Reason for optimism

Published 10:40 pm Friday, August 17, 2012

There’s been a lot to celebrate recently regarding jobs and economic opportunity in Western Tidewater.

In July, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling was in Courtland to help break ground for the new Enviva Pellets Southampton in the Turner Tract Industrial Park. At the same time, Secretary of Commerce and Trade Jim Cheng was in Suffolk helping to cut the ribbon on the new Ace Distribution Center.

On Friday, Gov. Bob McDonnell was at International Paper’s Franklin mill for a ribbon-cutting ceremony signifying last month’s restart of operations there.

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These are all exciting moments for a region that appreciates any new jobs it can get in the wake of a near-meltdown of the economy during the past few years. But for the state’s top-ranking officials, they embody the commitment to a campaign promise to focus intently on jobs.

McDonnell and Bolling moved into the governor’s and lieutenant governor’s offices in 2010 largely behind the strength of their jobs-first message to voters the previous November. Since then, McDonnell, who has hit plenty of sour notes on topics like transportation and tolls, has been pitch-perfect when focusing on jobs and economic development. He has done more than pay lip service to that campaign pledge.

Virginia has had great success in attracting jobs and economic investment since McDonnell and Bolling took office, despite the fact that there has been little in the way of economic expansion on the national level during that period. Since they took office in January 2010, the governor and lieutenant governor have participated in the announcement of nearly 900 economic development projects, which combined will generate over 54,000 jobs and $8.5 billion in capital investment in Virginia.

Whether they should be given credit for the jobs or just for taking credit for them is something to be decided most often by one’s political affiliation, but still it’s impossible to argue that Virginia has suffered as much as other states through the Great Recession and its attendant weak recovery, and the two men surely deserve some of the credit for the commonwealth’s success.

Certainly, all the credit does not belong to McDonnell and Bolling alone. These successful projects are also the result of the localities providing suitable locations and the workforce to attract new employers. They also derive from the ability of local economic development teams to create positive relationships with potential investors and the governor’s office.

No matter who gets the credit for our recent good news in Western Tidewater, there’s plenty of reason for optimism.