Newark Futures Workshop

Dan Rich, a board member of The Newark Partnership, speaks during the Newark Futures Workshop on Tuesday evening.

Pleased with the progress of The Newark Partnership, city council this week authorized the disbursement of the city’s $150,000 contribution to the organization.

Council included the money in the 2019 budget, approved last November, but stipulated that the fledgling TNP would not receive the funds until it developed a budget and demonstrated some early successes.

On Monday, TNP organizer Dan Rich provided council an update on the progress of the organization, which held its first organizational meeting in February and seated its first permanent, 17-member board in July.

“We have an institution actively working to improve all of Newark in ways we have not had before,” Rich said. “Now, we have an extraordinary community asset.”

The creation of the TNP was the culmination of a years-long effort – led by Rich and former Mayor Polly Sierer – to develop a successor organization to the Downtown Newark Partnership, which suffered from waning interest and concerns over its exclusive focus on downtown businesses.

TNP – which, unlike the DNP, operates outside the auspices of the city government – will focus on the entire city and work to address issues beyond just the concerns of the business community. The group’s mission has three pillars: support the city’s nonprofits, promote community engagement among residents and support businesses by fostering economic development.

For nonprofits, TNP has developed a community calendar, held networking and training events for organizations and is about to publish a resource guide listing the services of 134 nonprofits in Newark.

TNP’s civic engagement committee is working to raise awareness of TNP and is holding monthly “Knowing Newark” events around the city. TNP has also held several Newark Futures Workshops, which are community forums to discuss various issues, such as public education.

Meanwhile, the economic enhancement committee has started an inventory of the city’s approximately 850 businesses, held networking events and is developing a business speakers series and a business awards program.

The $150,000 from the city makes up the majority of the TNP’s cash budget.

The University of Delaware contributed a $150,000 in-kind donation in the form of staff support from UD’s Community Engagement Initiative, which is led by Rich. The CEI has run the day-to-day operations of the group since its inception.

By July 2020, the group will begin hiring its own staff. Eventually, its budget will be funded by membership fees and sponsorships from large businesses. Rich hopes the city and UD will continue to be sponsors as well.

Mayor Jerry Clifton admitted that at this time last year, he was skeptical of TNP.

“Certainly I’ve gotten way past that seeing the accomplishments,” Clifton said.

Councilman Chris Hamilton agreed.

“I think this has been a great transition,” Hamilton said. “It’s been fantastic. I’m excited to see how it’s going to evolve.”

However, he added that it’s important TNP retains its focus on nonprofits and community engagement and doesn’t allow the concerns of businesses to dominate the organization.

“If it goes back to just being an enlarged DNP, then I’m out,” he said.

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