"Our economy is moving in a positive direction," said Ralph Northam, the Lt. Governor of Virginia during his opening remarks at the Chamber Day at the Capitol event. Members of the Hampton Roads Chamber, including President and CEO Bryan K. Stephens, joined chamber representatives and business leaders from throughout Virginia on January 25th, to meet with legislators and discuss the business environment in the commonwealth. The annual event is hosted by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.
Leaders of the Virginia House of Delegates and leaders of the Senate of Virginia participated in separate panel discussions, moderated by Dr. Bob Holsworth, Managing Principal of DecideSmart. Both panel members lent their opinions on issues facing the Virginia including economic development, broadband expansion, repealing the certificate of public need (COPN) and the affordable care act, and K-12 education reform. "It's all about jobs, economic opportunity, and raising wages to where Virginians can support their families and put more money into the community," said Virginia House of Delegates Minority Leader David Toscano, "we need a strategic investment in education, we have reconceptualize how we look at K-2."
Another major subject area covered by the legislators present at Chamber Day was the GoVirginia program which recently had its budget reduced. "GoVirginia is one of the most forward-thinking programs to come out of the commonwealth," said Bill Stanley, Virginia Senate member. The panel agreed on the innovation of GoVirginia, but also agreed budget constraints were a problem. "Our first priority needs to be the core functions of government," said Virginia Senate member Jennifer McClellan.
Following the panel discussions, the audience participated in the Virgina Chamber of Commerce long-term statewide economic development plan, Blueprint Virginia 2025. Business leaders and chamber representatives participated in smartphone and text message voting to identify the priorities for long-term economic growth in Virginia. Over the next year, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce will ask Virginia’s regional leaders and industry experts to analyze state and regional economies and identify specific economic drivers. The final product, Blueprint Virginia 2025, will be presented to our next governor following the 2017 election. The Hampton Roads Chamber will host Barry Duval, President and CEO of the Virginia Chamber, this spring so our members can weigh in on Blueprint Virginia 2025.
While in Richmond for the Chamber Day event, Hampton Roads Chamber CEO and President, Bryan Stephens paid office calls to a number of legislators advocating for the issues that are important to Hampton Roads residents. Stephens met with Senator Frank Wagner, Senator Lynwood Lewis, and Senator Bill DeSteph Jr. to discuss issues like sea-level rise, the proposed gas tax, COPN, and Go Virginia. "There's nothing better than a vital chamber in legislature," said Senator Lewis, "the Hampton Roads Chamber isn't your typical chamber, [it's] out in front of a lot of issues." The Hampton Roads Chamber will continue to be more than the typical chamber, we'll be an impactful advocate for our members and their businesses.
(Pictured left to right: Bryan Stephens, President and CEO ofthe Hampton Roads Chamber and Barry Duval, President and CEO of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.)