|MCLEAN, VA – Terry McAuliffe today released his bold new “Building a Flourishing Rural Economy” plan to prioritize rural communities in Virginia as he rebuilds a stronger, more equitable post-COVID economy. As governor, Terry will bring economic opportunity to rural communities across the Commonwealth and get every Virginian online by the end of his term. He will also partner with President Biden’s administration to create Virginia’s first intentional rural economic development hub through a new pilot project, driving long-term, sustainable economic growth in critical areas of the Commonwealth. Terry will also establish Virginia’s rural communities as energy innovation capitals of the East Coast, invest in crumbling school infrastructure and support Virginia farmers.
Rural Virginia’s natural resources, environment, and over one million residents, are vital to the Commonwealth and its economy. They are home to Virginia’s largest industry — agriculture and forestry — providing 440,000 jobs and over $90 billion a year in economic impacts. Unfortunately, the once-flourishing manufacturing and industrial hubs in Virginia’s rural communities have been hit hard over the past several decades as manufacturing industries have left and the Great Recession eliminated jobs that have never returned. Virginians living in rural communities experience lower wages and a lack of infrastructure like broadband that people need to pursue economic opportunity. Virginia’s rural health care infrastructure is chronically underfunded, and only 8% of Virginia’s physicians practice in rural areas. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these inequities, reversing progress made on fighting the opioid epidemic that had already disproportionately impacted rural Virginians.
As governor, Terry will ensure that rural communities are key to Virginia’s equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Terry’s plan for rural economic development includes building Virginia’s first-ever intentional economic development hub, deploying high-impact investments to spans of up to 4 neighboring localities in a region. Local voices, as part of a regional public-private consortium, will steer funding to revitalize local main streets, facilitate business development or expansion, and support affordable childcare and workforce needs. The initiative will attract new industries, anchor regional development, create tourism, and generate jobs and sustainable economic growth.
Farmers, especially small, family farmers, are at the center of Terry’s new plan. One of Terry’s first acts as governor in 2014 was to sign a law creating more economic opportunities and cutting red tape for family farms. He boosted consumer access to locally produced food and gave farmers access to new markets, ushering in cooperative sales partnerships between small farms and enabling much more agritourism. Terry’s ambitious new plan would cut even more red tape for small farmers, support farmers’ investments in smart farming technology, and partner with community colleges on farming technology training. Terry will also fight to end rural food insecurity through his food security plan, Ensuring that Virginians Have Access to Regular, Nutritious Meals.
“In rural Virginia, when we talk about broadband, education, health care, and the economy — all these issues are interconnected. Nowadays it’s nearly impossible to get a job or an education without internet access, which is why we need a holistic approach in our post-COVID recovery that is big and bold,” said Terry McAuliffe. “As governor, we’re going to have rural Virginia lead the way on universal broadband, clean energy jobs, and 21st century farming technologies. But that’s still not enough. We need to make rural health care and education equitable by reinvesting in those systems alongside telehealth, virtual education, and career training. It’s time to take Virginia’s rural economy to the next level, and we will get it done.”
Terry will be able to get this done because he has the record of achievements for rural Virginia. As Virginia’s 72nd Governor, Terry worked to expand health care access and rural opportunities. He paved the way for Medicaid expansion and prioritized bringing good-paying jobs in these regions, and he’ll do it again as Virginia’s next governor. Terry made agriculture and forestry–Virginia’s top private sector industries–key components of his economic development plan. This focus on agriculture and forestry substantially grew exports of agricultural and forestry products to over $3 billion for the first time in Virginia’s history. And despite inheriting a record budget deficit and facing the effects of the Great Recession and sequestration, Terry created 200,000 good paying jobs, reduced unemployment from 5.7% to 3.3%, and raised personal income by 14% during his administration.
Terry has also proposed more than a dozen bold plans to create a more equitable post-COVID Virginia. Terry’s plans will strengthen Virginia’s education system and dramatically increase teacher pay, help secure Virginia’s economic recovery from COVID-19, reform our criminal justice system to create a more equitable Virginia, ensure Virginians have access to regular nutritious meals, address the broken, predatory system of prescription drug pricing, boldly confront the gun violence epidemic, make Virginia the best state in the nation for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Healthcare (STEM-H) and computer science education, tackle the housing crisis in the Commonwealth and invest in Virginia’s workforce to create a more equitable post-COVID economy, ensure Virginians have access to high-quality, affordable health care will build a more equitable Commonwealth, and tackle climate change and secure Virginia’s clean energy future by 2035, lift up Black Virginians as the Commonwealth rebuilds equitably from the COVID-19 pandemic, further advance LGBTQ+ rights.