Friday, August 1, 2008


Top Business Bird
According to Forbes, Virginia ranks 1st as the "Best State for Business," a spot it has held for three years. Virginia's lead over Utah, Washington, North Carolina, and Georgia (which jumped from 15th) is razor thin. Virginia was lauded for a good regulatory environment, lower energy costs, and and educated labor force. Areas where Virginia "declined" are in prospects for future growth and in business costs.
When a politician tells you that Virginia has burdensome regulations on small business, it isn't necessarily so. Could it be that the lack of regulations is why many of the state's rivers and the Chesapeake Bay are under stress?
Forbes noted that Virginia business costs (highly weighted by the magazine) increased mostly because of a rise in labor costs, which are "now approaching the national average." In other words, in spite of being an educated labor force, Virginian's are paid less. Perhaps this is related to the weak union environment? Good for business, not so good for families. Guess your take on this ranking depends on whose chicken is getting plucked.
If you are familiar with Virginia's demographics and disparity of wealth, you have figured out that Virginia's economic engine is driven, to a large extent, by Northern Virginia. If you took NOVA out of the equation (Forbes noted the proximity to D.C. as important in the educated labor force stat), the commonwealth would probably fall to the mid point of the 50 states. Salaries for chickens in NOVA far outpace those in the Southside, the Valley, and Southwest. Ditto the commitment to K-12 education.
So, what is good for business isn't always good for the environment, or workers, or people in all parts of this diverse state. So, it is true - there really are lies, damned lies, and statistics!
In a Related Story?
Lobbyists in Virginia reached a new #1 record for spending to influence members of the General Assembly - over $20 million. Much of this was spent by business lobbyists to reduce regulations and create a favorable environment for their interests. Does all this grist influence delegates and senators to support business interests? Does Forbes like it? Apparently so.
Case in point - Virginian's overwhelmingly supported strong regulations on the predatory payday lending industry. Many local governments, led by Bruce Elder's efforts in Staunton, urged the General Assembly to take strong action. Payday lenders responded by spending $3.8 million (almost 20% of total spending by lobbyists) to defeat the most significant regulations. Payday lenders are still clucking along in their butt-ugly coops and the little birds are getting plucked.
Want to learn more about the grist your legislators are getting and who they are getting it from - Check out the Virginia Public Access Project. Find out who lobbies in Virginia at the Secretary of the Commonwealth.
On the Road Again
A study's says Virginia's 57,867 miles of roads and highways rank 16th in the nation in performance and costs. The conservative Reason Foundation. noted that "Virginia is the only state that spent more money on maintenance than it did on capital and bridge work . . . it really shows up in overall performance of the system."
The study noted that rural and western states tend to do better in this survey because of lower traffic volumes and many of their roads are newer. Eastern states and urban areas have older infrastructure. Virginia, which is a mixture of both illustrates the issue. The push to fix roads and to build new ones was driven by NOVA and Hampton Roads - regions with older infrastructure and rapidly increasing traffic counts. While there are issues in rural areas, I-81 for example, this issue is most keenly felt in those two areas.
The General Assembly, which failed to act during a special session on transportation, probably assured that the state will slip a few points in next year's survey. This was one area where business lobbyists (many of whom favored a long-term transportation commitment) clout couldn't overcome the short-sighted, no-tax, something-for-nothing legislators in the House of Delegates.

No comments: