Are The Right Jobs Coming to the New River Valley?

Lots of talk about jobs in the New River Valley recently, it seems.

The Radford elections centered, in part, around jobs.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about a new data center – is it Microsoft, is it Google – in Christiansburg.

And Thursday, a Colombian company that manufacturers food packaging said it’s moving to Pulaski County.

Will jobs really begin flowing into the New River Valley?  And is that really a good thing?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m for jobs.  I like jobs.  Even have a couple myself.  And to the companies that have announced that they’re coming – or thinking of coming – to our area, this is not an indictment of you or your business.  What I’m concerned with is the lack of small-business creation in our area.  A company coming in and adding 250, or 1000, new jobs, is nice and all, but when that company is broken up, or sold to the highest bidder, those jobs all leave (see: Radford, VA).  I’ve seen it with my own eyes – I used to work in Kannapolis, NC for a minor-league baseball team.  The largest employer in the area, Fieldcrest Cannon, shuttered its’ doors overnight.  Thousands of jobs lost, and the city of Kannapolis has suffered.  It’s trying to rebuild, but it’s taken a significant (think BILLIONS of dollars) amount of capital from both private and public sources to get things moving forward … and at a snail’s pace.  When a packaging company decides it can package somewhere else, what happens to those people?

I don’t have stats in front of me, but I’d venture a guess that most small businesses are offshoots of other small businesses.  When a small business closes its’ doors, I’d bet that it’s a lot easier for an employee of that business to be willing to go out and try something new because they’ve seen it before.  They’ve been a part of that entrepreneurial thing, and that fear bug doesn’t bite quite as hard as it used to, and the cycle of new business formation continues.  When a large corporation picks up and leaves, the cycle stops for quite a while.

New River Valley jobs are good, and we need them.  But I hope that our elected officials aren’t looking too far forward and neglecting what’s in our backyard.  Small businesses are invested in our communities, because they’re a part of our communities.  Small businesses don’t need economic incentives and tax breaks to set up shop in the New River Valley, they already know the benefits and quality of life that comes from living and working here (but I’m sure they’d be interested in talking about tax breaks).  And small businesses engage and interact with our local communities because, well, they’re a part of them.  Let’s put a focus on creating sustainable, growth-oriented small businesses, as well.

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