“It was always good to go into a contract negotiation and not tell people you were a lawyer. You could see how people played with you, or tried to. I also think that the logical thinking you learn, the deductive reasoning, helps you immensely. It’s something I use on a daily basis. From a reasoning point of view, I think you get more out of law school than you do out of other graduate degrees, because what you learn and how they teach it really helps you day in and day out,” says Alan Levine ’77.
Today, Levin is Delaware’s Director of Economic Development, a position for which is he eminently qualified. Born and raised in the first state, the son of drugstore icon Harry “Happy Harry” Levin, he has a native understanding of what it takes to establish and expand a successful business here and firsthand experience doing so, having grown Happy Harry’s into the tenth-largest retail drugstore chain in the nation.
Levin credits his degree from Delaware Law School (now Widener Law) with helping him negotiate the intricacies of selling the benefits of Delaware from a variety of perspectives – legal, taxation, regulatory, and government accessibility.
Levin decided in elementary school that he was going to be an attorney. He envisioned himself as another Sam Benedict, a TV lawyer portrayed by Edmond O’Brien, whom Levin remembers as being an effective advocate for his clients. After studying political science at Tulane University, Levin worked for a year as a legislative aide to then Senator Bill Roth. It was Roth who convinced Levin to choose Delaware Law School, so that Levin could maintain and grow the many connections he had already made in the state.
“After graduating, I took a job under Richard Gebelein in the Delaware Attorney General’s office, where I prosecuted cases in all the courts,” says Levin, continuing, but “When my father fell ill, I felt the responsibility to keep things going at the family business.”
“When my father returned after a year and a half, I realized I very much enjoyed what I was doing. We worked side by side for a while, until we had one too many father/son differences of opinion – not unusual for a family business,” Levin recounts with a smile, adding, “All I remember is one day I was there, and the next day I wasn’t. So I went back to my roots, to Senator Roth’s office, where I became his Executive Assistant and Counsel from 1984 to 1986.”
In his current role, Levin serves as a member of the governor’s cabinet and directs a group of 41 people whose mission is to retain and attract businesses to the state. “When we came into office in 2009, it was probably the most difficult time in terms of business development outside of the Great Depression,” Levin recounts. “The good news is, in two years, we’ve been able to reduce the unemployment rate a full two and a half points, and great things are happening in Delaware – in financial services, in healthcare, and in manufacturing. We’re turning the lights back on.
“We’re focused on long-term jobs that will be here for 20 years or more, working with firms like Citibank, Amazon.com, and Johnson Controls to bring more opportunities to more Delawareans.”
“You need to do what you enjoy,” Levin advises those looking for a happy and successful life. “You only get one shot at life. Don’t just work for the money – do what you do because you enjoy it. You will have a far better life and be far more productive and happier. And what’s more important than that?”
Alan Levin does what he enjoys, and that is to make Delaware and its citizens more productive and more economically secure today and into the future.