WLAGROWTH

Member Profile

McConnell Johnson Real Estate

“When we started the WLA it was a result of interest in making Wilmington better. I decided that we needed to have a group of leaders who were going to talk about the future, and do it in such a way that was honest about what we could change for the City of Wilmington to get it back to where it was” -Paul McConnell, Partner, McConnell Johnson Real Estate
COMPREHENSIVE DEVELOPMENT PLAN – “WILMINGTON 2028”– LAUNCHES

“I opened my office here in 1974. I have experienced pretty much everything that's happened in the city over that period of time." – Paul McConnell , McConnell Johnson Real Estate

– McConnell Johnson Real Estate

McConnell Johnson Real Estate Member Profile

McConnell Johnson Real Estate logo

Why We Lead

We take immense pride in Delaware and our local communities. From direct involvement as board members for schools and nonprofits to our support for local events and fundraisers, we are grateful for opportunities to give back. We offer a first-class portfolio, decades of local knowledge and a deep respect for the clients we serve and the community we call home. Our highly responsive owner/operator business model means better service for the community.

Our Mission

We have such great leaders in our organization, and they're all committed to job creation, business development and helping the community. First and foremost, we are a successful real estate company. We love real estate,but it's really part of our DNA. Everybody in the organization is really interested in those three aspects.

Economic Development

Economic development is not easy because the competition is getting harder and harder and better and better. The states and the cities that have had much greater technological expertise and are technologically energized, whether it’s huge cities like Pittsburgh or Boston, they are attracting businesses in a much stronger and robust way than we are.

Economic development has to start with the businesses who then create the jobs. We have to have a business-friendly climate that’s easy to operate in. We’re not there as a city, we’re not there as a county, we’re not there as a state. The WLA would be able to help because of how independent we are and how laser-focused we are on turning our energies towards the city, and we can’t have a great state without a great city. We’ve got to start here first.

The best thing we can do is firm up exactly what we want, be clear about our needs, and then go about it in a real businesslike way, whether it’s recruiting the talent or getting the money necessary to allow these universities to collaborate and work together. We’re at that point now. We know the interest is there. We believe that the government folks are all on board with it, now it’s getting us all together financially.

Leadership

We saw that younger people were not connecting in a way that helped each other. They were remote and, in some cases,, they were even competing with each other. We thought, why don’t we get everybody in the room with some business leaders and meet on a regular basis so we can break the barriers down? It worked unbelievably.

Pitch the Press came out of our involvement in the startup community. We saw that startups weren’t getting traction. They weren’t getting interviews. People didn’t understand where they were going.

We said “Let’s just force them to come to these pitch the press and get used to talking.” We got to give some guidance around working with the press. That’s been fabulous and the press has really embraced it. We’re creating a two-way street for the students with start-ups and the press.

We’ve been able to build a strong relationship with our Mayor. He realizes our emphasis on education is real and that it is as important to him as it is to us, and he’s been very active with it. The same things happen with our County Executive. He has been coming to our Dual School events,  talking and thinking about the future. We see real strength in networking directly with our business leaders and our government leaders. We’re doing the same thing at the University of Delaware. The connection between the university to these business leaders and to our political leaders is essential for all this to work.

Education

We, as a company and as a family, have been completely committed to education, especially for urban students. We’ve worked really hard in that arena for more than 15 years. Our vision and success that we’ve had allows us to think bigger in terms of recruiting another charter school to the city, building a charter school, expanding our horizons around urban education and being able to define the commitment to actually create a better learning environment for the Wilmington students.

1313 as an innovation center allowed us to actually look at real estate and education completely differently than we did in the past. If you’re a business person, you see things from a business perspective. We’re now seeing things from a community perspective, from the whole issues around urban education and urban blight. We combined all those and that allowed us to then network into the University of Delaware and other organizations such as the Horn Program. The Wilmington Leaders Alliance became a really critical part. Teach for America, Summer Learning Collaborative, and WillmInvest, all of these pieces are naturally connected now.

Dual School was really the first opportunity that we’ve had to partner with the public education system. We’ve done charter schools, we’ve done urban schools, we’ve done Catholic schools. Now how do we get everybody in the same room, with the younger students combining the talents they have, collaborating with each other and meeting in an innovation center outside the classroom where they can build platforms around their passion or problems they want to solve? We partnered up with High Tech High in California to help us. From our partnership with William Penn, to our partnership with Arson Academy, we’ve been able to cross so many broad rivers here that we’re so excited about. It’s really important.

We now have schools: private, chartered, and public, all asking us to embed in these programs in their school so they can actually teach it and not have to leave the school to come to the 1313 Innovation. We’re developing those programs right now, by the end of the summer we are going to know how we want to grow Dual School. We’re unique in that we believe so strongly in educational opportunities across the board. It drives us to be a different kind of real estate company. It’s definitely a community operation and it’s so important to us for everyone to have the same opportunity to succeed. It’s about the future.  We have to be focused on the future.

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