Founded as a business venture in 1607, Virginia represented the first English settlement in North America and a gateway for enterprise. More than 400 years later, the Commonwealth has upheld its global reputation and emerged as a hub for entrepreneurship and innovation. Today, Virginia is CNBC’s Top State for Business, thanks to its pro-business environment, top-tier education system, and strategic investments in 21st century workforce solutions.
The Commonwealth is home to the corporate headquarters of 34 Fortune 1000 firms, and continued investments from industry leaders like Amazon, Micron, Nestlé USA, and Volvo Trucks reinforce Virginia’s longstanding position as a premier business destination. The Commonwealth has meticulously crafted a supportive ecosystem for businesses to thrive, while adapting modern solutions and enhancing its centuries-old legacy as an economic powerhouse.
Stability and Strategic Access to Markets
Virginia’s pro-business environment is critical to its value proposition. The Commonwealth boasts the second-lowest average commercial electric rate in the United States and building costs that are seven to 19 percent below the national average, depending on the region. Virginia also maintains a six percent corporate income tax – one of the lowest in the nation – that hasn’t increased since 1972.
Virginia offers unparalleled access to national and international markets from its midpoint location on the East Coast. This prime position within a one-day drive of 47 percent of the U.S. population is complemented by the Commonwealth’s extensive transportation infrastructure, which includes the third-largest state-maintained transportation network in the country and six major interstate routes covering over 70,000 miles. Ten railroads, including CSX Corporation and Norfolk Southern Corporation, operate on the state’s network of more than 3,500 miles of railway. Virginia also has 16 commercial airports with flights to over 100 domestic and 50 international destinations, including Washington Dulles International Airport, a global gateway that provides non-stop flights to every continent in the world except Antarctica and Australia.
Virginia companies can easily navigate the international marketplace through the Port of Virginia, the third-largest port on the East Coast by total TEUs and served by every major shipping line. As the only East Coast port with authorization for 55-foot channels, the Port boasts deep shipping channels, no height restrictions, and double-stack rail service with two Class 1 railroads – enabling it to regularly service 13,000+ TEU (twenty-foot equivalent units) vessels. The Port provides vital access for global businesses, and will only increase its benefit to the Virginia economy as it undergoes a massive expansion that began in 2017. This $700-million project will expand overall container capacity at the Port of Virginia by 40 percent.
The Commonwealth remains the destination of choice for international businesses, with more than 780 firms from over 40 countries calling Virginia home. These companies represent more than $6.93 billion in foreign direct investment in the Commonwealth over the past 10 years, and demonstrate the wealth of opportunity available to global companies seeking growth in North American markets from a location in Virginia.
Workforce Solutions for a 21st-Century Economy
CNBC ranked Virginia as the best state for business in large part due to its highly skilled workforce and innovative higher education system. The Commonwealth’s workforce of nearly 4.4 million successfully supports the state’s substantial industrial base, and represents one of the most productive and educated demographics in the U.S. Thirty-eight percent of Virginia’s population has a bachelor’s degree or higher, and 60 percent stays in the state after graduation, compared to the national average of 53 percent.
Among the 10 categories factored into the CNBC ranking, Virginia came in at number one for both workforce and education. The state’s higher education system is the tenth largest in the nation and includes 23 community colleges with 40 campuses around the Commonwealth. There is a community college within 30 miles of every Virginian, providing businesses direct and sustained access to highly-trained talent.
Ensuring that Virginia can offer the labor pool to meet companies’ needs in every region of the Commonwealth is a top priority. Virginia maintains a robust workforce development system, and is poised to push new boundaries in the development of 21st century talent through its innovative workforce solutions. In 2019, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) launched a turnkey, custom workforce recruitment and training incentive program. Executed in collaboration with the Virginia Community College System, the program will provide highly customized employee recruitment and training solutions for competitive business expansion and recruitment projects at no cost to qualifying companies. By connecting businesses with talent possessing both sub-baccalaureate credentials and baccalaureate degrees, the custom workforce development program will help Virginia’s communities secure more competitive expansion and recruitment projects that result in the creation of high-wage jobs.
Qualifying companies will have access to a dedicated team of highly-experienced professionals with the singular aim of delivering world-class and customized recruitment and training solutions. The addition of this unique program to the Commonwealth’s workforce development capabilities will further enhance Virginia’s value proposition, while continued collaboration among state, regional and local partners around both industry-wide and company-specific workforce needs will ensure a talent pipeline that is prepared for the technologies and industries of the future.
Targeting Tech Talent in Virginia
The Commonwealth’s assets and infrastructure for high-performing enterprises have resulted in a diverse set of key focus industries, which include Advanced Manufacturing, Corporate Services, Food and Beverage Processing, Information/Communication Technologies, Life Sciences, Supply Chain Management, and Unmanned Systems. In particular, Virginia has emerged as a leader in the IT sector, with the state’s largest employment growth opportunity projected to be in tech. Virginia is the leading data center market in the U.S., and boasts the second-highest concentration of technology workers in the nation (Cyberstates 2019). The Commonwealth is preparing for IT companies’ future growth by building a pipeline of technology talent through its top-ranked higher education system.
As an increasing number of major tech companies choose to locate and expand in the Commonwealth, unprecedented collaboration and partnerships with Virginia’s university leaders will result in a groundbreaking, statewide investment in tech education. In fact, Virginia’s commitment to developing tech talent was a key factor in Amazon’s decision to locate its second major headquarters in the Commonwealth.
Virginia’s Tech Talent Investment Program (TTIP) includes a $1.1-billion commitment to more than double the annual number of graduates in computer science with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science and related fields. The initiative will ultimately result in 25,000 to 35,000 additional graduates over the next two decades in excess of current levels. TTIP will help create a talent pipeline that benefits not only Amazon, but also represents a critical source of tech talent for hundreds of existing Virginia employers across the Commonwealth.
Virginia’s massive investments in tech education are complemented by its ongoing IT sector business recruitment efforts in targeted rural and small metro areas throughout the Commonwealth. VEDP is working to strategically connect leading tech companies that aim to locate a portion of domestic software development activities outside higher-cost hubs with low-cost small metros and rural regions across the Commonwealth. Cultivating tech-sector opportunities in many regions of Virginia will provide critical job growth and position communities for healthier, more diversified growth.
These critical investments and partnerships in higher education will train the next generation of tech talent as Virginia leads a new model of economic development.
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