Former delegate accepts position with state chamber

JAMES CITY — Former Del. Mike Watson has accepted a position with the Virginia Chamber of Commerce as coordinator of its Small Business Subcommittee.

According to a press release issued late Monday, Watson's role with the chamber's Industry Council focuses on implementing goals outlined in Blueprint Virginia, a statewide economic development strategy the chamber said "provides business leadership and long-range planning on key priorities such as increasing educational achievement and developing the infrastructure for a competitive economy."

Watson said in an e-mail Tuesday that the volunteer position will mean less time for his business.

"It does require a modest amount of time away from my business, but is considerably less demanding than my time as delegate," Watson wrote. "Fortunately, we have a great team with experienced managers in both laboratories. Obviously any time away from my own business has an impact, but this is important to me so I have to find a balance.

"One of the appealing factors of the chamber role is that it complements the work I do with the Business Development Caucus. Essentially, I'll be working with chamber team to develop its legislative agenda, relative to small business issues, with the ultimate goal of facilitating Blueprint Virginia," Watson said.

The bipartisan Business Development Caucus was Watson's proudest achievement in his single term in the House of Delegates. He lost the 96th District seat, which covers Williamsburg and portions of James City and York counties and the city of Newport News, to Democrat Monty Mason in 2013. The 96th District has changed hands between the parties in three straight elections. Watson has been thought to be eyeing another run in 2015 to try to make it four in a row.

The chamber position won't prevent that.

"It does give me an opportunity to impact a key area that I focused on as delegate," Watson said. "In planning with (former Lt. Gov.) Bill Bolling, we have a very good mission and if we make significant progress, it may be a good place to spend some time while gaining exposure to other challenges and people."

"The downside," he continued, "is we've got a number of issues where I have ideas and would like to contribute to the solution." Watson listed health care, transportation and workforce development as some of those areas. "I'll continue to be engaged in the community and will likely make a decision on the delegate seat late this year. To be as forthright as I can, I found my role in the General Assembly to be a very effective means of getting things done; it is likely I will seek public office again, if not immediately, in the near future."

Watson will be meeting with business owners, representatives and organizations to identify specific areas where improvement can help entrepreneurs and existing small businesses succeed.

"This is consistent with our BDC Town Hall agenda, meetings that we had already planned over the next 10 weeks (Virginia Beach, Northern Virginia, Martinsville, Yorktown, Abington). In addition, I'll meet individually with business leaders and groups (i.e., I'm speaking with the Virginia Inventors Forum Wednesday night) to share ideas," Watson said. "It's really a great opportunity to learn more about issues and businesses across the state and to take the good work of the Business Development Caucus to the next level."

Barry DuVal, president and CEO of the Virginia Chamber, said, "Mike has a proven record for supporting and improving job growth in Virginia, and we are grateful for his willingness to serve the business community in this new capacity."

Rusty Carter contributed.

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