Delaware's nickname is “The First State,” a reference to its role as the first of the American colonies to ratify the Constitution and join the union in 1787. A small state, ranked 49th in land area and 45th in population with just over 935,000 residents in 2015, Delaware is the sixth most densely populated state in the U.S. Furthermore, it is the only state with just three counties total: New Castle, Kent and Sussex.
Delaware is perhaps best known for coming in first in two important business measures: more than 50 percent of all publicly traded U.S. companies, and a whopping 64% of those in the Fortune 500, are incorporated in Delaware. As a result, incorporation fees – at approximately 25% of the state’s general fund – make up the second largest source of revenue for Delaware after income taxes.
Not especially endowed with natural resources, and economically hindered by its size, Delaware ingeniously fills a crucial niche in the corporate services industry. Offering a flexible, business-friendly tax structure and expedient judicial system where corporate trials are decided by a judge instead of a jury, Delaware has attracted countless out-of-state companies such as Apple, Coca-Cola, Ford and Facebook to incorporate in the state. Today, more than a million active entities are incorporated here.
Delaware also offers appealing usury laws that have attracted credit card issuers to the state, including Bank of America, Chase, Barclays and ING Direct. Manufacturing of chemicals and pharmaceuticals, once the state’s hallmark, is becoming a smaller portion of the economy as DuPont – the chemical giant that employed 27,000 across Delaware in 1990 – and others have downsized and restructured in recent decades. As of 2014, only about 2,600 chemical manufacturing jobs remained in the state. In contrast, the number of residents employed in scientific research and development jobs has increased since 2010, to more than 6,800 as of 2013.
High-paying jobs in the financial and scientific sectors have made Delaware a fairly wealthy state historically. In 2015, Delaware ranked 11th with a median household income of $59,878. However, real estate in the Wilmington and Dover metro areas remains relatively affordable when compared to home prices in neighboring Maryland and New Jersey. In 2015, the median home value in Delaware was $239,938, while the median rental price was $1,242.
Delaware's climate is temperate and its topography is described as coastal plain, characterized by rolling hills and pastures in the north and swampy areas in the south leading to sandy beaches along its coastline. During Colonial times, Delaware grew tobacco, but today the state's farmers produce modest amounts of crops like corn, soybeans, wheat, potatoes and apples.
With 22 miles of coastline, Delaware benefits from considerable summertime tourist traffic from other mid-Atlantic states. Rehoboth Beach, just 120 miles from Washington, D.C., dubs itself the “Nation's Summer Capital” owing to its popularity as a vacation destination for Beltway denizens. The city's year-round population of only about 1,300 swells to over 75,000 in the summer. Other visitors travel to Delaware from nearby Maryland and New Jersey to take advantage of the fact that Delaware is one of only five states in the nation without a sales tax.