By Sally Voth -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Three of the Northern Shenandoah Valley's top industries are being promoted by Gov. Bob McDonnell on his trade mission to Europe.
McDonnell -- who earlier this week announced a $10.6 million expansion project at Berryville Graphics in Clarke County after a meeting with the book manufacturers' parent company in Germany -- spoke to reporters via teleconference from London Friday morning.
The governor, along with Secretary of Commerce and Trade Jim Cheng, Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore, and other state business, tourism and agriculture officials, is on a nine-day tour of England, Sweden, Switzerland and Germany in the hopes of spurring more international investment and job creation in the state.
Besides meeting with auto industry, pharmaceutical and firearms industry leaders, McDonnell said he's been touting the state's wine, agricultural and tourism industries.
"It plays a [large role in the promotion] because that's where so many of the great wineries are," McDonnnell said of the northern valley during a conference call from London. "We've had enormous success in promoting Virginia agriculture. It's already the largest industry in Virginia."
The governor referred to a deal announced Monday that expanded an agreement between Perdue Agribusiness and a Chinese company.
Dandong Port Group and Dandong Pasite Grain and Oilseed Co. will buy up to 10 shipments of soybeans - each shipment can hold about 2 million bushels - this year, according to a news release from McDonnell's office.
The release states soybeans were going for $14.86 a bushel as of Friday, according to the Chicago Board of Trade. At that price, 20 million bushels of soybeans would be worth nearly $300 million.
"We think it's a tremendous opportunity," McDonnell said from London.
He said he and other state officials are talking up Virginia's agriculture, livestock, forest products and other exports all over Europe.
"Technology businesses in the valley, we think are also important," he said. "We think that's a great place to locate industrial and light manufacturing because of the low tax rates and relatively inexpensive property values."
Virginia wineries saw more than 1.6 million visitors last year, Haymore said during the conference.
"A lot of those visitors came from Europe," he said. "Through the appropriations that the governor set in this year's General Assembly session, we will have funds to expand our agricultural international marketing efforts here in Europe."
Haymore said for every $1 in exports, the state gets $40 back.
McDonnell said the commonwealth has a "great business reputation." A low unemployment rate -- at 5.6 percent, the eighth-lowest in the U.S. -- a balanced budget, a state surplus and the quality of life in Virginia are among the factors fostering that reputation, he said.
"We're still optimistic that this fiscal year is going to close out positively for the people in Virginia," McDonnell said.
The governor blamed the President Obama administration's policies for hindering the nation's financial recovery and hurting its reputation among international businesses.
"Nationally and internationally, there's great concern about the policies of this administration," he said. "What I can do is what I can do, and that's to make Virginia as good and as competitive as it can be.
"I would say that we're going to continue to be as aggressive in telling the Virginia story nationally and internationally."