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Chamber chief talks with local leaders

South Boston News
DuVal
SoVaNow.com / April 19, 2017
Barry DuVal, CEO of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, met with Mecklenburg County officials and business leaders in South Hill Tuesday to solicit their help with updating Virginia’s long-term economic development goals.

The update is needed for inclusion in the Chamber’s newest edition of Blueprint Virginia 2025.

Noting that Blueprint Virginia sets policy goals for growth, DuVal asked local leaders to analyze state and regional economies and identify specific economic drivers for this area.

The plan will be presented to Virginia’s next governor at the annual Virginia Economic Summit, held by the Virginia Chamber Dec. 1 in Williamsburg.

In the past, according to DuVal, Virginia has been ranked by Forbes magazine and other outfits as one of the best states in which to do business. “We slipped in ranking due to a lack of job growth,” said DuVal, which he attributed to loss of defense and government contractor jobs and a shortage of trained mid-level workers. These are the men and women who work at jobs requiring more than a high school diploma, but less than a four-year college degree.

“For the first time in a half-century, Virginia is trailing the nation in economic recovery and job creation,” lamented DuVal.

Hoping to arrest the downward trend, the state Chamber spent 18 months between 2013 and 2014 conducting talks with business and community leaders around the Commonwealth to determine their top priorities for strengthening Virginia’s economic competitiveness. They identified principles for success in key areas such as education, workforce training, economic development, transportation, health care, technology and innovation, energy, manufacturing, environment and military and veterans affairs.

Their conclusions form what is now known as Blueprint Virginia 2025. It was presented to Gov. Terry McAuliffe shortly after his election. DuVal said McAuliffe included many of the initiatives from the Blueprint in his new Virginia Economy plan. It also served as the basis for the Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Agenda for the past two years.

“We tracked over 500 bills, took positions on 88 and had a 94 percent success rate,” whether it was garnering passage or defeating a bill the Chamber believed to be onerous to business, DuVal explained.

With the choice of a new governor on the ballot in November, DuVal said it is time to update the plan. He said both government and business leaders need to consider what Virginia will look like in 2025. He estimated the population would grow by about 1 million, there would be 800,000 new jobs and the need for an additional 1 million workers to fill jobs given up by retirees. He expected use of Virginia’s seaports to increase at least 41 percent.

DuVal concluded that in order for Virginia’s economy to grow, there has to be job training: “Job creation is a result of workforce.”

As an enticement to garner input for an updated Blueprint Virginia, DuVal had participants at Tuesday’s meeting participate in a brief survey that asked their thoughts about future trends that could affect the Commonwealth — which regulations and regulatory agencies prove most burdensome to business development, where should educational needs be focused, what are Virginia’s infrastructure and transportation needs, the importance of quality and affordable healthcare, and what steps should the state and localities take to ensure our communities remain or become vibrant and sustainable.

He encouraged people to be a part of the updated Blueprint Virginia, by participating in their forums or following the plan’s development on the Virginia Chamber website, http://www.vachamber.com.

DuVal said about the role of the chamber and Blueprint Virginia, “We believe that we can in fact stimulate the economy, create new jobs and make Virginia the best place to live, work and do business.”

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