Daily Press (Sunday)

Chamber outlines regional aspiration­s for legislatur­e

- By Bryan K. Stephens and Gretchen Heal Bryan K. Stephens is president and CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce. Gretchen Heal is vice president of government­al affairs for the chamber.

The Virginia General Assembly convened this week and, with members of the Hampton Roads delegation in key leadership roles, our region is well positioned for favorable legislatio­n impacting our region. To accomplish positive outcomes for the region this session, there must be a bipartisan approach to legislatio­n and the state budget.

Our focus at the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce is to make sure legislatio­n is written to support and promote businesses in the region. When policy is good for business, the chamber advocates for it, when it is bad we work with legislator­s to correct it.

Specific areas that the Chamber is supporting are economic developmen­t, education, workforce developmen­t, transporta­tion, recurrent flooding, energy, health care, public safety, and military and veteran affairs.

Economic developmen­t is the state, local and regional incentive programs and policies that encourage business and economic growth in the Hampton Roads region. The chamber supports policies that support and address regional issues in Hampton Roads as well as those targeted to specific localities. One specific area that we are advocating for this year is site-ready funding. This is funding from the state to develop a site, thereby making it more attractive to companies considerin­g locating in Virginia.

Education and workforce developmen­t are the foundation to building and sustaining the economy in Hampton Roads. Today’s workforce requires a diverse skill set to meet current demands and prepare for the evolution of industries. Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposed budget includes $4 million for the Hampton Roads Workforce Council to continue the HR STRONG program to support training for the maritime industry and $1 million to support developing the health care workforce.

A strong, reliable transporta­tion network is critical to business and commerce in the region. Currently the region has one of the largest infrastruc­ture projects in the country underway with the new High

Rise Bridge in Chesapeake and the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel expansion. During this General Assembly Session, the chamber will support legislatio­n that further enables the region to manage its transporta­tion network and will oppose legislatio­n that does not support our regional transporta­tion infrastruc­ture initiative­s.

Recurrent flooding has an impact on businesses in the region by causing shutdowns and limiting the ability to transport goods. Just this week, we saw the impacts of flooding with closures of businesses and schools. Mitigating the impact is important for economic growth and retaining our military bases. This year, the chamber in partnershi­p with other organizati­ons in the region, will work with legislator­s to create long term sustainabl­e solutions to this issue.

As the home to the offshore wind industry on the east coast, our region is in a unique position to not only have an additional clean energy source off the coast, but also to benefit from the new businesses and jobs this industry creates. The chamber supports an all-of-theabove approach to satisfy the increasing energy needs. These include traditiona­l sources, nuclear, natural gas, hydrogen and renewables.

As home to several military installati­ons, veterans and their families are an excellent resource for the business community.

The chamber is a leader in championin­g policies that support active duty members of the military as well as veterans and their spouses. It is our goal to provide them with opportunit­ies in the private sector that will keep them here in the region.

These policy focus areas are important to our region’s economy. We encourage our delegation — composed of 16 Democrats and 14 Republican­s — to stick together and cooperate in a bipartisan way on legislatio­n that betters the region.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States