Austin Powers says $1 Billion Baby, YEA!

Austin_danger_powers_mike_myersAustin says it’s $1 Billion baby, YEA!

It was funny when Austin Powers said it, but not as funny now that Virginia lawmakers have to debate exactly HOW to make up the anticipated $1 billion budget shortfall Virginia will be seeing this year.   The Governor had suggested a withdrawal of nearly $425 million from the rainy day fund, while the Republican-controlled House suggested $225 million be withdrawn.  As with everything politics, I’m sure there’s a lot of "you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours" going on, but it’ll be interesting to see how this shakes out.  In all likelihood, the Session will run longer than normal until they get it worked out – you can follow it all and more on Richmond Sunlight.

What’s it mean for the New River Valley, and specifically how do communities like Blacksburg and Radford that rely heavily on the universities that lie within their boundaries?  Really, the entire New River Valley relies on Virginia Tech and Radford University in a lot of ways, but how does talk of a budget shortfall affect us here?  I’ve been critical of The Roanoke Times in the past, but I have to give them credit for writing a very timely article on the subject, by one of my favorite reporters there, Tonia Moxley

The gist of the article is that towns like Blacksburg and Radford are not immune to a recession, but the universities they support help to soften the blow.  When we were on Capital Hill last week, that was one of the comments our delegation made to Dave Nutter – our university communities seem to be doing quite well, at least when it comes to real estate, because of the periphery of businesses that surround the universities, as well as the schools themselves.  Just like you would diversify your financial portfolio, the diversification of the economic portfolio (wow, I sound smart) helps keeps things on a fairly even keel.  According to Ernest Wade, an economics instructor at Radford University quoted in Tonia Moxley’s article, the universities provide high-quality jobs (although not always high-paying) that don’t rely on what he calls "smoke stack industries".  I can imagine that one example of an area here that does rely on such an industry would be Pulaski and its loss of the Pulaski Furniture Company.   
It takes careful planning, though – we’re not likely to see major changes here in the Valley, but there’s a good chance we’ll see small ones, and that, according to Blacksburg Town Manager Marc Verniel, requires careful
planning and supplementation of alternative revenue streams.  Something we ought to be doing anyhow. 

What’s to come?  I certainly don’t know.  I feel confident, however, that the Valley will continue to grow and thrive despite what the short-term holds.  What do you expect to see? 

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