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Virginia business leaders pitch plan for state incentives


Virginia's sluggish economy can be helped with more regional cooperation goosed along by state-funded incentives, business leaders said Tuesday.

Corporate titans, university heads and top elected leaders unveiled a new initiative called "Go Virginia" at news conferences around the state.

The plan is light on specifics -- organizers said those will be forthcoming in future months -- but its main thrust is that Virginia's economy is better served when localities in a specific regions work together rather than on their own or even against one another.

"There's a well-recognized problem in Virginia that regions don't cooperate as much as they should," said Dominion Resources Inc. CEO Thomas Farrell II, one of the business leaders who is spearheading Go Virginia.

One example of regional cooperation Go Virginia organizers cited is the state's regional jail system, noting it's much more cost effective than having each locality cover the cost of its own jails.

Go Virginia organizers said the state needs to spur similar cooperation in economic development and infrastructure efforts. But the plan's members stressed that there would be no need for new taxes to pay for the initiative, which would instead draw from existing sources of state funds.

Republican House of Delegates Majority Leader Del. Kirk Cox, who was one of several lawmakers on hand at the Richmond news conference praising the launch of Go Virginia. He said he'd like to see a more regional approach to work-force development programs, adding there are several current programs from which the state could repurpose funding.

Virginia's economy has been suffering a hangover from the slowdown in federal spending and state officials have been stressing the need to diversify. The commonwealth, home to both the Pentagon and the world's largest naval base in Norfolk, faces economic uncertainty thanks to a possible new round of automatic defense spending cuts, known as sequestration.

But elected officials sounded upbeat Tuesday when praising the Go Virginia plan.

"I'm telling you, by the time we are done with this I'm going to feel bad for those other 49 governors in the United States of America," said Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
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