Gov. McAuliffe touts ‘New Virginia Economy’

(PHOTO CREDIT: Matt Chaney/Capital News Service)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC/CNS) – Gov. Terry McAuliffe told an optimistic story about the state of Virginia’s economy while emphasizing the need to improve education, before a crowd of more than 275 business people from the Virginia Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.

McAuliffe said more Virginians today have better-paying jobs than before he was elected. Some statistics he quoted implied that the state’s economy is stronger than it has ever been. He said:

  • 568 new economic development projects have occurred during his tenure.
  • $9.34 billion in new capital has come to the state in that time – nearly double the amount under any other governor in Virginia history.
  • Virginia has enjoyed 21 consecutive months of year-over-year job growth.
  • 96,500 new jobs have been created in the past few years.
  • 3,856,100 jobs exist in the state, the most in Virginia history.
  • The state’s unemployment rate is 4.2 percent, the lowest in the Southeast United States and the lowest in Virginia since the recession in 2008.
  • As a result, unemployment claims are the lowest they’ve been in 41 years in Virginia.
  • Personal income per capita over the past 12 months has increased 3.4 percent.

“I’m willing to work with anybody, anytime,” McAuliffe told attendees at the Virginia Chamber of Commerce Day at the Capitol.

“I tell folks when they come in my office, does it create a job, does it create economic activity? If it doesn’t, then I really don’t have too much time to waste on it, because I’m driven about growing and diversifying the economy.”

While the governor spoke at length about the current state of the economy, he also discussed the need to improve education and ensure that Virginia has a well-trained workforce to keep up with the demands of a changing economy.

McAuliffe emphasized the need to better fund community college job training programs while citing the relatively low figure of $5 million a year that Virginia currently spends on such programs. By comparison, North Carolina, one of Virginia’s closest economic competitors, spends $92 million a year on such programs.

“Over the next decade, two-thirds of the 1.5 million jobs we will have to fill, here in Virginia, will require the skills and knowledge demonstrated by industry certifications, occupational licenses, and other workforce credentials. Not necessarily a four-year degree. But a two-year degree,” he said. “We have to get in the game on this.”

He also emphasized the need to improve K-12 education, through funding and higher standards.

“If you look at my budget, education, I talk about the investment we’ll make, $1 billion to put 2,500 teachers back in the classrooms that had been cut. We’ve got money in it for our community colleges … $800 million for our higher education schools, $200 million for our community colleges.”

McAuliffe was among several state officials who addressed the annual Chamber Day gathering.

At the event, the Chamber of Commerce elected Tom Palmer of Wells Fargo & Company to serve as chairman of the organization’s board of directors. Palmer served as first vice chair of the board in 2015. He succeeds 2015 chairman Stacy Mendler, chief operating officer of Alion Science and Technology.

Palmer is a senior vice president and regional vice president for the Central Virginia regional commercial banking office of Wells Fargo, based in Richmond. He also oversees the Eastern Virginia commercial banking office.

Capital News Service is a student-operated news reporting program sponsored by the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture at Virginia Commonwealth University.

For more Virginia General Assembly coverage, visit the In the Rotunda section.

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