Lt. Gov. meets with business leaders
Thursday, November 08, 2012
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling's closing remark drew chuckles from a dozen business and government leaders Friday during a roundtable meeting on curbing government red tape. "We're here from the government. We're here to help you, " Bolling said with a smile.
Bolling, the state's chief jobs creator, said onerous regulations often make business expansion difficult. "We always lament federal regulations, but we have a few in the state as well," Bolling said. "Government is supposed to help, but it doesn't always help. It sometimes gets in the way."
Bolling and Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce President Laurie Moran teamed up to organize the business roundtable at American National Bank and Trust on Main Street. "Nobody knows business better than people that do business," Bolling said. A Republican, Bolling made handwritten notes and listened to comments about regulatory hurdles and suggestions for state improvements, including educational boosts, focusing on small economic projects, and adding an interstate highway spur in South side.
Bolling, serving his second term as lieutenant governor, hosted nine simdar roundtable discus sions across the commonwealth. "We really want the emphasis in the final year of our agenda to be on regulatory reform," Boiling said. American National Bank Chairman Charles Majors urged the state to invest in early childhood education and workforce training. Majors said the state only invests $1.5 million in early education. North Carolina spends $250 million on preschool programs. "We've made a lot of progress. We have a long way to go," Majors said. Bolling agreed. "We should be talking about how we go from $1.5 million to $3 million or $5 million or $10 million. There is a whole lot more we could be doing in early childhood education that we aren't doing today."
In three years, 12 percent of the state's 948 economic development projects were centered in southern Virginia, Bolling said. "What we are doing is working." he said. "We just have to do more of it." U.S. Green Energy Chief Executive Officer Bob Bennett said the state is too focused on large economic projects. "There is basically little interest in truly developing small jobs," Bennett said. "There is too much emphasis on big jobs."
Not so. Bolling said, noting 80 percent of economic announcements come from small businesses. "We want the big stuff, but we've tried to have a laser-like focus on business expansion and the small stuff," he said. Linwood Wright, who serves in Danville's Office of Economic Development, said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Historical Resources force economic projects to move slowly. "The biggest cost is the cost of Jime," Wright sajd, Wright praised state and local leaders for pushing the economy forward. "We have to pick them off one at a time," Wright said of new jobs. "It's a journey, not a destination." Bolling said federal regulations are hampering efforts to create mega-parks across the state, including the largest site on Berry Hill Road in Pittsylvania County. "We are just being held up at every turn," Bolling said. "It's incredibly frustrating." Bolling said his office has some influence over state departments and often speeds projects along. "This is sometimes like a game of whack-a-mole," he said. "When we know the issues, we can sort of whack-a-mole."
Danville Regional Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer Karl Stauber said bringing an interstate spur to the region would increase economic opportunity. "We would be happy to have your picture taken cutting the ribbon on the state line opening the new interstate," Stauber said.
Shortly after taking office three years ago, Gov. Bob McDonnell put Bolling, who plans to run for governor next year, in charge of bringing jobs to Virginia. "We've made no secret that our number one focus was going to be on economic development and job creation," Boiling said. "Every year, we've tried to have a very aggressive economic agenda."
McDonnell and Bolling expanded overseas economic development offices to lure new industry and increased funds for marketing state products and economic incentives. "We know what we've done in the last three years, the question is what will we do in the next year?" he said. In three years, the Republican duo has worked to bring the state's unemployment from 15 percent to 11 percent. "We are making some progress," Bolling said. "We are doing better than almost anybody in the country." To learn more about McDonnell's plan for regulatory reform, visit regreform.virginia.gov.
For additional information contact Ibbie Hedrick at 804-225-2487 or firstname.lastname@example.org.