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Chopra: Future in Southside is bright
Lt. Governor candidate visits Martinsville
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Lieutenant Gov. candidate Aneesh Chopra (right), talks with Martinsville Mayor Kim Adkins on Monday at Binding Time Cafe in Martinsville. Chopra was appointed Virginia’s Secretary of Technology by Gov. Tim Kaine in 2005. (Bulletin photo by Ben R. Williams)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

An emphasis on education, a diversified economy and a celebration of cultural diversity are the keys to a bright future for our area, according to Aneesh Chopra, who is running for the office of Lieutenant Governor in Virginia as a Democrat.

Chopra stopped by Binding Time Cafe Monday evening for a meet-and-greet.

Chopra was appointed Virginia’s Secretary of Technology by Gov. Tim Kaine in 2005. In 2009, he was chosen by President Barack Obama to be the first Chief Technology Officer for the White House.

He resigned from the position in 2012 and announced his candidacy for Virginia Lieutenant Governor in July.

According to Chopra, expanding access to education is crucially important.

“We need ... more graduates, more industry certificates, more focus on early childhood learning,” he said. “The people who come out of our educational system should be ready to get the jobs of the future on day one.”

Regarding the recently-passed bill to grade Virginia schools on an A-F scale, Chopra said, “My general view is, it won’t solve the problem of closing our educational achievement gap ... I like to solve problems by identifying the root cause problems and going after them. I think some of this other stuff is interesting, but it’s not engineered to solve the problem.”

Chopra believes that new, technology-savvy businesses would help to diversify our economy, and that there’s no shortage of potential entrepreneurs.

“This community in particular obviously has understood the difficulties of the up and down of the market,” he said. “But there’s so much talent in the community. I have visited Patrick Henry Community College and they had a course on entrepreneurship, and I could see there is still a fire in the belly of entrepreneurs who are ready to make it happen here.”

Chopra also said that the diversity of the region is an asset to be celebrated.

“Forbes estimates that more than half of the CEOs of the new businesses that will be born in America will be women and minorities,” he said. “Folks might want to be an entrepreneur, but may not feel like they’ve got the right support systems to bring it out and give them the courage to try. I think the Commonwealth that will succeed is one that will celebrate and encourage folks to try and to help them make it through.”

Chopra believes that his experience as secretary of technology and chief technology officer would be a boon if elected as Lieutenant Governor.

“I have the experience to bring a lot of these ideas to communities,” he said. “We redesigned the GED program in Southwest Virginia, for example ... so that in six months, adult workers could connect to technology jobs even though they lacked the high school diploma at the start. Modernizing our veterans system at the White House so that veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan could connect to job opportunities from employers who wanted to hire them.”

Additionally, Chopra has worked on expanding access to broadband internet for both communities and school systems.

Ultimately, Chopra believes that there is no shortage of innovative ideas in our area that could help stimulate the local economy.

“If you’ve got an idea that can make a difference in people’s lives ... then you can do it.”


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