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Tech Talkin’ Govs 2020: ID, VA and WV seek growth in economies

January 09, 2020
By: Ellen Marrison

The governors are beginning their state of the state addresses, which SSTI reviews every year for news from the states’ executives on innovation-related initiatives. Each year we bring you the governors’ own words from their speeches as they pertain to the innovation economy. In this first installment, we see education, workforce, and broadband initiatives from Idaho and Virginia, which is also proposing a new office for wind development, and West Virginia is turning to new uses for coal and a new investment fund.


Gov. Brad Little focused on workforce, education, broadband and other economic initiatives:

“I have directed our universities, community colleges, and the State Board of Education to adopt a fresh, bold approach to meeting the needs of Idaho students and businesses by breaking down silos and working together more as an interconnected higher education system. To that end, I am recommending the development of cybersecurity programs that will be offered jointly by Boise State University, Idaho State University, and University of Idaho. This increased level of collaboration across Idaho’s higher education institutions will offer Idahoans a path to earn a degree in a high-demand profession by partnering with Idaho employers, including the Idaho National Laboratory.

“We are identifying what employers need in a workforce, and we are responding. High schools across the state are offering more and more Career Technical Education programs, hand in hand with local businesses. This is especially important for businesses in rural Idaho, which are more susceptible to a talent shortage. I am recommending $6 million in the capital budget for new CTE facilities at the College of Eastern Idaho, Lewis-Clark State College, and the Department of Juvenile Corrections to strengthen our commitment to CTE in Idaho.”

“… I am recommending ongoing funds for Idaho Job Corps, a three-year project to connect 16- to 24-year-olds to in-demand jobs. In its first year, the program will serve up to 150 students through the College of Western Idaho, with resources expanding to other community colleges in subsequent years. In addition, the Workforce Development Council and Idaho Department of Labor are facilitating and promoting more and more internships and apprenticeships because, after all, the best way to learn is by doing.”

“I am also pursuing another strategic investment – improvements in Idaho’s broadband infrastructure. ... I am adopting a recommendation … to establish a State Broadband Office. We will utilize existing resources at Commerce and unite the efforts taking place across the state to ensure all areas of Idaho are connected. Improving broadband will also expand tele-health and pharmacy access in rural Idaho, where the distance to a doctor or pharmacy can be overly burdensome to entire communities of people.”

“One very big accomplishment that serves to protect Idaho’s environment and jobs involves the nation’s leading center for nuclear energy research and development right here in Idaho – the Idaho National Laboratory. … Our updated [1995 Settlement Agreement] also paves the way for more groundbreaking research at the INL. It will bring high-tech jobs to eastern Idaho and promote cleaner and safer carbon-free nuclear energy for America.”

“Last year, we made significant investments in IT modernization to reduce our exposure to a cyberattack and promote consistent security across state agencies. My budget furthers these efforts and strengthens the state’s IT infrastructure to meet the needs of a growing state.”


Gov. Ralph Northam proposed money for broadband, education and workforce initiatives, and described clean-energy goals:

 “… Broadband has become an economic necessity for business, for education, for healthcare, and for everyday life. So I’ve sent you a budget that invests $35 million each year to get more communities connected.”

“…  I’m sending you a proposal to help people ‘Get Skilled, Get a Job, and Give Back.’ We call it ‘G-3.’

“We’ll make a deal with people trying to get ahead. If you need help, and if you choose to go into a high-demand field — like health care, early childhood education, IT, public safety, or the skilled trades — and if you commit to community service, then Virginia will cover your tuition, fees, and books.

“And if Pell grants already do that, we’ll give you a stipend — $1,000 a semester to help with transportation, child care, the rent, or even food. To help with life. That’s a small amount for the Commonwealth, but it can build you a future you never thought possible. In return, we’ll ask you to serve the community.

“Virginia will be one of the first states in the country to do this.”

“… We are also increasing funding to make public colleges more affordable for students. We are increasing the Tuition Assistance Grants that make private colleges more affordable for Virginia students. We’re making it easier for DREAMers to attend college and get ahead, with in-state tuition.

“We are increasing higher education grants for veterans and the National Guard. … We’re also increasing funding for Virginia’s two public historically black colleges and universities.”

“We aim to have 30 percent of Virginia’s electricity come from renewable sources in this next decade, and to make it 100 percent carbon-free by 2050. We’re on track to achieve this clean energy goal. And know this: We’ll get there sooner if technology advances faster, and if we can keep rates affordable. I’m pushing the energy companies to do just that.”

“… I have sent you plans to create a new Office of Offshore Wind. I ask you to do this, so Virginia can lead in clean energy. …  It’s best to build [the turbines] close by, then send them out to sea.

“Here’s what’s so exciting: This means thousands of advanced manufacturing jobs for Hampton Roads. This will create an entire new clean-energy industry here in Virginia. It will expand supply chain and logistics opportunities. But we have to invest to make it happen. So I ask you to approve up to $40 million to upgrade the Portsmouth Marine Terminal to get it ready.”

West Virginia

Gov. Jim Justice touted new uses for coal and support for a fund that would allow the state to serve as an official partner in investment deals:

“All of us think, well, we can't burn anymore coal because the world is rebelling in every way, shape, form and fashion against that.  Ramaco would tell you that coal … is too expensive to burn. You're wasting an opportunity when you burn it.  … [W]hat they're saying is they can make carbon fiber out of coal that is … four times as light as steel and twice as strong. They absolutely have a way to do things with coal that can be an alternative use for coal that it would be so perfect for us it is unbelievable.

“WVU right now, I am announcing tonight and I'm sure that everyone probably already knows, but they're going to develop and open a research facility at WVU to research just this. And not only that, Ramaco is looking at the possibility of bringing one of these plants to southern West Virginia.”

“Roger Hanshaw's team has come up with a concept called Mountain Impact. It's a Mountain Impact Fund ... that becomes the bank that you can loan money and inspire people to invest within the State of West Virginia and you can give all kinds of great return on their money that they invest, and you can bring money to our state like you can't imagine. It is an ingenious idea, and I absolutely will fully support it.”

Idaho, Virginia, West Virginiatech talkin govs