What is GO Virginia and what is the primary goal of the organization?
GO Virginia is a coalition of business, higher education, and community leaders and interested Virginians who recognize the significant economic headwinds that our state faces because of federal sequestration and other cuts, and who believe that Virginia’s economic future depends on strong private-sector growth and job creation in every region of the Commonwealth. To help foster that regional private-sector growth and job creation, the GO Virginia coalition will be working for state-level policies and resources that promote effective collaboration among business, education, and government in each region. The strategies and solutions must come from the bottom up—from collaborative innovation in each region among employers, entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, educators, governments, and other leaders. But the state government has a vital role to play in promoting this collaboration through financial incentives and technical assistance. The GO Virginia coalition is working on a bipartisan basis to develop these incentives by implementing the measures passed during the 2016 General Assembly Session.
What kind of state-funded incentives do you have in mind?
We identified five policy priorities that will encourage and assist regional collaboration focused on private-sector growth. They correspond to our five headings–Innovation, Investment, Improvement, Invention, and Infrastructure—and each will encourage collaboration among localities that lead to the creation of new high-paying jobs in the Commonwealth.
How will this be funded? Is this new money, and how much is it going to cost taxpayers?
The money appropriated for the GO Virginia priorities during the 2016 General Assembly session met our goal of having state government provide financial and other incentives that promote sustained, voluntary collaboration on private-sector growth among business, education, and government in each region. Funding for the GO Virginia initiatives will come from growth revenues, re-purposed dollars, and efficiency savings. In addition, state-funded incentives will leverage private, local, and other investment within each region. We propose NO new taxes, layers of government, local mandates, or structural changes in Virginia’s government.
Who is the driving force behind GO Virginia, and who are the members of the coalition?
GO Virginia was launched by the Virginia Business Higher Education Council and the Council on Virginia’s Future. It is a broad, bipartisan, grassroots coalition that includes business, higher education, and community leaders and interested Virginians from every part of the Commonwealth. We invite interested individuals and group representatives to visit our website, which is www.GOVirginia.org, to learn more. Members of the coalition are listed on our website.
Will this plan need legislative approval?
Yes. We are very encouraged by the bipartisan expressions of support that the GO Virginia initiative received during the 2016 General Assembly session. Many business and community leaders and interested Virginians communicated with state and local elected officials about the importance of promoting strong private-sector growth and job creation in each region and about the need for state policies and investments to help spur that growth. The legislature and the Governor have approved a series of bills and budget initiatives in line with the GO Virginia principles to achieve these goals.
How is this different from existing economic development or regional cooperation efforts?
We applaud and value the vigorous economic development efforts currently occurring at the state, regional, and local levels. The GO Virginia initiative will give a strong boost to those efforts by engaging business, education, and community leaders collaboratively in each region, and by encouraging the Commonwealth to become a strong catalyst and full partner in those efforts through financial and technical assistance that supports voluntary regional collaboration on private-sector growth and job creation.
How does this compare with other economic development plans and strategies, such as the Governor’s “New Virginia Economy” plan or the Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s “Blueprint Virginia” strategic plan?
It fits well with them. As GO Virginia moves to its implementation phase, it will help provide a collaborative regional framework for implementing those plans and for implementing legislative initiatives on workforce and economic development, including the General Assembly’s “Top Jobs” act. Many sound strategies and well-conceived ideas for spurring Virginia’s economic growth and diversification have been advanced, and some are already being implemented. To succeed, virtually all of those strategies and ideas require effective implementation at the regional level, and collaboration among business, education, and government in each region is what GO Virginia will be working to promote.
Why should government help businesses grow? Shouldn’t that be left to the free marketplace?
As the economy in each region thrives, all Virginians benefit. GO Virginia seeks to create the conditions in which private-sector enterprises, small and large, can grow, prosper, and provide more and better job opportunities to Virginians. State government aids this growth by keeping taxes and regulatory burdens low, supporting education and training, and addressing critical infrastructure needs, among other functions. We believe state policies and expenditures can more effectively encourage private-sector, job-focused collaboration in each region. Significant state funds currently flow to localities, schools, and higher education institutions, and the Commonwealth should use such resources to encourage and support job-creating joint efforts between and among these key players. State-funded initiatives should promote greater economic output and job creation in each region rather than reallocating market share or picking winners and losers.
Do you have specific regional projects in mind, like convention centers, entertainment venues, or sports arenas?
We do not. Our objective is to promote collaboration on private-sector economic growth and job creation in each region. Working through the regional councils created by the Virginia Growth and Opportunity Act, and guided by their economic properties, plans and regional skills gap analyses, we believe state investments and policies can help leverage private, local, and other investment to grow key industry sectors, encourage localities to cooperate rather than compete for new business investment, eliminate wasteful duplication and free up more funds for priorities like education and training, help align those education and training programs with marketplace demand, leverage job-creating investments in research, develop needed infrastructure to support economic growth, and create more opportunities in other ways. We believe specific strategies and projects to achieve these goals can and should come from the community and regional levels up, rather than from the state down.
How does GO Virginia relate to the other major initiative of the Virginia Business Higher Education Council’s (VBHEC), known as “Grow By Degrees.”
A: VBHEC’s “Grow By Degrees” campaign was launched in 2009, and it continues to highlight the vital connection between Virginia’s higher education system and the Commonwealth’s economic progress, including the need for 100,000 more college degrees by 2025 with a concentration in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and healthcare. Important progress has been made toward that goal, including initial state reinvestment in our higher education system and a significant increase in degree output. It is important that this progress continue, and a growing economy will make that possible. Since its beginning six years ago, “Grow By Degrees” has advocated regional collaboration on economic development, with our colleges, universities, and community colleges playing an active role. The need is even greater today as Virginia copes with steep reductions in federal spending and our economy’s growth rate falls behind the rate of growth in most other states.
How can I find out more about GO Virginia or support the organization?
The campaign engaged thousands of business and community leaders across Virginia, resulting in significant success during the 2016 General Assembly session, but our work is not done. As we now move to the implementation phase, we need more support than ever to maintain and build on what has already been accomplished. To join the coalition, offer suggestions, or learn more, interested Virginians should visit our website, www.GOVirginia.org.