Virginia is the best state for business, if we can keep it
October 28th, 2019

Originally published by  the Richmond Times-Dispatch 

On July 10, Virginia deservedly regained its recognition as the best state in which to do business, according to CNBC. It is the fourth time that Virginia has achieved the top spot in CNBC’s business rankings, but the first time since the commonwealth was named No. 1 in 2011.
Virginia was recognized this year as the best state for business for several reasons including:

  • Our strong, talented workforce and education system that received top marks in both categories
  • Significant economic development wins that received a lot of national news attention
  • Our foundational business policies that, for the most part, promote a strong business climate

Prior to regaining first place, Virginia had stagnated in the rankings, causing the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, policymakers and other stakeholders to look for ways to improve the state’s business climate. This led the Virginia Chamber to create Blueprint Virginia 2025, which serves as a business plan for the commonwealth to position itself, once again, as the best state for business. This effort helped focus Virginia on policies that improve the commonwealth’s standing and continues to serve as a guiding strategy document to the state’s future economic success.
Virginia has worked hard to return to the top of the business rankings and has a great story to tell, but if we’re not careful, its future as a business-friendly state could change quickly.
There is concern from the business community that some policies that have long been cornerstones of Virginia’s success might be at risk. One example is Virginia’s right-to-work law, which protects workers from being forced to join a union or pay non-membership fees as a condition of employment.

According to our recently released Chambers of Commerce Election Center survey, a growing number of candidates for the Virginia General Assembly are publicly supporting a repeal of Virginia’s right-to-work law. In fact, 42% of the candidates surveyed would vote to repeal Virginia’s right-to-work law if elected. The actual number could likely be higher depending on how the few candidates who did not participate in the survey feel on the topic.
This is of strong concern to Virginia businesses because the commonwealth has long operated on the bipartisan understanding that its right-to-work law helps the state’s economy thrive and protects workers’ choice. Since 1947, Virginia has held its status as one of the first right-to-work states in the country. There are now 27 right-to-work states including West Virginia, Wisconsin and Kentucky, which became right-to-work states in the past four years.

Virginia’s right-to-work law benefits the commonwealth in several important ways:

  • It keeps Virginia strong in an increasingly competitive economic landscape. The Virginia Chamber, in partnership with Mangum Economics, estimates that a repeal of the right-to-work law would cost Virginia’s economy more than $1 billion annually. Repealing Virginia’s right-to-work status hinders our ability to compete and means Virginians would lose out on new job opportunities to competitor states.
  • Many of the national business rankings incorporate a state’s right-to-work status as a factor in their methodology, including CNBC, Forbes and the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council’s Small Business Policy Index. Perception is reality, and taking a step back on the issue would damage Virginia’s reputation as a business-friendly state.
  • Without right-to-work protections, Virginia workers would be forced to join a union or pay a non-membership fee in order to be hired or even keep their existing job. Workers deserve to have a choice on whether they join a union or not.

The Virginia Chamber will continue to advocate for policies that maintain and improve Virginia’s economic outlook and pushback against policies that would undo key competitive advantages. We look forward to working with policymakers to maintain a bipartisan consensus on this important topic and other fundamental business climate issues.

We must protect the progress that we’ve made to ensure that we maintain our standing as the best state for business and continue to attract and grow the commonwealth’s economy.