Business leaders present ways to improve Virginia economy at Economic Summit

Increasing the number of project-ready building sites and allocating funding for blue-collar job training were just a few of the ideas presented to state business leaders Friday.

Those business leaders gathered at the Williamsburg Lodge for the 8th annual Virginia Economic Summit. This year’s theme was Strengthening Virginia’s Future.

The summit featured two panel discussions: why businesses choose to stay in Virginia and ways the state can continue to grow.

Todd Haymore, state secretary of commerce and trade, said developing the current crop of labor force members is paramount.

Virginia ranked seventh in the nation for job training programs, but lower than southern peers such as Georgia and Louisiana, which have the best in-class, business-focused job training programs, according to the Virginia chamber of commerce.

Sticking with the theme of workforce development, the chamber released its Blueprint Virginia 2025, which will serve as a guide over the next eight years as it tries to shape the economic landscape.

One of the recommendations from the Blueprint is to improve workforce development.

“Workforce development is going to be the key to economic development in the future. The comeback is on. If we’re going to continue rising as a state we need to focus on workforce development,” Haymore said.

Kevin Murphy, CEO of Ferguson, a plumbing, lighting and facilities supply company based in Newport News, said his company faces challenges.

“The largest challenge our customers face is finding and retaining skilled workers,” Murphy said.

Murphy said he would like to see more resources allocated to educational programs for manual labor jobs such as electricians and plumbers.

“College education isn’t the be all end all,” Murphy said.

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Jefferson can be reached by phone at 757-790-9313.

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