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What will it take to make Virginia number one for business again?

Stephen Moret, of the Virginia Economic Partnership [Photo: Prince William Chamber of Commerce]

Virginia’s rural counties are dying as the population continues to flee the southwest portion of the state.

Along the state’s “urban crescent” on Interstate 95 in Northern Virginia to I-64 to Hampton Roads, things are booming. In fact, they’re the two only growth regions in the state.

Stephen Moret at Virginia’s Economic Partnership hopes to change all that while working to restore the state to its “lofty” perch to the top of the best states in the nation to business, where it sat in 2008.

“We see Northern Virginia continuing to be a growth leader, but we want to continue to push for growth in all regions of the state,” said Moret.

As residents leave to find new jobs in other states, companies have been reluctant to invest in Virginia for reasons like higher taxes, federal sequestration, and what Moret called negative perceptions about the state. Washington, D.C., and its Virginia suburbs consistently rank 2nd on national lists of worst traffic congestion.

“Virginia remains a well-viewed state, but it is not as well viewed as it was several years ago,” added Moret in a later email to Potomac Local.

He said the state also needs to spend more on marketing to attract new companies to the commonwealth.

“Virginia doesn’t tell its story. We’re’ proud of it, but we literally spend zero dollars on marketing when compared to Michigan or other locations,” he said.

It also needs to grow business at its airports, seaports, its spaceport Wallops Flight center on the Eastern Shore, and grow opprotunities in higher education, 

Part of telling that story was polling Prince William County business owners on Thursday when Morett was joined by Virginia Chamber of Commerce CEO Barry DuVal at the Northern Virginia Community College Woodbridge Campus. Duval is working on the next iteration of “Blueprint Virginia,” an outline and guide to be presented to the incoming governor on December 1, to showcase the business investment wants and needs across the state.

During luncheon sponsored by the Prince William Chamber of Commerce and Flory Small Business Center, business owners took an electronic poll and were asked for their opinions on taxes, frivolous lawsuits hindering business growth, as well as investments in education and infrastructure.

When it comes to having some of the nation’s worst traffic, the majority in the room said having more roads and bridges would be a better alternative to more transit services like buses and rail.

“You all have an interesting story to tell here in this part of the commonwealth,” said Duval.

Prince William County is expected to lead Northern Virginia’s Economic Growth over the next five years with nearly 17 percent of the entire growth in the region. The luncheon in Woodbridge was one of 20 similar events where the state chamber polled business owners.

Survey results from events across the state will be compiled and featured in the new report. The first Blueprint Virginia was drafted for Gov. Terry McAuliffe and was presented to him two weeks after his Nov. 5, 2013, election. Since that time, the blueprint had led to $10 billion in business investment across the state, added Duval.

The new Blueprint Virginia plan will be a form for growth over the next eight years. More than 1 million new people are expected to move into Virginia between now and 2025, creating 800,000 new jobs.

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