Though it has the smallest number of residents of Delaware’s three counties, Kent County’s diverse economy, low cost of living and doing business, central location and pleasant lifestyle have helped it grow and succeed. In terms of population, there was a 7.7 percent increase between 2010 and 2016, according to the U.S. Census.
Dover is the state’s second-largest city, the county seat and the state capital. The city is the linchpin for Central Delaware’s industry and commerce, as well as the home of Dover Air Force Base. But the base is far from Kent County’s sole economic engine.
According to the U.S. Census, the county has a population of about 174,827, and more than 19,000 veterans call the county home. Of those over the age of 25, 86 percent have a high school diploma or higher and 23 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Mean travel time to work is about 26 minutes. Per capita personal income was about $25,000, and the median household income was approximately $55,000.
Kent County has no sales tax — in fact, the whole state of Delaware has no general sales tax, no inventory tax and no state real property taxes; local real property taxes are very low. The unemployment rate of the county was 5.3 percent in March 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Land and Sea
Norfolk Southern Railway’s freight service runs through Kent County. Other rail service, such as Amtrak passenger service, is available in Northern Delaware and is convenient for Kent County. Amtrak provides frequent service to Washington, D.C.; Richmond, Virginia; New York; and Boston. Also, SEPTA Regional Rail commuter service, connecting southeastern Pennsylvania to northern Delaware, can be accessed by Kent County residents as well.
Kent County is about an hour away to the Port of Wilmington at the mouth of the Christina River, approximately 65 miles from Atlantic shipping lanes. Rail access to the port is available via Norfolk Southern with railcar loading docks next to terminal warehouses. The port’s facility is a world-class marine terminal encompassing 308 acres of land. It includes seven ship berths for general cargo, one tanker berth, one floating berth for ships that carry wheeled cargo, and a multipurpose autoberth on the Delaware River, as well as one of the largest dock-side cold storage facilities in the nation.
Business in Delaware
Since its charter as part of William Penn’s Delaware Colony and prosperous centuries of farming, the area has gradually become a center for name-brand manufacturing. Kraft Foods produces gelatin, puddings, desserts, rice and other foods. Procter & Gamble makes disposable wet wipe paper products. Edgewell Personal Care Operations (formerly Energizer Holdings Inc.) is made up of established consumer brands including Schick, Playtex and Banana Boat sunscreens. Eagle Group is a major manufacturer of commercial food service equipment and a wide range of products for other industry segments, including supermarkets, retail merchandising and display, and health care and cleanroom equipment. Hirsh Industries makes file cabinets and other organizing products.
NASA astronauts who went to the moon and crews of the Space Shuttle have worn spacesuits made at ILC Dover, though the company has relocated a little to the south to the hamlet of Frederica, also known as Frogtown because of its nearby marsh.
Dover Air Force Base
The base occupies about 3,900 acres southeast of Dover. According to its most recent economic impact statistics, Dover Air Force Base’s total resources are valued at $5.7 billion. This approximate figure includes aircraft, capital assets such as land and buildings, equipment, retail sales, base operations and maintenance outlays. The base’s total economic impact is approximately $466 million, which includes salaries, retiree pay, local contracts and local area expenditures within a 50-mile radius. Secondary jobs created as a result of the base are estimated at 2,275. The Dover Air Force Base workforce consists of 6,100 military personnel: 3,200 active duty, 1,800 reservists and 1,100 civilians. It also supports approximately 5,000 family members. For more information, visit www.dover.af.mil.