Heavy industry eyes return to Claymont under Coastal Zone Act bill

Keith Delaney and Kevin McGowan walked across a desolate expanse of broken concrete and rubble in Claymont on Friday with little concern for the high levels of arsenic, lead and DDT in the soil beneath their feet.

"There is no 5-second rule here," Delaney joked. "If you drop your candy bar, leave it on the ground. And be sure you don't lick your boots."

The 71-acre industrial wasteland that once housed sulfuric acid manufacturer General Chemical Corp. serves as a grim reminder of the state's dwindling chemical manufacturing sector, which has seen employment decline 87 percent since 2001 – a loss of more than 15,000 jobs.

But Delaney and McGowan see only fertile ground that soon could give life to $1 billion in new heavy industrial development – projects made possible only by an amendment to Delaware's Coastal Zone Act, passed by state lawmakers Thursday.

"This bill has transformed this site overnight," Delaney said. "I think it will bring a lot of development to the area, and we want to be the first ones to get to the finish line."

Delaney is the principal owner of the East Norriton, Pennsylvania-based real estate investment firm D2 Management. McGowan is the president of McGowan Corporate Real Estate Advisors, based in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

They could be the vanguard of what many hope will be a surge in new heavy industrial development along Delaware's coastline – including 14 sites identified in the amendment, 13 of which are in New Castle County.