Kurt Foreman is President and CEO at Delaware Prosperity Partnership (DPP). Launched in 2017, DPP acts as the lead economic development resource for entrepreneurs, employers, and emerging businesses in Delaware. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to building the local business ecosystem by attracting, supporting, and retaining growth-oriented enterprises to the state. Key industries served include science and technology, business and financial services, food and agriculture, manufacturing and logistics, education, and healthcare.
EDWIN WARFIELD: Where did your career in economic development begin?
KURT FOREMAN: I got into economic development intentionally which is very unusual. I took a course in college in which the person who taught the class explained what they did every day, and they’d been an economic developer. I said, “that’s what I want to do,” so I intentionally got into economic development.
I started in the DC area and ended up on the real estate development side. I worked sort of every seat around the table if you will, between site selection, economic development, real estate development, and then also a stint as an executive recruiter. I feel like I have a 360 perspective about what’s going on. Some people plant a flag on a map and say, “I’m going to do my whole career in a particular area.” Having been an army brat and moved around as a kid, maybe that’s why—but I always viewed that there are great places and you can learn a lot from different places, so in my career I’ve had the good fortune to be able to be in a number of great communities in multiple parts of the country.
Q. You were previously based in Oklahoma. How did you wind up in Delaware?
A. Oklahoma City is one of the great chambers in the United States and it was a great place for my family and I to spend part of our life, but I’m a builder by nature. I like to build new things. I think that’s very energizing. The opportunity to take on a task that a group of business leaders and political leaders decided was going to be the direction of the State of Delaware, to build a new public private partnership, really intrigued me. That sort of combination of streams is an important feature of our organization. And if this had been only public sector, or only private sector, I think I probably would have taken a pass, but the fact that we’re going to be building something and are building something from scratch to make a difference in the lives of Delawareans was too intriguing to pass up. I grew up in the Mid-Atlantic, and so being back near your family was sort of icing on the cake. But this is an area that I love and the chance to do something good here made a big difference. That’s why I applied.
Q. What is your economic development philosophy?
A. In terms of my leadership philosophy, it’s always about the team. It’s partnership. I feel like my job is to bring energy and momentum to the situation, so that the team and the partners—a lot of what we do is outside our own organization, so often our work needs to pull people in and leverage relationships. We don’t necessarily have a reporting relationship, but we have a partner relationship that requires them to be at the table for us to be successful. It’s about persuasion, it’s about partnership. That energy, enthusiasm, and energy is probably the most important part of that.
In our world today, it’s very easy to get jaded about places or about process, or about, say, government or the private sector. The reality is that’s not the case. When you’re trying to build a community you need people to see the future and the aspirational opportunities that are out there. I feel like what we do as economic developers—and I personally think that’s the most important thing we can do—is point to our aspirational opportunities and help us all move towards them together.
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