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Before I took office last year, I met with business leaders and economic developers in all 22 localities in the Fifth District. I knew that job creation and economic relief were the top priorities and wanted gather the best ideas from the community. In Central and Southern Virginia we know that our economic troubles predate the current down turn and can only be solved by rebuilding America’s competitive advantage in the world. For too long our nation turned away from manufacturing, construction, and agriculture in favor of speculation and outsourcing, but Americans are finally demanding that Washington and Wall Street recommit building, making and growing things in America again. There is simply no short cut to economic recovery. We must outcompete the world.
Smart public investments can quickly yield results that make our communities competitive for the jobs of tomorrow. We recently celebrated the announcement that Microsoft will locate a $500 million facility in Mecklenburg County. One of the reasons they chose to locate in our area was because of high-capacity broadband infrastructure that was laid there a decade ago based on the vision of then Gov. Mark Warner. When that broadband line was installed, no one could know that it would one day serve a Microsoft facility, but the community knew that if they ever hoped to compete for 21st century jobs they would need a 21st century infrastructure.
We have continued to turn this vision into reality through projects that will bring high-speed internet access to over 58,000 additional homes, schools and businesses through over $35 million in grants from the Recovery Act. These projects are going to increase property values, make our communities more attractive for employers, give students access to the libraries of the world and give entrepreneurs the chance to start a small business from home.
There is a direct connection between the quality of available infrastructure and the decision of a business to locate or expand in our area. Over the past 18 months, we have made an investment in our jobs future with major advances, such as the new Robertson Bridge in Danville; the runway extension and Route 29N improvements in Charlottesville; wastewater treatment facilities in Halifax and Buckingham; and broadband access in every single county.
Rebuilding America’s competitive advantage, and that of Central and Southside Virginia, also requires a 21st century workforce that is ready to go to work immediately in growth industries. We need to ensure that our children are getting a world class education that will prepare them to be globally competitive which is why investments in education made through the Recovery Act and subsequent legislation are so important.
Based on my efforts to fight for quality education, this week included an announcement of $23.8 million for local schools in Central and Southern Virginia, on top of $1.5 billion the Commonwealth of Virginia received through the Recovery Act. These investments are keeping Virginia as one of the best states in which to do business and raise a family and preventing states and localities from having to raise taxes during these tough economic times.
The United States can and will outcompete the world if we provide the best infrastructure and workforce, and reward innovation by small business instead of bailing out failure by the largest corporations.
Finally, this weekend I was honored to participate in a street cleanup in Danville as part of the 9/11 National Day of Service and to thank the North Halifax Volunteer Firefighters for their continuing service as first responders. As we reflect on those we lost nine years ago, we should also remember it as a day when our nation united under the banner of service to community and country, and commit ourselves to demonstrating that spirit by continuing to serve our neighbors near and far.
As always, you can also contact me directly to share your concerns and ideas. You may call 1-888-4-TOM4US (1-888-486-6487); write to 1520 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515; or visit www.perriello.house.gov to sign up for my weekly e-newsletter.