JOB CREATION & ECONOMIC GROWTH
I served as Governor of Virginia during the worst national recession in 70 years. But our unemployment rate was among the nation’s lowest, and our median income was near the top. We recruited numerous businesses (MeadWestvaco, Hilton, CSC, SAIC, VW of North America) to move their headquarters from other states to Virginia. We also attracted significant American and international investments such as the new Rolls Royce facility in Prince George, Swedwood and Com.40 in Danville, Canon in Newport News, EDS in Mecklenburg County, and Orbital Sciences on the Eastern Shore. And we were named the “Best State for Business” in America four years in a row by Forbes.com. Clearly, Virginia is doing something right.
But our economic recovery cannot rely only on large businesses. Small businesses and their owners remain the innovators and backbone of our economy. Since two out of three new jobs are created by a small business, I want to find ways to support the entrepreneurs and risk takers. As Governor, I increased the percentage of state contracts issued to small, women-owned, and minority-owned businesses from 13% to 40%. My administration also launched a “Business One Stop” portal to make it easier for Virginians to start a small business.
As America works to grow an economy that is still too fragile, we need to learn lessons from Virginia’s success. We have pursued four important strategies and they have moved the Virginia economy from back of the pack to front of the pack over the last several decades.
- First, America needs a commitment to being the Talent Society. Just as Virginia’s innovative investments in education—from pre-kindergarten to post-graduate and workforce training—have turned the state into a magnet for talent, America needs to commit to being the best in the world in educational opportunities. Talented people create ideas, companies and jobs. And great businesses locate in places where they know they can hire talented people. America used to be #1 in the world in the percentage of young adults with college or technical degrees. Among developed nations, we are now 12th, and more nations are poised to pass us by. We have to look at reforms -- broader early childhood education, more rigorous K-12 curriculums, renewed attention to career and technical education, dramatic efforts to make college more affordable -- to return America to tops in the world in educating our population.
- Second, we have to grab onto and embrace our role as a global leader and expand markets for American goods and services all over the globe. Virginia has leveraged Dulles Airport and the Port of Virginia -- as well as an increasingly international population -- to find economic connections everywhere. Our globally interconnected economy has created serious challenges for certain sectors of the economy, but it has also opened up opportunities for Virginia businesses that never before operated internationally. Even as American families rein in some of the over-borrowing and over-spending of the last decade, robust efforts to “Sell American” all over the world can help expand our economy. To do this, we have to get serious with China and other nations that block the marketing of American goods through trade barriers, currency manipulation or piracy of intellectual property.
- Third, we need to make sure that taxes and regulation are low, fair and business friendly. Virginia has a strong track record of maintaining a business-friendly environment. Both as a local official and as Governor, I have lowered or eliminated taxes that put us in a non-competitive posture with other states or communities. Regulations have to protect the public, but give wide latitude for entrepreneurs to innovate and succeed.
- Finally, we cannot succeed without investing. Too many in public life make cuts to taxes and spending their only philosophy. This would have been disastrous in earlier eras of American life when we were building railroads and interstates, or establishing the world’s finest system of higher education, or defending ourselves and our allies during two World Wars. Thank goodness that Virginia has made recent investments in education, transportation and environmental clean-up of our water, land and air. As Lieutenant Governor and Governor, I played leadership roles in two bond campaigns to expand our college facilities by over $2 billion despite the need to cut the state budget by billions due to the recession. At the national level, we have to expand educational opportunities and commit to rebuilding American infrastructure. These investments have a cost, but an unwillingness to invest will consign our children and grandchildren to diminished opportunity.