Gov. Terry McAuliffe joined a roundtable of Virginia business and labor representatives to outline how critical infrastructure investment across the Commonwealth of Virginia spurs economic growth and job creation. Fresh off a trade mission to southeast Asia where he advocated on behalf of Virginia manufacturers and business to increase exports from the Commonwealth, the governor made clear that Virginia “can compete with China any day of the week now” because continued improvements to Virginia’s infrastructure make the state’s manufacturers more competitive.
Gov. McAuliffe also reiterated his support for energy infrastructure projects, such as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “If we weren’t bringing the gas through an environmentally safe pipeline, it would come in by truck or rail, and I would be the first to argue that is not a smart way to transport gas,” because it would be more costly for Virginia’s manufacturers. The governor argued that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will be a major provider of cheap gas for businesses, allowing Virginia to manufacture more competitively priced products.
Gov. McAuliffe also stressed the importance of transportation infrastructure for manufacturing. For example, renewing the state’s contract with United Airlines at Dulles International Airport retained approximately 35,000 jobs in the state. The new, seven-year contract includes plans to upgrade the airport and add more United flights to its schedule. Support for infrastructure investment programs is overwhelming among Virginians; 89 percent said that infrastructure investment would have a “positive impact” on the state in a recent survey commissioned by the National Association Manufacturers (NAM).
Aubrey Lane, Virginia’s secretary of transportation, credited Gov. McAuliffe with reorienting Virginia’s approach to infrastructure to benefit the economy. “We’re fixing problems instead of building things just because we can build them” remarked Secretary Lane, who has overseen the Port of Virginia’s expansion and return to profitability. “Infrastructure is an investment, not an expense,” said the secretary. He concluded, “I don’t see how we can move the economy forward without that investment.”
Industry leaders expressed broad agreement with Gov. McAuliffe and Secretary Lane. Dorene Billingsley, the director of operations at AdvanSix, a specialty chemical manufacturing company, stressed that efficient infrastructure helps keep them competitive. A few delayed truck deliveries can cost the business hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to Billingsley. AdvanSix depends on every aspect of the state’s infrastructure and wouldn’t be in business without it. “We’re in Virginia, we plan to stay in Virginia, and we want to grow in Virginia,” she said.
John Dyer, vice president of manufacturing at Optical Cable Corp., said, “Our biggest concern for infrastructure is dependability…If a transformer 20 miles away goes out, we could lose $20,000 because of it.” He described infrastructure as an essential piece of the “jigsaw puzzle” of factors that must align perfectly for manufacturers to succeed.
Tom Bell, the secretary-treasurer for the Virginia State Building and Construction Trades Council, said that infrastructure investments provide benefits to the state’s labor force. “Economic development is also workforce development,” he said. “It’s vital to our industry.” New infrastructure projects will create training opportunities for the next generation of Virginia tradesmen, according to Bell.
Jim Burnette, president and co-founder of Alliance Engineering Inc., has decades of experience in designing, building and operating factories nationwide. In considering the location for a new factory, he considers access to infrastructure of utmost importance, saying, “Anything we can do to improve infrastructure is critically important.”
The roundtable discussion, a joint event co-hosted by the Virginia Manufacturers Association and the NAM, was another demonstration of the broad support infrastructure development enjoys across the Commonwealth of Virginia.