The Heart of the Deal
Tommy Cooper brings passion, innovation—and a touch of Sussex County flavor—to his role as chair of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce.
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“Honestly,” he says, “We’re spoiled in the beach area for food. Between the Lewes scene and Rehoboth scene, we have 50 excellent restaurants right there. There are a lot of creative chefs that are just to die for.”
From their vacation spot in Naples, Fla., to their honeymoon in Italy, the couple has traveled around the country and around the world searching for great golfing and dining. Although he loves the variety of cultures and experiences around the globe, Cooper admits he doesn’t think he could leave Delaware. Cooper’s family moved from Baltimore when he was in the third grade, and, aside from a brief time at East Tennessee State University for college, Cooper has since called Sussex County his home.
Before real estate, Cooper was a regional manager at a Fortune 500 medical supply company and was offered a lucrative promotion early in his tenure, but only if he would relocate to Chicago. After some consideration, he politely declined the offer—too cold and too expensive, he says—and he ventured into real estate and hasn’t looked back.
“It enabled me to stay a Delawarean and it controlled my life. I love real estate, and I’ll always do it. I don’t think I’ll ever retire, because, to quote Donald Trump, ‘I truly enjoy the art of the deal,’” he says. “It keeps me young at heart.”
His desire to stay in Delaware was strong, and it hurts him to see the “brain drain” that has resulted in the exodus of many talented young Delawareans.
“In the past 15 years, I’ve seen where we raise and educate homegrown kids and they have to leave the area to find good jobs. It’s been very important to me to be proactive to try and create more of those jobs in this state,” he says.
To do so, Cooper has worked with his colleagues at the chamber, and Wolfe in particular, to help set standards throughout the state. “My goals were to provide leadership and encourage our board to help lead Delaware and the counties to create jobs,” Cooper says. “In order to be successful, we’re going to need to grow our way out of this, as well as make fiscally responsible cuts in government. All we can do on the cuts side is encourage it, but on the job side, we can do things on a daily basis.”
The chamber’s agenda is not a static to-do list, but an ever-adjusting list of priorities. Some long-term goals, like the chamber’s push for education reform fits in with the state-guided Vision 2015, while others, like the DSCC’s new focus on healthcare and energy, emerged in response to changing government and social views.
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