The Chambers of Commerce in the Commonwealth made a strong appearance January 27th in Richmond at the General Assembly. There were over 30 Chambers represented at the Virginia State Chamber, Chamber Day at the Capitol. Hampton Roads was represented by more than 70 people including the LEAD Hampton Roads Class of 2016.
The day’s agenda was filled with six speakers, saving Governor Terry McAuliffe for last. Each speaker addressed different topics affecting residents of the Commonwealth, but the main theme in everyone’s speech was budget. Each stressed the need to look for different ways to retain and bring in new business to Virginia.
LEAD Hampton Roads attending Chamber Day at the Capitol.— HR Chamber (@Chamber757) January 27, 2016
Our first speaker was Lt. Governor Ralph Northam. A former pediatric neurologist for the military, Lt. Governor Northam specializes in healthcare. He believes there are three pillars to health care: 1) quality, 2) access, and 3) cost. Northam said the cost of healthcare is what is driving this country to its knees and that this country is moving from a quantity base system to an outcome base system. He strongly considers that personalized healthcare could help the healthcare system. Lt. Governor Northam also touched base on how the state of Virginia cannot move forward unless we not only retain the business in Virginia but also attract new businesses. “Our job is to make a landscape for businesses to come to Virginia and be successful. We need to do this the Virginia way, we need to be accepting of new ideas, and not compete.”
Following Lt. Governor was House Speaker William Howell. “Local Chambers do a wonderful deal in promoting the business community, and we need to be vigilant. With the help of our Chambers, we can accomplish this.” Howell however stated with seven of our nine indicators down and/or stagnant, that he has serious concerns with the Virginia economy. He believes that Virginia needs to come up with a new business model for developing business, and start asking what we can do to attract new business, like cyber security or personalized medicine. “We are lucky to have a great military and government contracting in our area, but we need to stop depending on them and start doing a better job nurturing the businesses already in Virginia,” said Howell.
Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment spoke to the audience after House Speaker Howell. He highlighted the Governor was working very hard to bring businesses to Virginia and that Virginia needs to remain a right to work state.
John “Dubby” Wynne, Chairman of the Hampton Roads Community Foundation was the only non politician to address the group. He is the lead for GO Virginia. There are over 8,000 people and over 80 businesses that endorse GO Virginia including the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce. The region is the driver of the economy and many businesses have not been engaged with economic development for a long time. Go Virginia would provide a new framework that emphasizes each region in the state and put together their strengths and contributions that will help lead to overall success. There are five buckets to GO Virginia: 1) innovation, 2) investment, 3) improvement, 4) invention and 5) infrastructure. Wynne asked all present to urge legislators to support GO Virginia and to stay involved.
Attorney General Mark Herring was the fifth speaker. He discussed patent patrolling and how the attorney general’s office is helping businesses that receive patent patrols even if the patent is from outside of Virginia. According to a 2012 annual report, patent patrolling has cost the US economy $29 billion and in the last year, patent patrols have increased more than 20%. Greg Richards who works closely with Attorney General Herring is the patent patrol attorney who deals with complaints and investigates to see if they can stop the behavior. Herring also stated that letters will be going out to local chambers across the state and how members can report a patent patrol letter if they come across one. The Attorney General’s office is also working on cyber security and data security and helping to protect it.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe was the luncheon speaker. He was very proud of what Virginia had accomplished in the last two years. Virginia has $9.34 billion in new capital, created 96,500 new jobs, 21 consecutive months of year over year job growth, dropped the employment rate down to 4.2% (the lowest it has been since 2008), and there are 3,856,100 jobs in Virginia today which makes that the largest number in Virginia history. He discussed that his number one priority for the budget this year was growing our economy. He believes we have to change the way we do business and stay one step ahead of competition. Since Congress pushed off sequestration for two years, that in these two upcoming years, Virginia needs to grow, plan, and diversify. Governor McAuliffe wants to expand workforce training in community colleges and help young people for when they graduate high school, get the training and education they need for future jobs because over the next decade, 2/3 of the jobs will require the skills and knowledge of certificates.
It was an eventful and informative day at Chamber Day at the Capitol. We are proud to work closely with the Virginia Chamber and support businesses in Hampton Roads!