County gives input on VA Chamber Blueprint

Business leaders from across Mecklenburg County came together to listen and give input on the longterm statewide economic development plan, Virginia Blueprint 2025, at Brian’s Steak House last Tuesday.

The event was hosted by Mecklenburg County Public Schools, and the President and CEO of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Barry DuVal, addressed those in attendance on the issues Blueprint 2025 will focus on.

Mecklenburg County Public Schools Superintendent Paul Nichols organized the event and invited all of Mecklenburg County’s business owners, managers, directors, human resource officers, etc., to come out and listen as well as share their thoughts with DuVal.

Nichols said the state chamber was the first to realize the need to go beyond testing in schools and focus on preparing students for careers. The main topic discussed was the need to increase skills for careers to in turn increase the number employed in the state of Virginia.

DuVal highlighted the fact that Mecklenburg County’s unemployment rate is lowering faster than the unemployment rate in Virginia and United States.

He also showed statistics that suggested there are enough low-wage workers for low-skill jobs, there are enough high-wage workers for high-skill jobs, but there is a lack of middle-wage workers for the middle-skill jobs. He described middle-skill jobs as jobs that need more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree.

“We need to train our workers,” DuVal said.

DuVal shared a story from his first year as mayor of Newport News when the shipyard notified him that it would be laying off 10,000 workers. He said within the next few years the shipyard laid off 10,000 workers, and that is when he realized it was going to take more than just Newport News to bounce back from that loss.

He said he went to the officials in the surrounding areas, and together they were able to bring in businesses from outside the country to the area. Training was offered at the local community college for the businesses coming in.

DuVal said when he had 10,000 workers laid off in his community he saw it as 10,000 people who could be trained to work in the new industries being brought in.

It was the experience gained from that employment drop that helped DuVal realize the Virginia Chamber of Commerce cannot do it alone. He said it is going to take the thoughts and ideas of every region in Virginia to create a plan to improve the future of Virginia.

“We believe ideas make a difference, and we are only as strong as our local members,” he said.

DuVal said he wanted the meeting to be as interactive as possible, so not only did he present his ideas to the room but he also conducted an electronic poll.

“Unlike most speakers I want everyone on their phone,” he said.

The poll was conducted either by text or through a polling application that collected the answers given and projected the results onto the screen in a chart format. The questions asked were to determine what the local area thinks needs to be done to increase career opportunities and economic development.

He wants to get as much input from every region across the state as possible so the blueprint incorporates the majority of the needs seen in the localities.

The Virginia Chamber of Commerce through Blueprint 2025 is working to strengthen businesses, the community and the future and to make Virginia the best state in which to do business. DuVal and his team are working their way through each region in Virginia to ensure Blueprint 2025 is as inclusive of all the state’s needs as possible.

Once all input is given and the Blueprint is adjusted, DuVal said “mark your calendars” for Dec. 1, when the Virginia Chamber will be presenting Blueprint 2025 to the newly elected governor.

To find out more about the Blueprint Virginia or to give feedback on what you feel is important for the blueprint to incorporate you can participate in the Blueprint Virginia 2025 Survey at www.vachamber.com/blueprint-virginia/.