Virginia is in the midst of a historic transfer in leadership in the Virginia General Assembly. Regardless of party affiliation, it’s important to remember that regionalism and collaboration among party leaders are essential for the business community of Hampton Roads and the Commonwealth. We must come together to ensure that new legislation coming out of Richmond favors the business community.
The Hampton Roads Chamber is proud to be a nonpartisan organization that advocates for legislation from both parties to benefit the business community of Hampton Roads. Our region is the organization structure for the economy, and we need our legislators to work together to ensure we get favorable legislation passed for the business community. The current shift in leadership has left a gap in legislators from Hampton Roads. These legislators participate in key committees that have an impact on the business community within our region. Without the influence of Hampton Roads legislators, I’m concerned that the result is a focus on legislation supporting the Northern Virginia region, instead of the Commonwealth as a whole.
As the General Assembly votes on laws that will affect the business community, we must remember it’s about regionalism, not partisanship. Maintaining a pro-business, free-market economy allows us to remain the number one state to do business. There is a reason that Virginia was voted the number one state in the Nation to business in, and our right-to-work status (RTW) is one of them. Virginia is one of 27 states that have passed RTW laws, and we must preserve our RTW status. RTW laws are a critical component of our thriving economy and pro-business environment. Companies often choose to do business in states that have RTW laws because they are considered attractive locations to conduct business. If we repeal our RTW status, this could jeopardize enterprises in Virginia and will make it much more expensive to do business in our state. Let’s not forget what is essential for Virginians is necessary for business.
Our great state of Virginia is one of the top five states in the Nation for education and touts a record low unemployment rate of 2.6%. We are also one of the best-managed states from a fiscal perspective, and we have done all of that while maintaining a triple-A bond rating. These top rankings did not happen by happenstance. It was through selfless leadership on the part of our elected officials from both parties. They understood the importance of regional collaboration, working to ensure that we, in Hampton Roads, receive our fair share of decision making input in the legislature. We must ensure these top-dollar decisions affecting Virginia’s business environment don’t disproportionally favor Northern Virginia and other areas at our expense.
It is critical that we, the business leaders of Virginia and policymakers, take a look at what is vital for our business community to continue to prosper and thrive. The Commonwealth has a tremendous opportunity with offshore wind energy that we must use to our advantage. Harnessing the power of offshore wind energy would create thousands of jobs and bring millions of dollars to our community. There is a multitude of assets in Hampton Roads that support the offshore wind industry, such as the Port of Virginia, the maritime workforce, and America’s largest shipbuilding industry located right in our backyard. There is no reason why we should not leverage Virginia’s advantages and become the Center of Excellence for offshore wind in the Nation.
Additionally, education and workforce development must be funded to ensure we have a workforce equipped to meet our needs now and in the future. The youth of today will become our workforce for tomorrow, comprised of engineers, software manufacturers, doctors, and more. We must consider the future of our workforce and add additional K-12 funding to support early childhood education measures.
We need to look at all of these issues, which affect not only the business community but our quality of life here in Hampton Roads. Now more than ever, it is critical for legislators to work cohesively to achieve the best possible outcomes for our region. The Hampton Roads Chamber is unapologetically pro-business, advocating on behalf of businesses in the region. During this General Assembly session, we have all eyes on us, with the entire Nation watching what we are doing. I hope that through meaningful discussions on the issues, we can come together to enact collective change for the betterment of Virginia businesses.