Our economy is undergoing rapid change, and we have to know how to react to these changes in order to remain competitive and continue creating and retaining jobs in the Fifth District. Our economy faces challenges both from without and within. Increased globalization means that many industries can be staffed with labor from anywhere in the world. That means we must put a premium on jobs and industries that can employ a local workforce.
We also face a challenge from automation that threatens to displace as much as 30%-50% of the workforce in coming years. This impact will be felt across many sectors of the economy, even in areas such as service jobs, health care, and transportation that currently are growth areas for employment.
It is critical that we invest in our local economy on several fronts to ensure job opportunity:
- Building infrastructure - We can put people to work on roads and highways and on broadband initiatives that will connect our rural areas with the rest of the world. Once that infrastructure is in place, we will be in a position to retain and attract more businesses to the area.
- Nurturing development of new energy technology - In addition to being good for our environment, renewable energy such as wind farms and the solar industry have the potential to employ more people for a longer time than old energy sources. Virginia can be on the leading edge of these new, clean energy industries. We should not be investing resources or using private land for another gas pipeline.
- Attracting regional, national, and international businesses - I came to Virginia thirty-five years ago attracted by its natural beauty and the spirit of the people who live here. These qualities still make it an attractive place for companies to relocate. As we develop better roads, internet service, and mobile phone access in rural areas, we will be better able to return jobs to those areas that have lost them in recent decades.
- Encouraging and diversifying local economies - Homegrown businesses are the lifeblood of a community, in that the money spent on their products and services stays in the community. For example, local farming has a stronger impact on a rural county than corporate farming. Supporting these businesses and expanding the range of products and services open up new ways to make a living and help keep the next generation in the community.
- Keeping our workforce current - Free public high school education had a significant impact on our workforce in the 1900's. Today’s jobs require more technical skills than ever. It’s time to add two years of free community college, and to support job training programs for those who choose not to attend college.