This year, the Pete du Pont Freedom Award will for the first time honor a company rather than a person: MBNA, the former Delaware banking and credit card powerhouse sold to Bank of America.
It will also honor one of three companies as a Delaware Reinvention Laureate: Delaware Creative Economy, DWS Drone School, and TRIC Robotics. The three were chosen in November from a pool of 100 companies for technical assistance to help them thrive.
One of them will be named the winner on September 22 during the award ceremony at the Hôtel du Pont.
The awards are a fundraiser for the Pete du Pont Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit organization that focuses on private enterprise and market access for entrepreneurs and their ideas. The foundation is named after former Delaware Governor Pete du Pont, who died in May 2021.
Former MBNA executives John Cochran, Bruce Hammonds and Lance Weaver will receive the du Pont award.
The impact of MBNAAnm
“This winner reflects both my father’s enthusiasm for entrepreneurial innovation and the priority he placed on job growth,” said Théré du Pont, Chairman of the Foundation’s Board of Directors.
MBNA, which based its banking foundations on the idea of affinity credit cards – cards issued by a university or other group – embodied what Pete du Pont wanted to encourage with his Financial Center Development Act of 1981. .
It was intended to attract employers to Delaware, and MBNA moved from Maryland to a former supermarket to run its credit card centers. He then moved his headquarters to downtown Wilmington, off Rodney Square, and is credited with helping revitalize downtown, becoming a philanthropic giant in the community.
“His impact on Delaware continues to this day, and one wonders if all of this would have happened without the vision shared by my father and MBNA executives,” Théré du Pont said.
The Reinventing Delaware program is designed to empower entrepreneurs to create jobs and make Delaware a better place to live, work and raise a family.
Reinventing Delaware Candidates
The three Reinventing Delaware nominees were chosen on November 11, 2021, after a day-long event at CSC station Wilmington.
Angela Wagner’s Delaware Creative Economy wants to attract filmmakers to the premier state and replicates Georgia’s success over the past 30 years. A creative economy would provide jobs, attract and retain the best talent; and greater diversity of the state economy.
She works with Akima Brown and Friends of Delaware Film, an organization that lobbied for a tax incentive program and an overhaul of the Delaware Film Commission.
Theo Nix’s DWS Drone School is designed to combine technology and entrepreneurship, in part to help address the lack of activities and jobs for teens that contributes to gun violence.
It aims to educate and employ 1,000 Delaware teenagers, providing technology certification, internships and work experience, and expand its business nationwide. It has already partnered with the city of Wilmington to send some residents through the program.
Adam Stager’s TRIC Robotics aims to improve agriculture through engineering, data and robotics by using UV-C light to replace pesticides.
Farmers, especially organic farmers, fight pests and pathogens in their fields, including mites, molds and mildew. Pesticides and herbicides pose environmental and health risks. TRIC Robotics uses a patented robotic design with UV-C light to control pests.
To learn more about the finalists, go here.
For more on tickets, which start at $200 for general admission, head here.
Recent Freedom Award recipients include Charlie Horn, entrepreneur, philanthropist and co-founder of Horn Entrepreneurship at the University of Delaware; Carol Ammon, retired founder and CEO of Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc.; and former United States Representative and Delaware Governor Mike Castle.
Betsy Price is a freelance writer from Wilmington with 40 years of experience, including 15 at the News Journal in Delaware.