The jobs scorecard

Published 10:05 am Saturday, July 17, 2010

Notes, quotes and an opinion or two …

When Gov. Bob McDonnell announced the creation of his economic development task force a few months ago, the roster had a decidedly metropolitan makeup, reading like a “Who’s Who” of business leaders in Northern Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads.

Rural Virginia was largely unrepresented, raising eyebrows in Western Tidewater, which needs jobs as badly as area crops need rain.

Are rural areas of the state being neglected by the “Jobs Governor”? Early results suggest not.

On Thursday, McDonnell and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling held a press conference to tout the 71,500 jobs created in Virginia since February. That’s the third best total in the nation during that period, for those keeping score.

McDonnell listed 18 “major jobs announcements” during his first six months in office, and at least half of the projects are in rural areas of the state. Southwest Virginia, which has been hit hard over the years by the decline of the domestic textile and furniture-making sectors, has done especially well under McDonnell’s watch.

Insiders say that Western Tidewater continues to get unprecedented support and attention from state and regional economic developers. Here’s hoping it pays off in the form of an announcement or two in the months ahead.

And if McDonnell has an opening on his jobs task force, he should give rural Virginia a seat at the table.

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For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Virginia’s political leadership isn’t working diligently to find a new location within its boundaries for the Navy’s East Coast master jet base.

Any objective observer can see that Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach is obsolete. But for the political clout of retired U.S. Sen. John Warner, R-Va., Oceana never would have survived previous rounds of closure recommendations by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

Virginia’s political influence in Washington has taken a big hit in recent years and will be overwhelmed should Florida or North Carolina make a major play for the master jet base.

McDonnell and the commonwealth’s congressional delegation would be wise to redirect the energy being expended on a proposed Outlying Landing Field, whose purpose would be to prop up Oceana for a few more years, into a search for a new master jet base site.

Communities don’t want the noise and limited economic impact of an OLF, but they’d be lining up for the opportunity to host the MJB. Virginia would keep those thousands of jobs from going out of state and head off a devastating blow that no statewide politician wants under his watch.

What’s not to like about that scenario? Why isn’t anyone talking about it?

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