So, a friend brought something up to me the other day that I’ve never really stopped to consider before.
“You always try to tell people to shop local to support our area businesses, and you go on and on about all the stuff you like about this area,” he said. “Aren’t there things about this place you don’t like?”
I thought about it for a second. Sure, there are some people I’m not crazy about in this community, and we all have our frustrations about road construction and traffic, but that goes for pretty much anywhere, right?
We went back to whatever we were talking about before he broached that subject, but it kept pulling at me throughout the day. What do I dislike about the area? And, more importantly, how would I go about effecting change if I could identify something?
For starters, I do love and believe in this community with all my heart. I first moved to Delmarva in 1996. I left for a job opportunity in Connecticut for a little while, but returned a short time later. I then left again in 2002 to take a job in Atlanta, but returned again in 2003.
On top of those moves, I previously lived in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Philadelphia, several towns in California and North Carolina. But there have been no other moves since I came back from Atlanta in January 2003.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized my answer was hiding in those previous paragraphs. The fact that I kept coming back to here, and have been fully settled here for the last 13 years, tells me that I do love it here. There’s a draw to the way of life and the people here that appeals to me, and it’s honestly where I hope I’m fortunate enough to claim my last breath. But why did I keep leaving?
That’s what I kept coming back to the more I contemplated his original question. There are limited opportunities here if you are not in the real estate, service or construction industries. And there are chances for very nice careers at the power plant and some of the poultry companies, as well as law enforcement, emergency services and the prison, but those jobs aren’t for the feint of heart. As for me, I’m not particularly skilled in any of those areas, so opportunities were not exactly plentiful for a younger person who had big dreams.
And, sure, there are plenty of parts of the nation with limited employment possibilities, but what troubles me about that being true in this community is that it is, well, this community.
We have a very strong public school system, along with more and more private school opportunities for parents who choose to go in that direction. We have brilliant aesthetics all around us, from coastal to rural to serene walking paths that can make you feel a million miles away from everything.
We have top-shelf restaurants, friendly shops and a community filled with giving people who pour everything they have into helping out their neighbors. We have the Freeman Stage, bringing top-shelf entertainment to our neighborhood throughout the summer, and amazing kids’ programs on the weekends, and the Bethany Bandstand offering free shows all summer-long. And, on top of all that, we have tax rates that are the envy of most of the free world.
In short, this is the perfect place to raise a family.
But the job situation makes it a little murky. Economically, unless you excel in one of those fields I mentioned before, it’s difficult to raise a family here with any measure of comfort. While those property taxes are low, the cost of owning a home here is not, especially when you consider the salaries being offered.
So, what to do?
Well, I think it will take a partnership to create any significant change. We can talk economic development all we want, and we can wine and dine employers from other regions to move their businesses here, but if people who live here aren’t trained for these jobs, does it truly help the situation locally?
Delaware Tech has been training students to work on airplanes, which is exactly the kind of partnership I’m thinking about. Students can go to Tech, learn about working on planes and seemingly obtain a job at the Georgetown airport upon finishing.
There needs to be more of this kind of targeted education. Our public schools do a tremendous job teaching our students and preparing them for college. The problem lies in the reality that there aren’t the jobs here waiting for them when they return with those degrees. That’s a lot of money to shell out on an education when the jobs aren’t here to justify it. And, that’s when young people move away and raise their families elsewhere.
This community is nearly a paradise to me, and it remains a strong draw for retired people who have finished sweating out their paychecks and can simply enjoy the area for what it is. Our missing ingredient is finding a way for working families to enjoy it, as well, and keep our traditions humming.