The future of rural Virginia

Published 1:15 pm Wednesday, December 13, 2017

After the election some have lamented that there is little future for rural Virginia. The 10 most populated cities and counties voted Democrat, while much of the rest of Virginia voted Republican. In doing so, all three statewide candidates swamped their opponents despite the fact that each of the Republicans received more than the last two governors — Bob McDonnell and Terry McAuliffe. I would suggest that it is a little early to write us off. There will be a number of new challenges for rural Virginia, but that has been the case for the last two generations. We simply need to dig in and better focus on those things that we do well, and do them better. Rural Virginia is a better place for most manufacturing.

As examples, the precision-machining program at Danville Community College has attracted attention from worldwide manufacturing giants around the globe. Some of them will see our region as a good place to locate new operations. Likewise, they will look at industrial leaders, such as Rolls-Royce, that have already shown our part of the state is a good place for modern manufacturing. The skills that are currently being mastered at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center will serve the growing data center opportunities as well as the manufacturing skills they are teaching. As our workers develop the skills needed for 21st century manufacturing, we will be more attractive for expansions than the more densely-populated parts of the state.

In the short term, it will be our challenge to make the new legislators aware that most of Virginia is not massive subdivisions and high-rise condos like their districts. This has been a challenge in years past. However, in the past there were only a few new legislators that had to be dealt with a year. This time around, we will have to reach out to about a fifth of the House of Delegates. One of the ways we have accomplished this in the past was through the Center for Rural Virginia. We have only one employee; therefore, she will have to do yeomen’s work to convince those from the more populated parts of the state to understand that the issues of rural Virginia are different from theirs. They need to understand that, if our issues are not addressed properly, we will continue to be a drag on Virginia’s economy.

The voters have spoken. Their decisions will affect all of Virginia. Truly, elections have consequences. How they affect our part of the state is yet to play out.

Frank Ruff represents Lunenburg in the state senate. His email address is Sen.