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Success Stories

Labeled as “Old Cooch’s Corn Whiskey” and “Silver Screen Vodka,” Delaware’s ‘The Painted Stave’ distillery’s craft spirits tell the story of its home state’s people and places. History buffs and locals recognize the label’s references to Delaware history, including the site of the only Revolutionary War battle   fought in Delaware (at Cooch’s Bridge), as well as the distillery’s location, housed in Smyrna, Del.’s, World War II era ‘‘Smyrna Movie House”’ building.

But the upstart brand is quickly gaining even wider recognition for the history that it is making all on its own. After single-handedly up-ending a long-standing legal ban on free-standing distilleries in Delaware, Painted Stave  Distilling set about making its own mark. Today, it is known both as a locally-sourced craft spirits distillery and a cornerstone of Smyrna, Delaware’s historic district redevelopment project. Harvesting tons of Delmarva-grown corn, cranberries, goldenrod, and the like to make its unique... Read More

Newark, Del.-Based Production Firm Saves Delaware Jobs, Thriving International Export Business, and Manufacturing Sector Growth Potential, Thanks to SBA Financing

At its Newark, Delaware production facility, O’Connor Belting International crafts products that touch almost every aspect of modern life and every corner of the globe. O’Connor Belting produces European-style conveyor belting that sorts and packages product for customers worldwide, including household names as Kraft Foods; National Gypsum; and Tootsie Roll Industries (O’Connor Belting’s are the only conveyor belts used in its Junior Mints candy production). 

Since first opening its doors in Delaware as a production facility 20 years ago, O’Connor Belting has built on its international roots to develop both a thriving stateside and international export business. In 1993, O’Connor Belting was opened by European manufacturer Fabreeka International under its own name and then joined the Holland-... Read More

Delaware's Oldest Printer 'Resets the Presses' on its Future

Steadily building their Wilmington-based printing business—The Mercantile Press— over a period spanning three centuries, the Bye family weathered its share of business unpredictability.  But, by the 1960’s, The Mercantile Press had proven it was “here to stay,” running two shifts daily and providing its full stable of employees with living wages, full benefits, and steady work in a well-respected trade.  The firm had proven its mettle and reached its all-time growth peak just in time to face the industry-wrenching challenges of the coming decades.

The advent of the internet and increased competition from cut-rate overseas commercial printing operations would bring the American commercial printing industry to its knees, mercilessly thinning its ranks as once-reliable customers all but evaporated, favoring online communication or cheaper foreign labor over stateside traditional print shops.  Surviving commercial printers were competing for an ever-shrinking customer base, and... Read More

From Humble Beginnings   Delaware's 2012 Small Business Persons of the Year

From Humble Beginnings…

Delaware’s 2012 SBA Small Business Person of the Year

First State Manufacturing owners Eli Valenzuela, Sher Valenzuela, and Ashley Wolfe have been selected as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Delaware Small Business Persons of the Year. This is the story of the genesis and growth of their business.

It began in 1998 with a man, a woman, a sewing machine, and a dream in a Milford, Delaware garage. A humble beginning that today has become First State Manufacturing (FSM), a thriving business employing more than 40 technicians working in a new 66,000 sq. ft. facility funded by a $650,000 Small Business Administration (SBA) 504 loan.

As an Army communications technician, Eli Valenzuela took a correspondence course on upholstery while serving with the Second Armored Division in Germany. Little did he know that the course would lead to a... Read More