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Time to cheer and b

Virginia has been ranked No. 1 by CNBC as the best state to do business. This is a leap up from fourth last year and seventh from the year before. All Virginians should take enormous pride in the recent announcement that the Commonwealth has returned to the top. The last time we occupied this position was 2007. It has taken teamwork over several administrations to return us to this status. The General Assembly’s insistence on sound fiscal policies, including regulatory reform, began under Governor McDonnell. The workforce initiatives championed by the Board of Workforce Development and the team at the Virginia Economic Development Partnership have all contributed to this highly sought status.

Quoting from Senator Tommy Norment, “However, we cannot afford to be complacent about our prospects for the future. Some, in fact many, have proposed legislation that would move Virginia in the wrong direction. Some have proposed doing away with ‘Right to Work’ laws that would force employees to join a union before they could get a job. Others have proposed Virginia establish a higher minimum wage that has proven to be a job killer in other states.”

The majority of us want employees to make more, but it should be based on hard work and willingness to work, not state law. One need only look at the rankings of states such as New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois and California to see that Virginia has it right. Meanwhile, one should look at states such as North Carolina and Texas that are nipping at our heels. If we choose to pass legislation that would drive business to other states, they will move ahead of Virginia.

I’m proud that we have worked with governors to keep them focused on the economy and how best to create a business climate to achieve this ranking. Personally, I am proud to have served on the Finance Committee as Chairman of the Economic Development subcommittee for the last four years. As well, I have chaired the Major Employment and Investment Commission as we have approved the expansion of Microsoft in Mecklenburg, Volvo Truck in Pulaski, and Amazon in Northern Virginia without taking anything from any existing state programs.

Working with Delegate Jones, we pushed through changes at the Virginia Economic Development Partnership at the same time that Chris Lumsden, as chairman of the Partnership’s search committee, found a fantastic new leader in Stephen Moret.

EDUCATION

Virginia’s commitment to education and workforce skills training was an important reason for our high scoring. The Fast Track skills training that I pushed for at the community college level, combined with the Tech Talent Pipeline that Delegates Rush, Jones and I sponsored this year for higher level college degrees, was a big factor in their ratings.

Quoting CNBC, “That workforce was a key factor in Virginia’s biggest economic development win in recent memory: Amazon’s decision to locate a portion of its coveted HQ2 project in Arlington announced late last year. The retailer promises to ultimately hire 25,000 people for Virginia’s part of the facility and to spend $2.5 billion.”

“We were really excited by Virginia, what it had to offer,” said Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president for Public Policy and part of the core site selection team, in an interview with CNBC. “Probably the most important thing was the attraction of this place to talent, and particularly tech talent.”

THE REST OF THE PACK

Ratings below Virginia were as followed:

2. Texas

3. North Carolina

4. Utah

5. Washington State

From the other end of the ratings starting at worst:

50. Rhode Island

49. Hawaii

48. Mississippi

47. Alaska

46. Louisiana

45. West Virginia

The biggest losers from last year to this, was Michigan (dropping from 11th to 24th under new Gov. Whitmer-D) and California (dropping from 25th to 32nd).

Additionally, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania both dropped primarily on workforce issues.

It is great that Virginia is at the top. The challenge now is how to stay there. All must understand that a change in the majority of the House and Senate would lead Virginia to look very much like California and other states that are losing business, driving working families elsewhere and leaving those states with many welfare problems.

Frank Ruff represents Lunenburg in the state Senate. His email address is Sen. Ruff@verizon.net.