Virginia Maritime Association
*As prepared for delivery
Thank you Secretary Lane for the kind introduction. Before I begin, I would like to recognize Aubrey for his outstanding work as my Secretary of Transportation. He is doing a great job for Hampton Roads and the entire Commonwealth making sure we have a transportation infrastructure that eases congestion, stimulates economic growth and improves Virginians’ quality of life.
I would also of course like to thank the Virginia Maritime Association for the invitation to come and speak tonight.
I am honored to address the membership of the oldest maritime trade association in the nation. We have had a strong and vibrant port since 1920 and the VMA has played a critical role in building the port and our maritime assets into what they are today.
The contribution that the VMA and its members have made to our history, our economy and our way of life cannot be overstated – that is why tonight I am thrilled to be here to say thank you, on behalf of all Virginians, for the hard work that each of you do to keep Virginia moving forward.
For 94 years VMA has been promoting, protecting and encouraging development of the ports of Virginia and the associated industry. Today, more than 70 terminals and repair facilities line the Elizabeth and James rivers and more open every year.
Behind those terminals are a multitude of associated inland industries and support networks, some of which never see the waterfront: logistics, maritime law and insurance, consulting, lending, information technology and maintenance and repair services are just a few.
In all, this industry employs over 340,000 people across the Commonwealth and generates billions of dollars in annual revenues.
And more than 30 international steamship lines service the Port today, making Virginia a true maritime hub.
As a whole, Virginia’s maritime community is critical to a healthy economy throughout the Commonwealth.
But a key challenge we must address is ensuring that the Port of Virginia is a financially sustainable, and profitable investment that creates jobs right here in Virginia
Bringing a business-like approach to strengthening the Port’s is one of my top priorities as Governor, and I believe we are already off to a great start.
I am encouraged by the work that our new Port Authority Executive Director John Reinhart is doing in carrying out the Port of Virginia’s “Vision Forward,” pursuing three key priorities: excellence in operations, fiscal responsibility, and growth.
And I am confident that under John’s leadership, the men and women who serve at the Port will maintain their high standards while helping to make the Port the fiscally sustainable enterprise that it should be. We are already beginning to see signs of improvement that will serve as the foundation of a real turnaround with the right leadership and support.
Another key challenge is transportation.
As governor, it is my job to ensure that every one of your tax dollars is spent wisely. That is why I suspended work on the Route 460 project and instructed VDOT’s engineers to go back to the drawing board to come up with a more workable solution. I understand the concept of the Route 460 project – we need better infrastructure to open up the Port and provide safe disaster evacuation routes.
But there is no excuse for spending taxpayer money on a project that has not been fully permitted, which is why I instructed Secretary Layne to pause all work until we can be sure this is a good investment for Virginia taxpayers.
And that is the approach we are taking to other key transportation issues in this region.
We can have the deepest, best managed Port in the world, but it doesn’t matter if there is gridlock and congestion right outside our gates.
Exporters and importers need to know that they can get their products to and from our port efficiently and reliably.
That’s why I recently signed legislation to create the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission.
This new body will administer up to $10 billion in new transportation funds for the region. The money will be spent on the projects that mitigate congestion and help the customers of the Port deliver their products across the country and around the globe.
And I am proud to report that we will turn dirt on this first project within a year and a half from today.
By meeting the challenges we face head on, we are on the path to a more profitable, fiscally-healthy, operationally-modern Port that is ready to lead our Commonwealth into the economy of the future.
And with the widening of the Panama Canal soon to be completed, Virginia can seize our opportunity to meet the needs of the new, Post-Panamax vessels. But that means staying ahead of our competitors.
As we speak, Miami is digging its port deeper and New York is raising its bridges higher to attract those ships and lure port business that should come to Virginia if we are smart and aggressive enough to capture it.
Thanks to the improvements being put in place by the Port’s new leadership team, we can look forward to steady growth on a sound fiscal basis. We can also increase overall capacity by building out phase 2 of the APM terminal and – over the longer term – opening Craney Island for business.
And thanks to our rail partners Norfolk Southern and CSX, over thirty percent of all goods moving in and out of the Port travel by rail. These fast, efficient freight movers connect our Port to key markets across the country. And with competitive rail service to each of our terminals, I expect to see this percentage increase dramatically.
By capitalizing on the opportunities in front of us and enacting reforms to increase our competitiveness, we can make the Port of Virginia the asset we need to assert ourselves as a global leader in the 21st Century economy.
That is what I am focused on every day: growing our economy and creating jobs in every corner of the Commonwealth. Strengthening our international trade relationships is an integral part of my economic development strategy.
Those of you in the maritime community are a central part of those relationships. You are the face of the Commonwealth to the world of international trade.
The Port of Virginia is unique in that we appreciate a fair balance of import and export activity and have put the right tools in place to ensure investment in Virginia and the creation of new jobs across the Commonwealth.
For example, earlier this year we announced the approval of Foreign Trade Zone #20 right here in Hampton Roads, which will sustain more than 4,000 jobs.
We should be proud and excited that this designation will allow companies like Stihl, Canon and many others to continue to invest, expand and hire here in Virginia.
In addition to the Port, Virginia’s other international gateway is Dulles Airport. Together these two global business hubs secure Virginia’s reputation nationwide.
But we can always be doing more to market ourselves to potential businesses and customers overseas.
That’s why I have asked John Milliken and MWAA Chairman Rusty Conner to assemble a group of state government leaders that will examine ways these two global institutions can work together for the good of the entire Commonwealth
This working group, along with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, will design a collaborative strategy for branding Virginia in international markets.
I have directed members of my administration to work with both groups to establish a working relationship so that we can connect our major air and maritime trade hubs and the show world that Virginia is ready to take on an expanded role in world trade.
And as many of you know, Agriculture and forestry are a particular emphasis of mine when it comes to international trade.
Virginia agricultural exports reached a new all-time high of $2.85 billion in 2013, up more than 8 percent in total value from the previous record. Secretary of Agriculture & Forestry Todd Haymore and I are already hard at work with an eye towards exceeding $3 Billion in exports for Virginia in 2014. The Port of Virginia and the entire maritime community are critical partners and assets in achieving this goal.
Virginia is currently the 14th largest exporting state in America and the fourth largest on the East Coast. One of my top economic development goals is to make Virginia the East Coast capital for agricultural exports.
In pursuit of that goal, this week we announced that U.S. and Chinese officials informed us that the ban on Virginia poultry exports to China has been rescinded after nearly 7 years.
This news represents a huge opportunity not only for the Virginia poultry industry, which is the largest individual sector of Virginia’s agricultural industry, but also for the Port of Virginia and the export opportunities associated with this activity. We believe that Virginia stands to gain $20 million or more in export sales each year.
We are making great progress increasing Virginia’s global footprint when it comes to agricultural exports, but we can and must do more.
With new trade deals, trade missions, additional resources, and new investments at the Port of Virginia by the Commonwealth, companies, and the railroads, I believe that we can be the top exporting state on East Coast.
My Secretary of Agriculture Todd Haymore – who is here tonight - is already hard at work at this goal with an eye towards exceeding $3 Billion in exports for Virginia in 2014.
I also get on the phone every day to talk to representatives from different nations, encouraging them to do business in Virginia.
I have met with Ambassadors from Canada, Japan, Vietnam, and Great Britain. I recently signed a new trade agreement with France and just recently hosted the Foreign Minister of Qatar and his delegation.
And last month the Ambassador of Korea held a dinner for me and several members of my cabinet so we could meet with their country’s top business leaders.
We’ve got the products, the infrastructure, the technologies, and the human capital to make help Virginia’s businesses continue to grow in the future.
This is an excellent example of how with hard work and dedication we can help Virginia’s economy grow and ensure that Virginia businesses remain economically competitive.
And as I conclude my remarks, I want you all to know how proud I am of your contributions to the Commonwealth. The men and women of our Maritime industry help grow and diversify our economy.
I am confident that by working together we can build on the great assets we have to ensure that Virginians are stronger, healthier and better prepared to succeed in a 21st Century economy.