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Virginia Politics and Business Should be More than Roads & Bridges

Over at the Bacon’s Rebellion blog yesterday, I read an interesting post by James Bacon on economic development in Virginia. It is well worth a read. Then come back here. It reminded me of a subject I’ve been studying for several years now, the North/South divide in Virginia politics.

If you spend any appreciable amount of time in Northern Virginia (about two days) you’d think folks around here believe there is nothing beyond the confines of 495. Or that those areas outside the beltway are foreign lands. Why is that? There are many reasons but one big one, a hyper dependence Uncle Sam and his pocket book. I think that is the point of Bacon’s post and others like it.

A few weeks ago I visited a rural Virginia county west of 81. I enjoy visiting remote parts of the state, especially outside the metropolitan area of Northern Virginia. Yleem and I have visited just about every region and a majority of counties throughout the Commonwealth. It gives you a lot of perspective. There is a lot of economic opportunity in Virginia, most of it barely tapped or even studied. Sometimes I wonder if the politicians and business leaders see it?

When I first moved here in the early 1990s, I was fascinated by the North/South political divide or Northern Virginia versus the rest of the state. Every state has unique political dynamics, but they should never allow these issues to cloud common sense. I’m not saying we should duplicate the Northern Virginia model in other parts of the state, but we sure need to redouble our efforts to develop other regions, technologies, resources, and markets.

The biggest weakness in our neck of the woods is an over-dependence on Uncle Sam for business. It is not sustainable. Never quite understood the near obsession with that easy money. That gushing spigot is going to slow down some day. Our national debt is unsustainable at current levels and the President and our Congress do not have any creative solutions.

Virginia business and political leaders need to diversify, create 21st century markets. How many of you know that we have a spaceport in Virginia? Look upward and outward. With the brain trust we have in this state we could have a premier export services economy, among others. And this would not need to be limited to the Northern Virginia area.

A big psychological barrier that needs breaking is this out-dated North-South Virginia political divide. While traffic and roads, no doubt, are  important issues that needs addressing, our political and business leaders need to start looking beyond these 20th century political mindsets.


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