Morgan Griffith: Setting the table for economic growth
Our region recently hosted U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. I was honored to join him for much of his visit and participate in discussions with him and our region’s leaders about economic development and commerce.
The Department of Commerce helps foster conditions for the economy to grow and businesses to thrive, and I am glad Secretary Ross took the time to hear firsthand about our region’s need for a strong economy.
Actions taken by the Trump Administration have made a difference. Its reforms of regulation have been a relief for companies in our area and nationwide who struggled to understand and comply with the seemingly-endless red tape rolled out of Washington by previous administrations.
Further, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by a Republican Congress and signed by President Trump have encouraged hiring and investment.
Often, these developments are discussed in percentages of gross domestic product (GDP) or in thousands of jobs gained nationwide. But they are meaningful beyond the statistics, in the lives of people who are affected by them.
We saw this, for example, when Secretary Ross and I toured the Wabtec Graham-White facility in Salem. Graham-White has been in the manufacturing business for over a century, producing locomotive brakes and other goods for the transportation industry since its founding by the Frantz family in 1914. Manufacturing jobs such as the ones at Graham-White have supported American families for decades.
We spoke with leadership at the plant about the importance of economic development and the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Secretary Ross made the case that it was much better than the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
At a later roundtable hosted by the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce, Secretary Ross talked about how we can keep jobs in our communities. He expressed support for apprenticeship programs that build the skills of workers, rural broadband to connect us with the global economy, and opportunity zones created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to foster growth in depressed areas.
He also discussed trade policy at length. In Virginia, we understand how trade policies can shape the fortunes of domestic industries, sometimes for the worse.
The destruction of Southside Virginia’s textile industry demonstrates how bad trade policies can undermine aspects of our own economy. Factories in the Southside-North Carolina-Tennessee triangle once turned out these products for the world to use. NAFTA hit them hard, however, as textiles became cheaper to manufacture elsewhere.
Some communities have yet to recover from the loss of jobs and revenue this industry provided. It should serve as a cautionary tale for trade negotiators.
Policymakers in Washington need to hear what is happening beyond the Beltway. I appreciate Secretary Ross coming to our region to listen to job creators and learn about our economic needs.
Many of you who have worked with my office over the years know my former District Director, Michelle Jenkins. Michelle served in that role from the beginning of my time in the House of Representatives until the end of May. Throughout, she was a faithful servant of the people of the Ninth Congressional District of Virginia.
Her work helped many constituents who had issues with Social Security or the Department of Veterans Affairs get the benefits they deserved.
She worked with local officials, businesses, and other constituents to make sure their voices were heard in Washington. Her efforts helped bring economic development to our area through her work with economic development representatives from regions in the Ninth District on federal grants and projects for the Abandoned Mine Land pilot program.
She organized the Service Academy selection process which helped young people fulfill their goals of serving their country, and the Art Competition which allowed talented students to display their work in my offices and even the halls of the Capitol.
On July 1, Michelle will take the bench as a judge on the 30th Judicial District Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, hearing cases in the Counties of Scott, Lee, and Wise. I am sorry to lose her talents in my office but am excited for her as she undertakes this new mission. She has a servant’s heart and will continue to serve the public ably in this role, just as she did for over eight years as my District Director.
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. Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.