Stephen Moret: Aiming to Restore Virginia as Jobs Leader

Stephen Moret, CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership

Stephen Moret, CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. Photo credit: Washington Business Journal.

Stephen Moret, the new director of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) has been on the job long enough to tour the state, meet business leaders and regional economic development officials, and summarize impressions of his first 100 days. In a letter he broadcast widely through the economic development community, he articulated five aspirational goals and enumerated eleven projects he hopes to see accomplished by the end of 2017.

The five broad goals include:

  • Position Virginia to achieve an employment growth rate among the top three Southern states (and top five in the United States). This will require creating 20,000 jobs per year over and above existing forecasts.
  • Ensure that every region of Virginia participates in that growth. Over the past five years, nearly half of Virginia’s counties and cities have lost population. “While we can’t ensure that every county will grow, we can ensure that every region will grow.”
  • Restore Virginia’s standing to the top rankings (average in the top three) of the best states for business.
  • Re-establish VEDP as “America’s premier state economic development organization.” Other states have stepped up their game. “We are going to clearly describe where we are behind and articulate what it will take to get back on top.”
  • Emphasize the “P” in VEDP — develop strong relations with local and regional economic developers, the Port of Virginia, GO Virginia, the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, railroads, utilities, and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

This year, Moret said he will focus upon implementing Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) recommendations for the administrative reform of VEDP as well as the following:

  • Develop a target-industry economic development strategy and action plan for the state and each of its regions.
  • Create a marketing/branding, site-consultant cultivation, and lead-generation program, and introduce a legislative proposal to fund it.
  • Launch a “world-class, turnkey, customized workforce recruitment and training program modeled after such programs in Georgia and Louisiana.”
  • Launch a targeted business retention and expansion program.
  • Develop a comprehensive strategy to position rural Virginia for growth.

“I’ve been amazed by the physical beauty of Virginia; the incredible human capital, higher education, infrastructure, and geographic assets here; the high-quality companies making world-class products and/or delivering world-class services; and the professionalism and passion of Virginia economic development practitioners,” wrote Moret, who ran Louisiana’s economic development program before moving to Virginia. “Based on what I’ve seen so far at VEDP and across the Commonwealth, I’m even more enthusiastic about the opportunities facing us than I was when my appointment was first announced.”

Bacon’s bottom line: Stephen Moret is bringing new energy and a fresh eye to an economic development apparatus that grew complacent from previous successes. As VEDP chief, however, his job is bringing outside capital investment and jobs to Virginia, which is only one leg of a diversified economic development strategy. Most jobs will be created by existing Virginia businesses and new start-up businesses, which are outside of Moret’s portfolio. But I think Virginians can feel reassured that the corporate-recruitment function is in good hands.

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18 responses to “Stephen Moret: Aiming to Restore Virginia as Jobs Leader

  1. In reading up on Mr. Moret – this caught my eye:

    ” Under Moret’s leadership………. more than 91,000 new direct and indirect jobs and $62 billion in capital investment. ………..securing ConAgra’s sweet potato processing facility, which leverages research developed at the LSU AgCenter.

    Many of the wins Moret and his team have secured were partially the result of innovative public/private partnerships LED developed with state universities to expand and modernize computer science programs, including those at Louisiana Tech, LSU, UL-Lafayette, UL-Monroe and UNO. In 2008, Moret collaborated with the Louisiana Community and Technical College System to create LED FastStart, a customized workforce-training program that Business Facilities has ranked the top state workforce-training program in the country for the last five years in a row.”

    https://www.lsu.edu/ur/ocur/lsunews/MediaCenter/News/2015/03/item75758.html

    so I bet it won’t be long before the “using our tuition for R&D” boo-birds will be hooting and hollering with even more vigor!

    I confess.. initially I saw his “goals” as a bit pompous with a lot of room to claim success and little room for actual measurement of achievements.

    but upon reading further – I’m on board with his thinking.. and he clearly sees the Universities as job-creators in the rural areas…and community colleges as workforce training ….for the State! Lord Lord – what a CONCEPT!

    Virginia will be more difficult than Louisiana which basically was an economic basket-case and a target-rich environment for even tepid Economic Development but looks like Moret wants the Virginia challenge to further sharpen his skills and reputation!

    My big fear is that he may be too much for the “Virginia Way” to tolerate.

    It’s not like his “recipe” is all that revolutionary.. it’s basically reality and common sense – but a seriously disruptive way of thinking in Virginia given it’s near-incompetent performance at economic development to date.

    I hope he succeeds and outruns the political cretins.

  2. Will he be captured by Virginia’s most sacred cow – real estate developers? The Commonwealth has spend billions of tax dollars on infrastructure to enrich well-positioned landowners. Case in point, despite the fact that the Silver line has allowed virtually unlimited density at the four Tysons rail stations, landowners are paying only $400 million of Phase 1’s $2.9 billion cost. And similarly, the County is dedicating the entire C&I transportation real estate tax to fund Tysons projects supporting the higher density.

    And based on an answer to one of my questions, Fairfax County has no idea if and when the additional real estate taxes from Tysons’ redevelopment will enable the County to provide real estate tax relief to the residents and businesses.

    Let’s focus on Larry’s workforce training proposals and assume they would have been adopted and consumed some of the tax dollars spent to enable multi-millionaire land speculators to make even more. Which would have created more jobs? I don’t know.

  3. I don’t see any history on this guy viewing land-development as economic development.. he’s focused on jobs… and what kinds of things the state can actually do to attract employers – including workforce training.

    We blathered a lot about “free community college”.

    Would the state incentivize customized workforce training to attract an employer? Would that be considered a raid on taxpayers for an expanded govt function or would it be viewed as “economic development”?

    OH MY STARS – Look at THIS:

    ” We reimburse you up to 50% of your new employee’s starting wage rate to offset your extraordinary training costs. Reimbursement lasts from three months up to 26 weeks, depending on the complexity of the job and the current skills and qualifications of your new employees. We customize an OJT program to meet your needs. Your new employee is trained for specific work requirements. ”

    http://www.vec.virginia.gov/employers/incentives/trade-act/on-the-job-training

  4. “so I bet it won’t be long before the “using our tuition for R&D” boo-birds will be hooting and hollering with even more vigor!”

    Larry, what does that even mean? Is anything in this article about using tuition for R&D? It does not appear to be about that to me. Why would we be “boo birds” if there is nothing in this about tuition for R&D. Does this mean you admit that tuition has been used for R&D (which you have always strenuously denied) and this is an example of a justifiable use? Again, what does this even mean?

  5. re: ” Does this mean you admit that tuition has been used for R&D (which you have always strenuously denied) and this is an example of a justifiable use?”

    NOPE!

    it means the same group of people who suspect nefarious behaviors with respect to tuition but have no real evidence will once again get their rumps in an uproar when this new guy forms new partnerships between the Universities and the private sector!

  6. What you say is a non sequitur. Your statement makes no sense. They are not related.

    And you use the word “nefarious” regarding use of tuition. Nefarious means “wicked or criminal.” It is not criminal to use tuition for R&D. I have never said that. It is perfectly legal given uses of tuition are “unrestricted” (see the reports I’ve directed to you that you do not appear to have read). I have said that sources of “Institutionally” funded research should be transparent. That is something quite different.

    You say “no real evidence”. Really? Break this into parts:

    * CAN tuition be used to fund R&D? One of the reports I pointed to you several times authored by subject matter experts says conclusively YES. “Sources of revenue for both public and private research universities can be divided into unrestricted and restricted resources. Unrestricted resources CAN be used at the discretion of the institution for the primary missions of teaching, RESEARCH, public service, or any other activity. The primary unrestricted sources for operations are STATE APPROPRIATIONS (public) AND TUITION (both public and private).”

    * IS tuition used to fund R&D? I have pointed you to the commentary of subject matter experts, including a former provost of USC, an emeritus professor at Berkeley, and other former administrators that say the answer is YES. They are subject matter experts, so it is evidence. It would be great to have transparent accounting that tells us this more clearly, but all we have reports on are non-specific “Institutional” funds. Everyone is left having to do forensic accounting analysis to figure this out.

    * HOW MUCH tuition is used to fund R&D? Again, all we know is how much comes from “Institutional” funds (about $17B). It would be great to know if the sources of “Institutional” funds includes tuition, etc. But they don’t provide it.

    Why is any of this too much to ask, Larry?

  7. you have no actual verifiable -authentic evidence Izzo. What you have is anecdotal that is basically an assertion not something anyone can go look at and confirm.

    And my point here is that it conotes nefarious behavior when folks imply it is true – and cannot demonstrate it is true because the data is “not provided”

    I AGREE with you about the transparency issue but that lack of is apparently the typical practice.

    but you can’t go around making such unfounded assertions because you “suspect” it – and that’s my basic objection to this issue as it spans the threads about tuition costs.

    I doubt seriously that tuition is used for R&D, much less in any significant amounts. Tuition is expensive in a LOT of schools INCLUDING ones that don’t do R&D … so until and unless I see some data – I chalk this up to “boo bird” blather.

    the whole theme on tuition costs sorts reminds me of this:

    tongue in cheek Izzo… lighten up!

  8. Izzo – have you seen this:

    Do Academic Research Costs Drive up Undergraduate Tuition?

    https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/issuebrf/sib97313.htm

    • Yes. I have seen that. (It is 20 years old by the way.) It does have this line which supports what I have said:

      “a subsidy of research by tuition cannot be ruled out and might be contributing to the research universities’ persistently higher tuition charges.”

      It then goes on to say non-research university tuition is going up at a similar pace as well. This is correct. I’ve never said R&D is the only source of tuition increase. But I think being transparent about it can help as this is potentially a significant factor at the top research universities, which are setting the tuition cieling. There are certainly a number of other drivers like availability of loans.

      If you look at this article, it is much more more current:

      http://www.changinghighereducation.com/2016/08/the-high-cost-of-funded-research.html

  9. Larry,

    When I was growing up, we had beagles for hunting rabbits. They were good at it. We also had a mixed breed dog with no sense of smell. When the mixed breed got out of the house, it would go to the head of the beagle pack, bark loudly, and lead the pack off in the wrong direction. On this topic, you are that mixed breed dog.

    Subject matter experts say tuition can be used to pay for research. I’ve cited it for you multiple times. You say otherwise. Really, who is to be believed? (If it can be, why can’t we get the answer to how much?)

    I’m not going to pursue this one with you any further. I’ll just leave you with this one to mull over. Virginia Tech spent $218M in “Institutional Funds” on research in 2015. Come up with a plausible scenario for where $218M came from that doesn’t involve tuition or state appropriations (unrestricted funds).

  10. re: “subject matter experts say that tuition CAN be”

    indeed… but do you then presume that means they do and if so to what degree?

    what we can agree on is the lack of transparency. what we disagree on is what conclusions to draw from little real evidence…

    yes the article was 20 years old and was citing the horrendous increases in tuition – back then!!!!

    but to add to what you saw: I saw this:

    ” These data strongly suggest that common underlying dynamics affecting all types of universities and colleges, rather than the presence or absence of organized research activity in some of them, are driving the observed increases in tuition and fees charges.”

    and this to your point – that I do acknowledge:

    ” Universities may pay for these “own” research expenditures, including underrecovery and cost sharing, from a research account or from any of their unrestricted funds accounts:[8] revenue from state sources, industry, private donors, educational sales and services, auxiliary enterprises such as campus stores, etc., and tuition. Thus, a subsidy of research by tuition cannot be ruled out and might be contributing to the research universities’ persistently higher tuition charges. However, the nearly identical tuition increases by all types of institutions would appear to argue against research costs driving up the cost of tuition.”

    and finally this:

    ” It might be argued that, as growing research costs prompt research universities to increase their tuition charges, the other types of institutions follow suit; i.e., that research costs in some institutions help drive up tuition in all of them. However, it is equally conceivable that the research universities are merely responding to the latest increase in tuition charges of other institutions. Both arguments are consistent with data shown in Chart 2, but which might be right, if either, cannot be determined with confidence. Thus, conceptual problems, the fungibility of university revenues, lack of uniform accounting structures in universities and colleges, and the absence of a sufficiently detailed national database preclude drawing a more precise conclusion.”

    which is precisely my position and why I think that the accusers here are jumping to unwarranted and unsupported conclusions that are not supportable… from facts.

  11. Read the other article.

    The bottom line is they CAN, and some subject matter experts I cited assert they DO and the amount is LARGE. (Also see the Charles Schwarts article in Chronicle of Higher Education) http://www.chronicle.com/article/So-You-Want-to-Examine-Your/130672 (you say I presume, I cited experts)

    But we can’t quantify more because the accounting completely opaque. So let’s get that fixed.

    And do the exercise on where Virginia Tech comes up with $218M a year in Institutional funds.

  12. to the bigger picture Izzo – tuition costs have gone up across the board at most all Universities regardless of whether they are major research types or not … so there are other dynamics in play… ergo – even if you got the transparency and/or made it illegal – it would not change the fundamental issue of higher and higher tuition costs.

    But with respect to Mr. Moret and Virginia following a strategy of economic development which depends on Va Colleges partnerships with businesses – I’d hate to see the “anti” tuition cost folks use that concern to oppose such a strategic initiative.

    In other words – the increased tuition costs are not only nationwide but also not with respect to research universities and that issue is far outweighed – in my view – by the potential of those Universities becoming a key ingredient in economic development.

    I’ll end – AGREEING with you that we need more transparency but in the bigger scheme of things the research subsidy angle is making a mountain out of a molehill..

    • Larry,

      I’m not sure why you are conflating economic development and being transparent on spending on research. They seem like two different issues to me.

      I never said transparency on research is the only cause of tuition increase. Clearly, there are multiple factors. I think transparency might be the easiest issue to address in the short term because it could be enacted at a state level and it would help inform choices. Other potential causes, like all you can eat guaranteed loans are more federal in nature. Restructuring post-secondary education will likely play out over a long period of time.

  13. State GDP in Louisiana (apparently not adjusted for inflation) looks pretty flat of late.

    https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/LANGSP

  14. Louisiana unemployment rate better than national average from 2007 through 2014 but worse than national average since 2014.

    http://www.deptofnumbers.com/unemployment/louisiana/

  15. What sells me on this guy – is his belief that education – both the institutions providing it as well as the workforce receiving it are a key strategy.

    He’s leveraging what we already have in permanent assets… rather than relying on monetary incentives to bring new employers who may or may not “stick”.

    R&D at the Universities and Workforce training at the Community Colleges will take us further than just relying on Govt spending in NoVa and Hampton.

    we need to get rid of the ED silos (per TMT) and integrate our ED into a cogent statewide strategy.. and this might be the guy to make that happen.

  16. Good that he is aggressively traveling the state and learning about Virginia’s short comings and advantages. Virginia needs to rethink the “Let’s get more government contractors that’s our all we need to do strategy.” Virginia has a lot of assets and far more than just being close to DC.
    In 1970 I attended a strategy seminar conducted by a former assistant to Robert McNamara who later became President of the University of Oklahoma.
    He said at that time that strengths matched with opportunities coming down the road was a key to develop a long range, forward looking strategy.
    Hopefully this new guy will have some knowledge of that process.
    And, I doubt that our main universities are using tuition to fund research. That would have been illegal when I served as Secretary of Education for Virginia — some 40 years ago though..

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