McAuliffe: Counties need to get aggressive

WINCHESTER – Shenandoah County, like many localities, needs to take an aggressive approach to economic development, Virginia’s governor said Friday.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s office has made more than 900 economic development announcements during his term, many of which affect Frederick County and Winchester but only a few for Shenandoah County. McAuliffe helped break ground on another development project in Frederick County on Friday. His office recently announced major developments in the county by Amazon, 84 Lumber and Navy Federal Credit Union that are expected to create thousands of jobs for the area.

Asked what keeps Shenandoah County from attracting economic development, McAuliffe said he tries to bring projects to every part of the state.

“The counties have to be aggressive to go after the business,” McAuliffe said. “We will help them close that. But counties gotta get out front. You gotta make sure you have a great education system and access, major transportation opportunities to access our port and our airport I think are important.

“But cities and counties here, we all gotta be in this game,” the governor added. “We don’t do it alone. It is a partnership and I tell you Frederick County is very aggressive. We have a great partnership with them and they work to find a lot of leads and we help them close the deals.”

The already existing warehouse facility helped lay the groundwork for Amazon’s plans to set up an operation and create 1,000 jobs, McAuliffe acknowledged.

“The more you can lay a foundation down, the more it will give you the opportunity to bring new businesses around that because I always say success begets success so start small, bring a business in and begin that ecosystem of bringing businesses in around it,” McAuliffe said.

The governor outlined some basic needs to attract economic development.

“One, you’ve got to have a great education system, which we do here in Virginia,” McAuliffe said after the groundbreaking for American Woodmark. “We gotta be low-tax, business friendly, which we are. Very important: good infrastructure.”

The state also needs to remain open and welcoming, McAuliffe added, noting that this prompted him to veto many bills he said would discriminate.

“I know the leadership of Amazon and Apple and all these big companies,” McAuliffe said. “We cannot have discriminatory laws here in Virginia. Open and welcome to everybody.”

Virginia boasts the deepest port on the East Coast, McAuliffe said. The state also has Dulles International Airport, among other assets for attracting economic growth, he added.

Virginia beat West Virginia for American Woodmark’s $30 million consolidation project, McAuliffe said.

“This is my third economic development announcement today,” McAuliffe said. “We’re beating everybody. It’s just a great culture here in Virginia.”

The governor cited the recent North Carolina legislation pertaining to bathrooms and gender that ultimately hurt the state economically.

“Stay away from that issue,” McAuliffe said. “What the voters elected us to do, and voters don’t want much from their government, but they do want jobs, they want a great education system, a transportation system that works and good health care – that’s it and that’s what we should be focusing on and stop sending me bills that discriminate against people, that would hurt our environment, that needlessly are putting more guns on the street.”

Amazon would not have decided to set up a warehouse operation in Frederick County had he signed any of the bills he considered discriminatory into law, McAuliffe said.

“They made it clear to me personally,” the governor said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com