Really easy to meet people here. I think it’s very easy to establish strong relationships. And it’s easy to get things done.

Charles Vincent: If you can’t get ahold of the person, you have somebody who can, and you’re able to just get things done faster. Instead of talking out stuff, we’re able to do stuff.

Nicole Magnusson: I love the community in Delaware. It’s small enough to know your neighbors, but also big enough to explore and learn new things, and find new places to eat, and shop, and have fun.

Jason James: This generation that’s coming up is really interested in living and working in diverse spaces. Research studies support that over and over again, when millennials are asked, what attracts them to being in a certain place, it is diversity. It’s multiple people, multiple people with different backgrounds, and multiple things to get involved in. So this is really an opportune area for millennials to really move into and work in.

Daniel Walker: We’re flexible as a small state, so we’re able to find what interests a person, and really capitalize on that. And I think that’s what makes the networking so great.

Kyle Gay: We chose Wilmington because we knew that this was a great opportunity for us; both in our careers and finance, and in law, and for the family that we wanted to have, and we finally do have now. It’s a great place to raise children. A great opportunity for people and families to be ingrained into the community.

Jennifer Saienni: And you don’t have to wait years to see the difference of what your work is doing. You are able to come to Wilmington, come to Delaware, and make an impact!

Young Professionals Living the Good Life in Delaware

Young professionals like these agree that Delaware is an ideal location for work and life. You can find great fulfillment and success in your career through the ever-growing job market. More businesses are discovering that Delaware is a great state to locate in, and this allows for job opportunities of all kinds.

And work isn’t the only positive Delaware has to boast. From restaurants to shops to parks to beaches, Delaware has everything that makes a home state worthwhile. Residents of the state take advantage of its many amenities while also making meaningful connections with their fellow neighbors. The community of Delaware, in both the business and residential life sense, provides endless support for all those looking to make the First State their home.

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Cliff Grunstra Embraces Delaware’s Unique Location

The end result is not always clear when you are making a decision. For Cliff Grunstra, the decision to move to Delaware did not bring with it the total realization of how ideal the state would be for life until he was living there. Grunstra, originally from Bristol, Virginia, has since been living in Delaware when he began to work for Delmarva Central Railroad through his marketing positions with the company Carload Express. He possesses years of experience within the railroad industry, and his work with Delmarva began in December 2016 when it began to expand its reach and bring in more service.

Delmarva Central Railroad serves the tri-state area of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia with their systems of freight trains. As Grunstra points out, Delaware’s unique location requires innovative solutions to solve the possible hurdles in the path of success. Thankfully with Grunstra on the team, they have been able to increase their services.

“So we’re a freight railroad and we started operations in December 2016 and our goal is to increase rail service. Delaware’s in a really interesting area specifically related to its geographical location. Here on the shore, there are transportation opportunities that require unique solutions and interesting supply chain options and rail fits really nicely into some of those different moves.

I grew up in Bristol, Virginia, so far southwest Virginia. When I moved here I felt a connection to the people immediately, the friendliness, the openness – it really spoke to me, my wife, and my family. We love it here. There’s a lot of opportunities to do outdoor activities. You don’t end up here by accident; you have to say ‘I’m going to Delaware.’ It’s kind of an untapped gem that if you have the ability to get here and to work here, to live here, to play here – there’s a lot it has to offer.”

A Special State to Work, Live and Play

In addition to Delaware’s unique location, Grunstra calls Delaware “an untapped gem”: there is loads of potential waiting inside, you just have to make the first push to seek it out. Not only does Grunstra admire Delaware for its geographic uniqueness when it comes to his job, but he also finds the community extremely welcoming.

Upon moving to Delaware, Grunstra immediately knew this was the place he wanted to be as he felt connected to all the people he was meeting. He even says that his family felt called to this openness that Delaware citizens showed to newcomers like themselves.

The extensive amount of outdoor activities appeals especially to Grunstra, and he labels them as the types of activities one wouldn’t expect to find when visiting Delaware. From the potential for railway success to the unrealized plethora of activities to partake in, Delaware proves time and again to be a special state to work, play, and live in, with lots to offer for all kinds of people.

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Sam Calagione

Founder, Dogfish Head

Sam Calagione loves Delaware

Sam Calagione

After 25 years, Delaware’s Dogfish Head Craft Brewery has built something of an empire out of their off-centered beers and spirits. From their humble beginnings continuously hopping beer on a makeshift device called ‘Sir-Hops-A-Lot,’ to their recent merger with Boston Brewing — the Dogfish story reads like a comic book adventure.

Founder Sam Calagione is the writer and illustrator of that story.

“25 years… whoa!” Calagione pauses, surrounded by their large Milton brewery replete with a massive playground of silos, Dogfish-green lettered walls and their iconic steampunk treehouse. “Time flies when you are having fun!”

Calagione grew up in Western Massachusetts, on the Vermont border. “In a nutshell, I’m in Delaware because of the love of a good woman.”

“My wife Mariah was born and bred in Milford, Delaware. We ended up in the same high school in Massachusetts, and started dating at 16.” They went to separate colleges but would spend their summers in Rehoboth Beach renting houses with friends and working summer jobs. Sam worked as a waiter at the Front Page, a renowned music venue, and Mariah was a waitress at Camel’s Hump right down the road.

“So we got to know the area. And I fell in love with the beauty of coastal Delaware from those summers.”

Those beaches would connect the dots from Calagione’s childhood passion for writing and comic books to his later passion for beer. “Right after college, I just started home brewing and thought — maybe I can focus on using my love of creative writing to write recipes for beers, and stories about beers and create our own ads, instead of writing comic books,” Calagione explains.

“So I applied my love of art and writing to our work of building the brand, and the story of our brand, at Dogfish.”

“We could get in a car and be in Philly in two hours, be in Baltimore or D.C. in two hours, and in less than three and a half hours, be in Manhattan.”

Calagione wanted to open a brewery in a state that didn’t have one yet. “All the New England states close to where I grew up already had craft breweries — and Delaware was the closest one that didn’t. And I loved the beaches. So I decided, let’s open Dogfish Head in Coastal Delaware.”

And thus began a 25-year journey that would have Sam and Mariah guide Dogfish into one of the largest and most-renowned craft breweries in the country. Calagione believes that Delaware’s location unexpectedly proved to be an asset. “It sounds crazy to say something on the coast is central. But when you think of where we are right now — we could get in a car and be in Philly in two hours, be in Baltimore or D.C. in two hours, and in less than three and a

half hours, be in Manhattan. So it’s actually a great hub to distribute a high-end product from because you have the proximity to all these awesome cities,” Calagione says.

“That and you get to live at the beach in a low-stress, beautiful, natural environment.”

One of the highlights for Calagione is that Dogfish was the first brewery to focus on using culinary ingredients in beer, instead of just focusing on traditional styles. “Now you see thousands of craft breweries making beers with fruits and herbs and spices commercially. We’re really proud to have pioneered that on a commercial level nationally. It’s proven to be a sustainable and growing niche within our industry.”

One early beer that used culinary ingredients was Festina Peche, a collaboration with Fifer Orchards in Camden, Delaware. “We used these overly ripe peaches that we got from Fifer’s and it was just something else. And that was over 20 years ago.” Dogfish recently collaborated again with Fifer Orchards and Dewey Beer Company on a beer called Have a Donut. “We tried to put Fifer’s famous apple cider donuts into liquid form. It was a beer/cider hybrid that added Tanzanian cinnamon and real vanilla.”

Staying off-centered, Dogfish has forced itself to continually innovate. “I believe we were among the first brews in the country to bottle and distribute sour beers, back when people thought we were crazy. And now sour beers are one of the fastest-growing beer styles in America.” Dogfish Head is currently the number one sour-producing brewery in America. They recently collaborated with Rodenbach, Europe’s biggest and most well-known sour brewery, on a beer called Vibrant P’Ocean that is currently distributed throughout the Delmarva area.

Calagione shares that scaling to a national brand has always been the biggest challenge, addressing their 2019 merger with Boston Beer Company (famous for their Samual Adams beers). As a brand, Dogfish used to have about one-tenth of one percent market share in America. With the merger, they are about two percent market share. “We’re still tiny and we’re still up against the same Goliath we always were,” Calagione says.

“There are four international conglomerates that control over 80 percent of America’s beer market. And over eight thousand of us indie craft breweries that collectively share under 15 percent market share. So we kind of all have each other’s back. And it’s a very collaborative community.”

More big changes are on the way for Dogfish in 2020. They are currently installing a new canning line into their Rehoboth facilities to do limited release, specialty batches from their beach location. “These will be special beers that you have to go directly to Dogfish Rehoboth to buy — releases of throwback favorites like Shelter Pale Ale, crowd favorites that were developed at the brewpub, and we even have one coming out for the launching of the USS Delaware, the nuclear sub. To celebrate that cool moment in Delaware.”

Calagione is also doing a major expansion of the distillery in Milton. It’s a three million dollar project that will put Dogfish spirits in a more prominent light. “This will allow us to roll out more cocktails and packaged cocktails and regular spirits like our award-winning whiskey in further geographies. Right now, our beers are distributed in 47 states. Spirits are only in five states. So now we’ll be able to grow our distillery as well.”

Calagione has always made sure to balance family and fun while guiding a successful brand. “We have a place up off of Boothbay Harbor, Maine, where we spend most of our vacations. When you’re on a paddle board going by a seal on a rock, you know, you’re in a really special place.” His favorite activities always involve being outdoors — bicycling in the morning or paddleboarding towards Rehoboth on the canal, which he does year-round. “Being out in nature on a bike or paddle board in either coastal Delaware or coastal Maine are my favorite things in the world to do.”

When asked about the key to having a successful marriage and family while still managing a constantly-evolving company, he says “I would say Mariah and I recognize each other’s complementary strengths and give each other the latitude to lead where we’re strong, and support where the other of us is stronger.”

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Peggy Del Fabbro

CEO, M. Davis & Sons, Inc.

Peggy Del Fabbro loves Delaware

Peggy Del Fabbro

“I had steel-toed boots when I was very young,” Peggy Del Fabbro said as we discussed her early exposure to M. Davis & Sons, Inc., one of the leading industrial and construction contractors in Delaware, where she has been CEO for over a decade.

Del Fabbro was born and raised in Wilmington; she went to Brandywine High School and graduated from the University of Delaware with a degree in business. “M. Davis has been in my family for five generations. I grew up hearing all of the stories. My dad would take me out to job sites as a kid, it’s been part of my entire life.”

As a kid, spending time with her father at the paper mills where M. Davis worked projects gave Del Fabbro a unique perspective. “A lot of people really don’t see how things are actually made. It’s incredible to see water and either pulp from a tree or cotton rags becoming paper. And then seeing things like cups being made at Sweetheart Cup in Baltimore from the flat materials in the press.”

But Del Fabbro wanted to be a veterinarian, with her strong love of animals since she was a child. “High school chemistry defeated me, so I was lucky to have a strength in accounting which I enjoyed and was exposed to in our business.”

Del Fabbro took over the role of CEO in 2008, just as the economy went into a deep recession. She considers it the biggest highlight of her M. Davis career so far. “I look back at that time and realize that I had the guts to make it through that. How at that time our sales were 41 million [dollars] and now we’re over 80 million [dollars.] But that said, it’s not all about me and I did not accomplish that alone.”

Del Fabbro holds elements of M. Davis’ history as part of what guided her through that challenging period. “I was aware of our experience (with economic challenges) in the past and looked closely at what helped us. It’s not that sophisticated and is really about knowing where you stand.” Knowing where they stand was effectively a combination of controlling costs and having difficult conversations about what was and what was not working at the time. “The sooner we could identify where something wasn’t working, the sooner we could act and make better decisions, and that is still my overarching approach today,” Del Fabbro said.

While dealing with the challenges of 2008, Del Fabbro became certified by The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), which opened up a lot of doors for M. Davis. “It helped the company, but it also helped me to grow as an owner of the business. Learning from other women who own businesses is just invaluable. A lot of those women had the guts to start those businesses from scratch, and what I’ve learned from them has been so beneficial. And how they have reached out and had us work together during this pandemic has been critical.”

Beyond the direct assistance Del Fabbro has gotten from WBENC, it has also affected her ability to connect with existing clients and attract new ones. “Every market I serve is there. It was almost overwhelming to prepare for meetings because it was so wide. So I have a color-coded spreadsheet for that, of course.” Relationships made at WBENC have helped introduce Del Fabbro to other female leaders in traditionally male-dominated industries.

“We brought in students to co-op in their senior year to get hands-on experience…they could find themselves with a full time job, with benefits and no student debt.”

Del Fabbro’s leadership strategy is concise, but not simple. “I appreciate the people that I work with, and I strive to put them in a position where they can be successful. If I can do that, the company will be successful. My style is common sense and down to earth, if the message gets convoluted it often gets misunderstood.”

“I am always looking for continuous improvement. The moment I think ‘we’re good’ is when I know we are in trouble.” Del Fabbro finds communication to be one of her biggest challenges since the company is so physically spread out. “With all of our recent growth I find myself constantly looking at areas we need to improve [on] or make more efficient or safer.”

M. Davis’ management of the COVID pandemic has been informed

both by her challenges in 2008 as well as helped by the strategies she’s put into place since then. “We were hit really hard back in March, and I look at the workload we have now and think this is really good, but it’s still a problem.” Every week in the M. Davis newsletter Del Fabbro reminds her team of what it will take to maintain the workload in the midst of a pandemic. “Safety is the biggest threat to our workload, period.”

M. Davis’ strong connection to students interested in trades has been uniquely successful in the last two decades.

“Years ago we realized there would be a shortage of people working in construction.” At that point, M. Davis had established relationships with the Vocational-Technical school districts in Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey where they could find students interested in the trades.

“We brought in students to co-op in their senior year to get hands-on experience. Those kids could then come out of high school, and if they liked the experience they had at M. Davis, they could find themselves with a full-time job, with benefits and no student debt, and then also continue on in the Delaware Apprenticeship Program with whom we have a strong relationship,” Del Fabbro said.

“After 3-4 years with us they end up with their Journeyman’s Papers (a certification of completed training as an apprentice), which is just as valuable as a college degree. In some cases more valuable as they don’t have the debt. Earn while you learn.”

“College is not for everybody. Kids that like to work with their hands, or even on computers and automation can find perfect spots in companies like ours. We need to change the perception of these jobs, these careers.”

Terry Webb created a 19-year career at M. Davis by starting with an apprenticeship. After graduating from Delcastle High School in Wilmington, Webb took a position at M. Davis that immediately connected him to the Delaware Apprenticeship Program. “I knew it was a pathway for me because the education leads to Journeyman Papers that I will have with me for life.” Webb is now a foreman at the company.

Webb has graduated from State of Delaware apprenticeship programs in Sheet Metal, Electrical, HVAC, and Plumbing. “The apprenticeship programs that I graduated from really expanded my knowledge in that trade, along with the working hours I had to graduate. While the classes were technical, and not focused on leadership, I found that having more knowledge and education put me on the path to leadership at M. Davis & Sons.”

When asked, ‘Why Delaware?’ Del Fabbro immediately said, “Why not?”

“I always say, it’s two hours from everywhere.’ It’s easy to ship globally from here, which is critical for us. It’s a great location to springboard from. The weather can be challenging but, knock on wood, we don’t have too many extremes.”

M. Davis’ recent cooling tower project for DuPont is an example of why Delaware and Delaware relationships work well for M. Davis. “We told them up front that we believed we might have a better way, a safer way with better quality, a shorter timeline, and by-the-way would save you money. Because they know us and trust us, they were willing to take that risk. For me, that is the perfect situation.”

When asked about another Delaware business that inspired her, Del Fabbro is quick to mention Dogfish. “That’s an easy one. I love them. We’ve worked with them close to 15 years. They are a family business and a nationally-recognized brand, but they have not really changed who they are.”

M. Davis is a classic Delaware company that leads from the idea that “knowing where you come from” and honoring the relationships and skills developed from this leads to success. From a childhood of watching her family navigate M. Davis through many of the larger corporations in the area, to the challenge of leading a company in a male-dominated industry, Del Fabbro has taken the business where she came from and amplified its success.

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