ExecutiveBiz: How do you plan to make Virginia a more business friendly state?
“I’m going to deploy every resource at my disposal as Governor to make the best possible case for Virginia and for its record of excellence when it comes to serving the federal government. I’m going to work closely with Congressmen from both parties because this is above Democrats and Republicans, it’s about Virginia.” -Creigh Deeds
ExecutiveBiz: Do you support efforts to make George Mason University a state supported, world class research institution?
Senator Creigh Deeds: Absolutely. George Mason is one of the greatest success stories in the entire country in the realm of higher education and it wasn’t there forty years ago, it was just a dream. Now it is one of the best universities in the state and frankly it is one of the best universities in the Mid-Atlantic region and its reputation is growing nationally. The best resource in this commonwealth is our people and it is a mistake not to take advantage of everything that Virginians have to offer. My plan for both the economy and education includes university boosting proposals for financial aid and loan forgiveness for students to investments in a virtual research triangle among our two and four year institutions to develop new and alternative energy technology. I think the next economy is going to be built on energy technology and the way we are going to take advantage of it is by attracting more energy based research to Virginia and there is a piece of that puzzle for every one of our four year schools, and George Mason has got to have its share of these investments.
ExecutiveBiz: Virginia’s last Secretary of Technology, Aneesh Chopra is currently the Federal CTO. What qualities will you look for in the next Secretary of Technology?
Senator Creigh Deeds: For my Secretary of Technology I’m going to look for three main qualities. One: an experienced individual who is committed to extending technological advancements like broadband internet to all of Virginia so we can create opportunity in every corner on the Commonwealth. Two: someone whose experience with innovation will lead the agency to draw connections between technology and other areas such as energy development, medical care and other areas where I think we have great room for growth and third I will look for someone who is a good manager, someone who can run the department at its maximum efficiency with every tax dollar being well spent.
ExecutiveBiz: How do you plan to secure Virginia’s IT infrastructure from cyber attacks?
Senator Creigh Deeds: From my perspective, cyber security is an economic issue as well as a national security issue. In a global economy based on electronic commerce business stands to lose millions from cyber attacks. As Governor I’m going to work with the Obama Administration to develop a Virginia specific cyber security strategy that involves private partners as well as VITA and the Office of Commonwealth Preparedness.
ExecutiveBiz: What will be the Virginia Information Technology Agency’s (VITA’s) role?
Senator Creigh Deeds: I’ll tell you, from my perspective, privatizing VITA’s services was sound policy. Implementation has been tough. It has been very spotty. I’m interested in the results of the work that has been done in the Senate Finance Committee to get to the bottom of it. I view VITA as having a critical role in developing cyber security policy for our Commonwealth.
ExecutiveBiz: The federal government has plans to in-source government contracting jobs, moving them from Virginia to DC and elsewhere. How do you plan to protect these Virginia jobs?
Senator Creigh Deeds: I’m going to deploy every resource at my disposal as Governor to make the best possible case for Virginia and for its record of excellence when it comes to serving the federal government. I’m going to work closely with Congressmen from both parties because this is above Democrats and Republicans, it’s about Virginia. I’m going to work with Congressmen from both parties and with Senators Warner and Webb to craft the most beneficial policy for Virginia at every level of government. We have a long-term commitment to working with our federal partners toward mutual goals and we are going to make the necessary adjustments to continue this relationship. Frankly, as you well know, the federal government provides a buffer to recessionary factors particularly Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. It’s important for the economic vitality of the Commonwealth that we continue to nurture that relationship and continue to find ways to make it more attractive for the federal government to do work and to do business in Virginia.
ExecutiveBiz: Leaders of the government contracting community have criticized the federal government for “poaching” government contracting jobs. What do you think of the federal government taking high paying and high skilled jobs out of the private sector and moving it into Washington?
Senator Creigh Deeds: The bottom line is the majority of those jobs can be done more efficiently and more effectively in the private sector. I’m all for creating efficiencies at every level of government, in fact I laid out plans to have efficiency reviews and performance reviews of every agency in the state government to go to a zero-based budgeting process. I don’t think it is a bad idea for the federal government to look for ways to save money and to look for ways to create efficiencies. Frankly I think that there are many contractors that have proved over the years that they have the know-how, the expertise and the proven business practices that work to save money and produce efficiencies.
ExecutiveBiz: Do you have any plans for driving the adoption of green technology in Virginia?
Senator Creigh Deeds: In 1960 Luther Hodges was the Governor of North Carolina. He got the General Assembly to appropriate $200,000, and then he went out to the private sector and raised another $1.5 million. $1.7 million was a lot of money for a state in 1960. With the creation of the Research Park in the central part of North Carolina there were people who snickered but let me tell you what, they are not snickering anymore. Forty-nine years later the Research Triangle is on its second forty year plan and it’s brought hundreds of billions of dollars to investment and tens of thousands of jobs to North Carolina. We need to plant that kind of a seed for our economic future today; that’s why I’ve developed a plan to attract energy based research to Virginia. We take public investment and coordinate that research among all of our institutions of higher learning, if we can do that we can effectively create an energy-based research triangle in Virginia. Frankly, energy independence is a matter of international need and economic security and to achieve that we can’t take anything off the table from a conventional approach to energy to alternative approaches until the science takes it off the table. There’s potential all over Virginia from offshore drilling and wind farm possibilities near Virginia Beach to bio-fuels and clean coal plant potential in Virginia. Some people say that Virginia doesn’t get enough sunlight but Germany is the worldwide leader in solar technology and Germany gets less sunlight than anyone in the United States but Alaska. I’ve got legislative plans to incentivize the growth of so called green collared jobs and alternative energy capabilities by adopting a grant program for alternative energy manufacturers and bio-mass facilities in the Shenandoah Valley and Southeast Virginia; and tax credits or the elimination of sales tax for alternative energy manufacturing devices that will reduce carbon emissions. The question is: does Virginia lead or does she follow? From my perspective, we need to lead.
ExecutiveBiz: You’ll be speaking to the Potomac Officers Club on September 10th. What do you want to tell Virginia’s contracting community?
Senator Creigh Deeds: I want to tell them that government contracting is key to our economic success. The Department of Defense alone spent over $39 billion last year in Virginia. That’s about 10% of our entire gross state product. The next Governor is going to have to fight hard for Virginia to remain one of the top states for government contracting. We saw that when the Department of Defense tried to relocate DARPA to Bethesda, Maryland. Arlington is the hub for defense research and it should stay that way but it’s not just about Defense spending. The Northern Virginia Technology Council is taking a more active role in forging a bond between Northern Virginia technology companies and the federal government. I also think there are opportunities in other areas of the Commonwealth that we can’t afford to overlook. Our shipyard in North Newport News is a tremendous asset and we have companies like Northrop Grumman working with the Navy around the port. We need to continue that work and make sure that Virginia remains one of the best states for the federal government to do business in.
ExecutiveBiz: What is something most people don’t know about you?
Senator Creigh Deeds: When my wife was seven months pregnant with our oldest child we sat through two snow delays at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati watching the Cincinnati Reds play the opening day game in April of 1985.