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McDonnell Asks Jobs Panel to "Think Big"

July 27, 2010

Gov. Bob McDonnell told his job creation panel Monday to think big when it comes to recommending ways to create jobs in Virginia.

Fresh off his first foreign trade mission, McDonnell said that the state consistently rated among the nation's two most business-friendly has lost ground in luring its share of new jobs.

"As long as we have this number of people unemployed, it's unacceptable," McDonnell said, citing a statewide unemployment rate of 7 percent, where it has sat since February.

The last time the seasonally adjusted jobless rate topped 7 percent was in 1982-83, according to Virginia Employment Commission records.

In addressing the second meeting of the full Commission on Economic Development and Job Creation, McDonnell said Virginia has fallen behind Florida, Georgia and other Southern states in aggressive recruitment of new business.

He also said the competitive challenges are only getting tougher.

"Foreign currencies are getting stronger and the training and education of people in the Pacific Rim countries is getting better," he said. "We are falling behind in the number of scientists and engineers we graduate."

The panel is responsible for recommendations McDonnell can consider as he tries to carry out his central campaign promise from 2009 - creating new jobs and expanding business, and reversing a stagnant Virginia economy.

McDonnell said he wanted panelists to be bold and imaginative in
recommendations, and not "get hung up on political or fiscal considerations."

"I will take all of their ideas. All of them might not be workable or all might not be affordable," he said.

The commission, headed by Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, includes legislators, corporate and business leaders and lobbyists for business and industry groups. McDonnell created a cabinet-level post of chief job creation officer and designated Bolling to fill it.

Like McDonnell, who appointed them, panelists offered ideas focusing heavily on cutting taxes on business and easing or expediting the commercial regulatory process in the state.

Panelists discussed curtailing the corporate income tax, which accounts for about $700 million a year, or about 5 percent of the state's general operating budget. Another potential target is the Business Professional and Occupational License tax, a local levy on gross receipts.

McDonnell, speaking with reporters after his speech, warmed to the possibility of some tax cuts despite a tight fiscal picture for the 2011 budget, but did not endorse any of them.

"I am not looking for more taxing authority or tax increases for anyone. I am looking for more economic growth and economic development," he said.

Another idea subgroups within the commission are exploring include development of a "regulatory rocket docket" to make Virginia more attractive for corporate expansions and startup ventures by speeding along the process of issuing necessary permits and licenses.

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