“I learned the importance of Chambers when I was a councilman in Richmond. I learned they represent their members, they're involved in public advocacy and shaping public policy and they think regionally. Certainly this Chamber does and that is a need in Hampton Roads,” said Senator Tim Kaine addressing the business community. Kaine and Warner spoke at the Hampton Roads Chamber’s 2018 Senatorial Forum.
This annual event held at Hilton Norfolk | The Main on December 10th, allows business leaders and community members the opportunity to hear from Senator Warner and Senator Kaine on the issues important to the region and the Commonwealth. As an inspiring ignitor and impactful advocate, the Hampton Roads Chamber strives to provide opportunities, like the Senatorial Forum, for our members to dialogue with the decision makers in Washington.
Senator Warner began his speech by celebrating the unanimous House approval of the Ashanti Alert. This national alert aimed at finding missing adults is one step closer to becoming law and has its roots in Hampton Roads with the tragic abduction and murder of Ashanti Billie. “This is a step forward in having the same kind of public effect the Amber Alert does,” said Warner. He also applauded the momentum of the budget process. “We already have 70% of the budget appropriated. None of us wants to go through a shutdown and we are doing everything we can to be fully resolved,” Warner said.
Warner addressed his concern with the nation’s lack of a cyberstrategy plan. “I am increasingly concerned that we don’t have the advancements and investments in cybersecurity and mis/disinformation technologies that Russia and China have. We have to be prepared to make this nation as safe as it can be.”
Senator Tim Kaine spoke on his 3 main areas of concern, National Security, Workforce and Trade. “Our military is dramatically better than any other nation, but in areas like cyberdefense and cybersecurity other nations are well beyond us and in this way, stronger,” said Kaine.
With the growing Naval fleet the concern, particularly for Hampton Roads is finding the workforce for shipbuilding and ship repair. “The people who will be building those ships are in Pre-Kindergarten now. This is where we need to take advantage of tackling education reform,” said Kaine. In looking ahead at the Higher-Ed Reauthorization bill, gaps in the workforce are identified. “We need to look at this in a way that meets the workforce needs of Virginia and I believe we do this through career and technical education alternatives and the role of community colleges,” Kaine said.
Regarding trade Kaine said he and Warner are both “Pro-trade as long as it is fair and enforceable. Virginia’s success is derived from our ability to harness our global connections like The Port of Virginia,” Kaine said.
The floor was opened for questions from the audience and the Senators answered questions on the challenges of sea level rise, contingent workers and workforce development, and the gaps between education and industry as it relates to the business community.
“Climate change is not tomorrow’s issue, it’s today’s issue and there are a number of things we can do. One of them lies with the President’s infrastructure bill. That’s a real area where progress can be made if we say flooding resiliency and mitigation must be a part of that,” said Kaine.
Warner who has been briefed 4 times on the Hampton Roads’ plan for dealing with sea-level rise said, “Hampton Roads has the opportunity to be a world leader in resiliency and we are all in, we are here to help promote a center of excellence, but after 4 pitches on this plan, I’m still not sure who is in charge. The demarcation needs to be cleaned up, so that we can then become better advocates.”
Regarding workforce and gaps in education and industry needs Warner said, “We need a pay for performance workforce training incentive system. Not all high school seniors are college bound so we offer sophomores that are not college bound the option of a technical certificate and training along with their high school diploma." This is a critical issue for the Commonwealth and Hampton Roads in particular.
Presenting Sponsor representative Nneka Chiazor, Vice President of Government & Public Affairs with Cox Communications said, “The Chamber is instrumental in developing programs that help the business community, like events that galvanize women to lead to keeping the issues that matter to the business community at the forefront of legislation.”
Thank you to our Senatorial Forum sponsors: Presenting Sponsor Cox; Host Sponsor Hilton Norfolk | The Main; Gold Sponsor The Port of Virginia; Silver Sponsor Newport News Shipbuilding-Huntington Ingalls Industries; Bronze Sponsor Virginia Natural Gas; Platinum Legislative Affairs Partner Bon Secours; Gold Legislative Affairs Partner Chesapeake Regional Healthcare; Silver Legislative Affairs Partner Clark Nexsen
Photo: Senator Tim Kaine, Senator Mark Warner, Bryan K. Stephens