Best wishes to McDonnell

Published 7:02 am Saturday, January 30, 2010

Regardless of political persuasion, every Virginian should be pulling hard for Bob McDonnell in his quest to become the “jobs governor.”

New jobs will cure most of what ails the commonwealth. Gainfully employed citizens will require less public assistance and commit fewer crimes. They will spend more money with Virginia businesses and pay more taxes, alleviating budget crunches for state and local governments and allowing much-needed investment in transportation and education improvements.

A lengthy “Jobs and Opportunity Agenda” unveiled by McDonnell this week contains much for Western Tidewater to like:

* A change in the eligibility for enterprise zone job grants in areas with unemployment rates one-and-a-half times or more than the state average to positions paying at least 150 percent of the federal minimum wage, including health benefits. Currently, the threshold is 175 percent. This will enhance the effectiveness of recently designated enterprise zones in Franklin and Southampton County.

* A new “HUB Zone” program that would require at least 15 percent of state procurement contracts to go to qualified small businesses in rural and economically distressed urban areas.

* Lowering the threshold for the $1,000-per-job Major Business Facility Job Tax Credit from 50 new jobs to 25 jobs in enterprise zones.

* A new $500 income tax credit for businesses that create up to 350 “green” jobs. This could have particular relevance for reuse of the International Paper Co. Franklin mill site after IP pulls out this spring. Many of the proposed uses of the mill site involve renewable resources.

Buried deep in McDonnell’s plan is a line item that Western Tidewater will want to keep an eye on: a proposed $5 million appropriation in fiscal 2011 to a state industrial “mega-site” fund to attract large employers.

Conventional wisdom is that an automobile manufacturing plant, steel plant or other huge manufacturer would locate in Northern Virginia. However, a site on Route 460 in Windsor long has been on the radar of state economic developers.

The 1,700-acre site, owned by Norfolk Southern Corp., could get even more attention in the McDonnell administration.

Though he was raised in Northern Virginia, McDonnell has spent his adult life and political career in Virginia Beach and has a soft spot for Hampton Roads. He talked frequently during last year’s gubernatorial campaign and in the months since about the need for a new Route 460.

If Virginia is fortunate enough to land an automobile plant, McDonnell might just steer it to Windsor.