In tough economic times, many elected officials make investment cuts that come to haunt them in the future. Cuts in education, infrastructure, and economic development programs can have major long-term repercussions, and years of lost investment opportunities cannot always be rapidly made up. In my home state of Virginia, our current governor, Robert McDonnell, is pushing a very far-sighted agenda that should help push the state toward recovery and position Virginia for continued economic prosperity. This effort is also something of a “man bites dog” story as McDonnell ran for office on a conservative platform. He also promised that job creation would be a top priority, and he (along with Lt. Governor Bill Bolling) is certainly acting on this promise with his new “Opportunity at Work” agenda.
This agenda is especially ambitious when compared to the cutbacks we are seeing in some many other state budgets. Here are some of the highlights of the proposed Oppportunity at Work budget which calls for $54 million in new economic development investments.
- A new Virginia Research and Technology Innovation program, with more than $25 million to invest in commercializing new technologies and attracting cutting edge research to Virginia.
- A new $5 Small Business Financing Authority to expand lending to Virginia small businesses.
- New funds ($3 million) to expand training opportunities at Virginia’s community colleges.
- A host of programs (funded at up to $4 million) to expand and promote tourism opportunities and tourism-related business.
This ambitious plan is now set for review by Virginia’s General Assembly. Its passage is no slam dunk, but the agenda has received strong business backing across the Commonwealth. We can expect and interesting and heated debate on this agenda and its role in fueling Virginia’s future prosperity.