Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 4.29.19

Technology Investment and Jobs

Monday, April 29, 2019 | Kevin Baird (202-225-3861)
Tags: Economy

For a country to maintain economic leadership in the world, it must continually create, innovate, and improve in the technology sector. The United States remains at the cutting edge in many fields. Several recent news items show that our region, in fact, is where some exciting developments are taking place.

As an example, you may have heard by now that commercial drone deliveries will soon be an option for some residents of Montgomery County. Not just local media outlets, but national ones including CNN and the Wall Street Journal, reported this exciting news. The company Wing, which is affiliated with Google, announced plans to start using drones this year to deliver products to people in Blacksburg and Christiansburg.

The Roanoke Times reported that planning for the launch of the service now focuses on finding a staging area for the drones and what local businesses may want to use them. Once preparations are complete, these two towns will be the first in the United States to enjoy commercial drone delivery service.

Cross the southern Montgomery County line into Floyd County, which will soon enjoy Internet access at exceptional speeds. Citizens Telephone Cooperative celebrated the $35 million project on April 18 in Floyd. It will be installing fiber networks for gigabit Internet across the county, bringing the service to 97% of homes by the end of 2021. Gigabit’s fast speeds will make Floyd County’s Internet the envy of rural Virginia.

Internet access is essential to engagement in the 21st century economy and society. It opens doors for business, education, and an array of other services. For rural areas, it can offer access to other services that are otherwise scarce, such as telemedicine. A speedy connection is now an important quality of life indicator when people and employers consider relocating, just as the quality of schools or presence of cultural amenities are. Floyd County has much to boast about.

Other parts of the Ninth District are also making strides in Internet access. Scott County Telephone Cooperative, for example, has been the recipient of Community Connect Grants that have helped build out its network, extending into Dickenson County.

Southwest Virginia is sure to benefit from a recent major technological investment in Bluefield, West Virginia, as well. At the end of March, the California-based company Intuit announced its plans to place a “prosperity hub” in Bluefield. The project will lead to up to 500 jobs. Part of the hub will be an innovation lab.

Although the hub is in West Virginia, the Virginia side of Bluefield and Tazewell County is well-positioned to benefit. Part of Intuit’s workforce will likely make their homes on our side of the state line, and the innovation lab could lead to more jobs in the future.

This is evidenced in a quote from Tazewell County Eastern District Supervisor Charlie Stacy reported by the Bluefield Daily Telegraph: “Intuit coming to Bluefield could be huge for our region as we are finally getting a chance to show how our people can perform in diversified industries.”

These stories are important for our region, and they come in addition to other developments that have taken place recently. In past months I have written in this column about exciting research projects at Virginia Tech and medical advances derived from cloned pigs.

They hold many tangible benefits for Southwest Virginians. Some are immediate and direct: receiving a delivery from a drone, surfing the Internet at a superfast speed, working at the new prosperity hub in Bluefield.

Others are tangential but no less important. A business located in Blacksburg or Christiansburg being able to deliver its products by drone opens up new opportunities. Easier access to educational opportunities via gigabit Internet may influence a new company to locate in Floyd County because it knows it can find employees with the skills it needs. People hired at the prosperity hub will have more money to spend on other area businesses and attractions.

These stories are also important because they present a roadmap for further progress. In each case, the private sector is creating new opportunities in active cooperation with government, educational, and other stakeholders. These partnerships are facilitating innovation and economic growth in our area and are laying the foundation for more to come.

Some of these stories made national headlines, part of continued American leadership in technology and innovation. It is fitting that they are taking place in our Commonwealth, which has led the way so many times through American history.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office.  You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.

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