During my term as Lt. Governor, Virginia has been a national leader in employment and job creation. As of July 2019, Virginia’s unemployment rate stood at 2.9% — the lowest in the Southeast and nearly one percent below the national unemployment rate. Virginia’s labor force has expanded for 13 straight months. Virginia has also taken steps to diversify its economy and strengthen its public education, infrastructure, and workforce development systems, all designed to promote future job growth around the Commonwealth.
One of the biggest boosts for Virginia’s economy was Amazon’s announcement that it would locate its HQ2 in Arlington. I was pleased to attend the announcement of Amazon’s $2.5 billion investment the new headquarters that will create more than 25,000 high-paying jobs over 12 years. Virginia successfully secured the project after a competition that included proposals from 238 communities across North America. In addition to Amazon’s 25,000 direct jobs and its $2.5 billion in capital investment in Virginia, the Commonwealth estimates Amazon’s presence will lead to the creation of more than 22,000 related indirect jobs in Virginia. The new HQ2 also led to Virginia Tech announcing plans to build a new campus nearby that will lead to additional innovation and job growth.
By creating a welcoming environment, promoting innovation and small businesses, a strong educational system, building positive relationships with the U.S. military and veterans, investments in key infrastructure projects, and workforce development programs, Virginia has greatly improved the prospects for additional jobs and investments in the state.
Best State for Business
The Amazon announcement helped Virginia regain its position as the #1 state for doing business in the annual survey by CNBC. In naming Virginia #1, CNBC noted that “The state has the nation’s best workforce, including the fourth-highest concentration of science, technology, education and math (STEM) workers. Strong school test scores, small class sizes and a wealth of colleges and universities make Virginia’s education system the best in the nation.”
When I saw a report that 5 of the top 10 cities in America with the highest rates of eviction were in the Commonwealth of Virginia, I immediately called upon numerous state and local stakeholders involved in housing our residents to get together and work out a solution. I convened roundtables in Hampton Roads and Richmond — the two areas with cities on the Top 10 list — to spur action.
As a result of collaboration among stakeholders and with elected officials, an Executive Order and eight successful pieces of legislation were adopted with the goal of reducing the number of evictions in Virginia through such measures as an Eviction Diversion Pilot Program, giving more time to catch up on rent payments before eviction, reducing court cases and fees, requiring written lease agreements signed by both parties, and data collection to identify how best to reduce the problem of evictions even further.
With the support of Governor Northam, the Commonwealth added $4 million to the Housing Trust Fund allowing Virginia to help communities to better invest in affordable housing and improve its communities; and with an additional $1.5 million ordered by the General Assembly, the total trust fund budget increased to $9.5 million.
Governor Northam stated that “These measures establish important consumer protections, help to improve housing stability for vulnerable populations, and represent a fundamental step forward in addressing Virginia’s disproportionately high eviction rates.”