Governor McAuliffe, Sen. Ruff, Del. Kilgore introduce Tobacco Commission enhancement legislation

virginiaGovernor Terry McAuliffe today announced the introduction of legislation to enhance the efficiency and the effectiveness of the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission.  The legislation supports long-term financial sustainability of Commission resources and ensures Commission investments are dedicated to projects with the greatest capacity and likelihood to provide significant and impactful economic revitalization in the Tobacco Region.

The bipartisan legislation is sponsored by Commission Chairman Terry Kilgore (R-Gate City) and Commission Vice-Chairman Frank Ruff (R-Clarksville).

“The Commission has played a vital role in the economic recovery and redevelopment of the Tobacco Region and has proven to be an invaluable partner in our efforts to bring new jobs to this economically challenged part of the Commonwealth,” said Governor McAuliffe.  “To build the new Virginia economy and revitalize communities like those in the Tobacco Region, we must maximize all of our existing assets and ensure the greatest return on our investments.  This bipartisan legislation enhances the capacity of the Commission to make strategic investments in pursuit of its revitalization goals. I want to thank the Commission’s leadership – Delegate Kilgore and Senator Ruff – for working closely with our Administration on this effort.”

“The Commission is a critical economic driver in the Tobacco Region and Southwest Virginia, and I am committed to making certain it remains a positive force in the region for many years to come,” said Delegate Kilgore.  “This legislation will build on the Commission’s successes and strengthen its ability to create jobs and provide economic opportunity for the people of Southwest Virginia today and in the future.  I look forward to working with Governor McAuliffe, my fellow Commission members and colleagues in the General Assembly to enact this bipartisan legislation this session.”

“The Tobacco Region as a whole, and especially Southern Virginia, faces more significant economic, educational, healthcare and workforce challenges than any other part of the Commonwealth,” said Senator Ruff.  “The Commission has made substantial positive investments to address these challenges, and this legislation will help us in our efforts to diversify the economy and position the region for economic growth. The additional financial and administrative tools included in this legislation are important next steps to revitalize the Tobacco Region and Southern Virginia.  I appreciate Governor McAuliffe’s support of these efforts and his commitment to economic development in all parts of Virginia.”

Key components of the Commission enhancement legislation include:

  • Establish the Tobacco Region Revolving Loan Fund to make loans to local governments to finance or refinance the cost of a project with an identifiable revenue stream from which the loan may be repaid.
  • Lower the cap on annual corpus invasion. Require a dollar for dollar match for economic development grant awards.  Performance bonds are acceptable matching funds.
  • Codify a biannual comprehensive strategic plan process with specific priorities, measureable goals and quantifiable outcomes including input from local and regional economic developers, planning commissions, VEDP, DHCD, VTC, VRA and the Center for Rural Virginia.
  • Establish a viability manager to determine financial viability and review project feasibility for distribution of monies from the Commission Fund.
  • Increase accountability for outcomes from Commission investments.
  • Establish an online database of all of Commission awards with project goals.
  • Reduce the number of commission members from 31 to 25.  Members in eliminated seats will serve until end of their current term.  Require 60% of members to have expertise in business, economic development, investment banking, finance or education.

“Transformational economic and community revitalization efforts require a substantial, sustainable long-term funding mechanism, comprehensive strategic planning and processes to ensure resources are committed only to the most viable and impactful projects,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones. “The enhancements and new tools included in this legislation will help the Commission achieve these priorities.  I commend Governor McAuliffe, Senator Ruff and Delegate Kilgore for their leadership on this issue.”

The legislation maintains the prohibition against expenditure of Commission resources outside of Tobacco Region.  No Commission funds are reallocated to other programs.

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