Name a job on a horse farm and I’ve probably done it. Schooling horses, mucking stalls, helping with birthing…every summer job I ever had was working with horses in the 18th District. After graduating from college in Charleston, South Carolina and working as an entertainer in Memphis, TN, I decided to come back to Culpeper to start my own business. I know how hard it is to be an entrepreneur in this area but I wanted to come back because of the beauty of the land and the strong community of people. Young people leave and rarely come back; we need to change this. We need to keep our talent here by expanding opportunity.
I understand the importance of having a strong local economy and encouraging small business growth. For that, we need better infrastructure, investment, and skills training. First, I want to talk about rural broadband. Access needs to increase, prices need to come down. Many of us in District 18 receive our power from Rappahannock Electric Cooperative. Rural electric cooperatives (REC) are one of the most successful public/private business initiatives in the history of the United States. We need an internet version of that success story if we want to keep people from moving away from the 18th District. Making affordable broadband available for every Virginian will be a priority in my first term.
Next, let’s talk investment. Forbes recently reported that “Over 62% of millennials have considered starting their own business, with 72% feeling that startups and entrepreneurs are a necessary economic force for creating jobs and driving innovation.” On the flip side, the self-employment rate among workers 65+ is the highest of any age group in America (15.5%). To encourage our millennial talent to stay in District 18 and to help our baby boomers retire into entrepreneurship, I support Lt. Governor Northam’s plan to drive economic activity and startups in rural areas. Specifically, his idea for a 2-year zero Business, Professional, Occupational License (BPOL) and merchant capital tax for new businesses in rural areas. This initiative will result in no loss in existing revenue to local governments. Sounds like a win-win.
Third, we need to ensure that our people have the skill set that local businesses require and entrepreneurs can acquire. We need skills training for our veterans, our young people, and our transitioning adults. The community colleges which serve the 18th are Lord Fairfax and Germanna. My own brother, Rory, graduated from Lord Fairfax in Warrenton. Germanna and Lord Fairfax are rich resources for developing a skilled workforce to fill good-paying, high demand jobs like cybersecurity, computer programming, and those in healthcare. Improving and supporting career development opportunities through local community colleges will be another priority in my first term.
I came back to District 18 to start a business because it’s a beautiful place to live and it’s a wonderful community. District 18 needs to be connected; it needs to be the home of opportunity in the Piedmont, and it absolutely needs to have its eye on the future.
Note: In the near future, I will be sharing a special section on agriculture and farm workers.