Citizen Perspectives on Economic Development: Virginia 2017

Here in Virginia, we’ve been in the midst of some tough public debates on economic and workforce development.  The statewide economy has not been performing as well as hoped, and some regions, especially coal-dependent areas, are facing very tough times. Meanwhile, some of our state agencies have been facing tough scrutiny over botched incentive deals and other issues.  But, a recent survey from Virginia Commonwealth University offers some potential good news not just here in Virginia but in terms of public attitudes to economic and workforce development more generally.

The study, undertaken after the elections in December 2016, surveyed the general public about economic and workforce development in Virginia, and here a few quick hits:

  • Less than half (47%) of respondents think Virginia is doing a good job in recruiting businesses to the state,
  • But, at the same time, 58% of those surveyed would be willing to pay more taxes to support workforce training and development programs,
  • About half of respondents want new investments to be targeted to workforce training, as opposed to tax incentives or other approaches,
  • More than half (55%) of those surveyed are not familiar with the training, job search, and education opportunities available in their area.

I think these results show a fairly sophisticated sense of what’s happening with our economy.   We need to do a better job of preparing people for the new world of work.  But, at the same time, we face a big outreach challenge as a large share of people still aren’t aware of the opportunities already available on this front.   And, if they can learn about and tap into good programs, residents appear to be willing to make the needed investments to support them.