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Bolling: Southern Virginia on the way back from past tough times
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Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling speaks at a press conference Wednesday announcing the expansion of Eastman Chemical Co. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

By GINNY WRAY - Bulletin Staff Writer

When it comes to economic development, “nobody is doing this better than you’re doing it,” Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling said Wednesday.

“I know Southern Virginia has been through tough times ... a lot of the manufacturing base dried up” and moved elsewhere, he told more than 100 people at the announcement of Eastman Chemical Co.’s expansion in Henry County.

But, he added, “I am confident Southern Virginia is on the way back. ... I am confident Southern Virginia’s best days are yet to come.”

Bolling is in his second term as Virginia lieutenant governor. For the past four years, he had been the chief job creator — a cabinet-level position — for the administration of Gov. Bob McDonnell.

The administration has put a priority on creating jobs, especially in rural areas, Bolling said, pointing to McDonnell’s appointment of the first deputy secretary of commerce and trade for rural economic development, a post held by Mary Rae Carter, formerly of Henry County.

In the last four years, the state has experienced nearly 300 economic development deals, and 35 percent of them have been in rural areas of the state, Bolling said. There has been a 170,000 net increase in new jobs, he said, and a $130 million investment in job creation programs.

He added that there is work left to be done to reduce the area’s unemployment rate, but he is confident that Southern Virginia is poised for growth.

Bolling singled out Mark Heath and the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. as “one of the best economic development teams we work with in the state,” and he thanked area governments and other entities for supporting its efforts.

Bolling also praised the partnerships developed with the county, city, Patrick Henry Community College and the New College Institute.

“No part of the state has done it any better than here,” he said.

Bolling said he believes the McDonnell administration has kept its promise to have top economic development officials in this region once a month.

“I’m proud of our progress” and hopes the commonwealth’s next governor continues to promote the region, he said.

Bolling chose not to run for governor this year, and he would not say whether he would consider such a campaign in the future. Bolling, an insurance executive, said he plans to return to the private sector when his current term ends in January.

“There are a lot of ways to serve” Virginia without running for office, he said.

He said he has no regrets about not running. He added that he tries not to dwell on hindsight, which is always 20-20, but “I regret this campaign.”

The tone of the gubernatorial campaign between Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe is “too negative. A lot of voters are turned off,” Bolling said.

He hopes the candidates will begin running more positive campaigns focusing on their visions for the commonwealth.

“The reality is that one of these two guys will be the next governor. Voters need to get engaged” and elect someone who can lead Virginia “in a mainstream way,” work with Republicans and Democrats and focus on “solving problems rather than picking fights.”


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