Youngkin, CNBC see room for growth in Va.
In July, Virginia ceded the top spot in CNBC’s America’s Top States for Business rankings to neighboring North Carolina, with Virginia taking third place in the annual list. Virginia had previously held the No. 1 slot for a record-breaking two years — a feat no other state has matched in the coveted award’s 15-year history. (Virginia has ranked No. 1 in the annual awards five times, making the top 10 every year but 2016 and 2015, when it ranked 13th and 12th.)
Gov. Glenn Youngkin, while running for office last year as the Republican nominee, downplayed the significance of Virginia’s consecutive wins, which came during the tenure of Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.
Although Virginia’s educated population and openness for new business are reasons it has continued to score at or near the top of CNBC’s list, such accolades “haven’t always translated into growth in Virginia,” Youngkin said in a statement after the 2022 announcement.
The new governor, of course, did mention some economic development wins that have taken place since he took office in January — Lego Group’s announcement that it will build a $1 billion manufacturing facility in Chesterfield County, and the twin announcements that defense contractors Raytheon Technologies Corp. and The Boeing Co. are both moving their global headquarters to Arlington County.
But there’s room for improvement, both Youngkin and CNBC say, particularly in the area of Virginia’s high cost of living, a deterrent to attracting and retaining skilled workers.
Although Virginia is far from alone in experiencing rising residential home sale and rental prices and inflation, CNBC cited the commonwealth’s cost of living as a significant factor in the state’s drop to third place, giving the state a D+ in the category.
Citing the same economic pressures, Youngkin has attempted to remove some of Virginians’ tax burdens, but only somewhat successfully because state Senate Democrats have held his legislative agenda in check.
The state Democratic Party chairwoman, Susan Swecker, took a different view of this year’s Top States for Business ranking, saying that Youngkin’s “focus on running for president in 2024 and playing to a far-right base” caused the state to drop to third place.
The truth likely lies somewhere in the middle, since CNBC’s 88 areas of consideration include factors that were influenced by Northam’s administration and two years of the Democratic-led legislature, as well as during Youngkin’s first six months on the job with a divided statehouse.
As you’ll see in this year’s Site Locator, Virginia has both a strong workforce development pipeline as well as a healthy economic development landscape, with renewable energy, manufacturing and tech sectors all represented in the past year’s biggest deals.