Friday, November 4, 2016

Message from Mike

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VA's New Credentialing Program gets National Spotlight


Earlier I wrote about this year's unprecedented effort to expand the number of workforce credentials earned by Virginia students.  This initiative was fostered by Virginia's Community College System, Business Leaders, and Educators and garnered bi-partisan support from General Assembly members and the Governor.  I was proud to participate in its success through op-eds (Job Investments will Pay off & College & Careers ), one-on-one meetings, and presentations to General Assembly members during the 2016 legislative session.


As a result of this landmark legislation, an estimated 10,000 students will earn career-ready credentials over the next two years.  The programs offered at each of Virginia's 23 Community Colleges will be determined by its region's need for specific skills to fill actual jobs with great pay.  It's one of the few budget items to offer a clearly calculable return-on-investment.   


Last month, I was asked to represent the Virginia Community College System in a national forum to discuss this achievement.  I was honored to join Dr. Ellen Davenport, Asst. Vice Chancellor of the VCCS, Robert Shinn, Principal at Capital Results, and Dr. Gary Rhodes, President of J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College for a panel discussion at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) conference on Community College Advancement in San Diego.  Our panel discussed the need, the legislative strategy, and results of this innovative legislation. While there, I participated in numerous sessions to learn what other states are doing to expand the qualifications and job opportunities for their citizens and returned with ideas that warrant investigation for future consideration in the Commonwealth.   I look forward to pursuing them.

Are you or a family member considering your career plans?  Find out more at:



Why I'm voting Yes on Ballot Question 1


Those who follow my public service efforts have seen me tackle issues on economic development, job growth, and workforce development.  While many ideas come from my experience as a small business owner, they also reflect my customer's experiences.  Having worked with technical and executive leaders in the planning, design, and building of new manufacturing operations, I've had a front row seat in the decision making process on which and where investments would be made. 


Issues on taxes, regulations, transportation and other infrastructure are common considerations.  Yet, with labor often the greatest investment, the ability to recruit, hire, and retain employees is always a focal point as are barriers to merit-based training, promoting, and sometimes replacing workers.  This is why most employers prefer to invest in right-to-work (RTW) states. 


Accordingly, Bureau of Labor statistics show that from 2003-2013, RTW states increased their employment rolls by more than double those in non-RTW states.   And contrary to claims that these employee rights bring lower wages, the union-backed Economic Policy Institute's model indicates that private sector compensation provides workers the same purchasing power in RTW and forced union states when fully considering cost-of-living differences.


Unions can offer value to many workplaces.  I applaud their apprentice programs and advocacy for members, and no one should argue their value in promoting safe work environments.  RTW laws do not prevent employees from organizing or joining a union.  They simply insure the employee's right to determine for themselves whether or not to join a union without fear of losing their job.


Today, Virginia is one of 26 states with RTW laws on the books and the number is growing as states seek to attract employers.  Each year however, legislation is introduced in Virginia to chip away at our RTW status, blocked only by the current makeup of the General Assembly.  Ask any minority-party legislator how they vote on these anti-RTW bills and the need to make this a constitutionally protected right becomes clear.  Ten states have already done so. 


With Virginia's over-dependence on diminishing government spending, we must diversify our economy by attracting new employers.  Our RTW status offers a key recruiting advantage over our neighbors to the north. You can help us keep it.  Here is the question as it appears on the ballot.  I urge you to vote 'Yes'.


Ballot Question 1: Should Article I of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to prohibit any agreement or combination between an employer and a labor union or labor organization whereby (i) nonmembers of the union or organization are denied the right to work for the employer, (ii) membership to the union or organization is made a condition of employment or continuation of employment by such employer, or (iii) the union or organization acquires an employment monopoly in any such enterprise?



West Point Native awarded Billy Friend Scholarship


Congratulations to David Amorim, a West Point High School graduate and 2016 recipient of the Billy Friend Scholarship. Each year since 2008 this scholarship has awarded $1000 towards tuition for a student pursuing a degree in Instrumentation Technology at New River Community College.  Although my New Kent based company, Control Automation Technologies Corp., was the principal sponsor in starting this scholarship, I do not participate in the annual award selection.  Yet, as it is available to any Virginia student, I was especially pleased to see it awarded to a student from our region this year.  After meeting David at the Award's Luncheon, I know he's aware of the opportunities he'll have after graduation as his father is an Instrumentation Technician at the West Rock Paper Mill in West Point.  If you know David or his family, please be sure to congratulate him on his excellent grades and successful future.


Note: The Scholarship was named for my Instrumentation Technology Instructor at NRCC; a man who dedicated over 40 years to teaching and mentoring his students for success.



Manufacturing a Revolution


Virginia is a wonderful state with numerous features and accolades envied by others.  For years we've enjoyed high rankings in categories like 'Best States to Raise a Family', 'Best States to Retire', 'Best States for Teachers', and 'Best States for Business'.  Unfortunately, we've seen a significant decline in the latter over the last four years, moving from #1 to #13 in the business ranking with further decline almost certain.  Yet, to read press releases promulgated by those who value ideology over substance, the otherwise uninformed might assume all is sunny in Virginia's economic future.  That's just not the case.  Fortunately, some leaders recognize the need to think outside the box, but there has been little meaningful action towards broad changes to reverse the current trend. This should be the leading issue of our 2017 election cycle. 


Daily Press LogoThis summer (a week before the Governor announced a $1.5 billion budget shortfall) the Daily Press kindly published my article addressing changes that  I believe to be critical.  I hope you'll take a moment to read "Manufacturing a Revolution" by clicking the Daily Press logo.   


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