McDonnell Unveils Job Creation Commission
Members of Governor Bob McDonnell’s Job Creation Commission have been working for the last two months to come up with proposals for the Governor and the General Assembly on how to best get Virginians back to work. Craig Carper reports.
In the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression Virginia has consistently won prestigious accolades from major publications including Best Managed State, Best State to Do Business and Best State to Raise a Child.
Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, who Governor McDonnell has appointed as the head of his Job Creation Commission says that while these distinctions are impressive, Virginia must continue to do more in order to stay competitive and create jobs.
Bolling: Most business and industry today are going to those places where it makes the most economic sense for them to be, so if we want to remain competitive, if we want to compete in the global marketplace of the 21st century, we have to do that through 21st century strategies and that means being more aggressive with our tax policies and our regulatory policies, investing more money in proven economic development and job creation programs.
The Governor’s Chief Advisor on Economic Policy Bob Sledd says small business development is a crucial part of the group’s work.
Sledd: 71 percent of our new jobs comes from small business. When you look at the growth of entrepreneurs in the state of Virginia, it’s nowhere near where it should be, we’re lagging behind other states. To put more emphasis in the whole area of small business, figure out how we can be more small business friendly figure out how we can help small business grow and prosper and attract entrepreneurs and attract venture capital dollars is going to be real key to the growth of Virginia.
One priority of the McDonnell administration that the Governor hoped would create new jobs in the Commonwealth was bringing offshore drilling to Virginia, something that was shot down earlier this month by President Obama in the wake of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Secretary of Commerce and Trade, Jim Cheng, stresses that offshore was just one part of the Governor’s energy plan.
Cheng: A lot of money and effort will be going into expanding our energy base and energy research. We’re talking about biomass and we’re talking about R&D into how we can do wind energy and biomass and other types of nuclear energy better.
Governor Bob McDonnell said the Commonwealth also needs to pick up some of the international business it has lost during the recession.
McDonnell: We are going to be very aggressive now in pursuing investors from abroad that will invest in Virginia, but also finding new markets for Virginia products from computer chips to forest products to consumer goods and that’s why we asked the General Assembly to give us the money to open up office in China, India, and the U.K. that’s about a third of the world’s population right there.
The Governor will be making his first overseas trade trip next month.
While Virginia’s 6.9 percent unemployment rate is significantly lower than the Federal average, just three years ago at the start of the recession, the rate was only 3.4 percent.
Lt. Governor Bolling says the success of the commission will be measured in bringing down the unemployment rate and turning the state’s budget shortfalls back into the surpluses the commonwealth enjoyed earlier in the decade.
As the group tries to rebuild the state’s economy, there have been setbacks, not the least of which was the closure of the Stanley Furniture manufacturing facility in Henry County leading to the elimination of over 500 jobs in the already struggling region.
Governor McDonnell said his administration is committed to giving the region the extra help they need.
McDonnell: We’re vigorously promoting industrial sites in Southside Virginia. We’ve got new money in the budget this year for a mega-site development that we’re looking at in Southside Virginia. We’re actively soliciting businesses from other places to move.
In response to the growing challenges in rural parts of the state, Governor McDonnell hired Mary Ray Carter as the Rural Economic Development Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade.
Carter: She is spending a lot of time down in Martinsville, Danville, Henry, and Pittsylvania to help meet the needs of existing employers and to facilitate that regional chamber of commerce marketing approach, which I think is going to pay dividends here in the near future.
The Governor says a significant part of helping those affected by layoffs will be workforce redevelopment training.
McDonnell: That’s going to be a systematic overhaul that’s going to take months to get done…We’ve got some obviously community college and higher education centers down there that are doing some workforce retraining, we just don’t think it’s good enough and want to do it a lot better.
The jobs commission will continue to hold meetings over the next several months before presenting the Governor with their final recommendations on October 16th.
Craig Carper, WCVE News, Capitol Square