Economic growth in the Fifth District has lagged behind the rest of Virginia and the country since the turn of the century. My top priority in Congress will be to reverse this trend by building an inclusive, accessible economy in every community of the Fifth District.
Truly sustainable economic growth is developed from the bottom-up. The challenges facing our communities will never be fixed from Washington alone; they will be solved by local residents and institutions working together to rise to the occasion. I am committed to serving as an ally in Congress and a convener in the Fifth District to ensure the unique needs of our district are met.
Experience to Lead
I believe that my life experiences provide me with the insight and expertise necessary to serve the economic needs of the people of the Fifth District. My family’s story is one of hard work coupled with public investment that allowed us to achieve an upward mobility that is increasingly rare in today’s society.
I was the first person in my family to graduate from college. My grandparents were textile mill workers and truck drivers, and my father - a UAW worker - drove a forklift for the Ford Motor Company for 30 years. Dedicated public school teachers and a merit-based public scholarship allowed me to graduate from the University of West Georgia. After finishing my service in the Marines, I used the GI Bill to attend Harvard Business School. I later spent several years working in the private sector for a high-growth startup before helping lead a big data company.
In Congress, I will use these experiences to make sure that every resident of the Fifth District has access to an economy where they can earn a good life.
Locally Focused for the Fifth District
The Fifth District is the largest congressional district in Virginia and encompasses a diverse constituency, economy, and labor force. The economic challenges and solutions of Warrenton are unlikely to be the the same as those in South Hill.
That variance is why my team and I have developed an economic development plan that is tailored to accommodate the economic realities of five discrete regions, yet comprehensive enough to cover district-wide priorities and principles for expanding economic opportunity.
Although the five regions were created with existing economic patterns in mind, each contains communities with varied strengths and challenges.
Read our regional economic plans:
Region One: Fauquier, Rappahannock, Madison
Region Two: Greene, Albemarle, Charlottesville, Nelson, Fluvanna
Region Three: Buckingham, Cumberland, Prince Edward, Lunenburg, Charlotte, Mecklenburg, Brunswick
Region Four: Henry, Pittsylvania, Danville, Halifax
Region Five: Appomattox, Campbell, Bedford, Franklin
By clicking on the region names above, you can find our localized analysis for each. Below, you can find my district-wide priorities for economic development, many of which are emphasized in the regional analyses. You can also find ways to get in touch with our campaign with your ideas because I believe local stakeholders know the needs of their communities best. My promise is to work with you every day in Congress in order to expand economic opportunity for every resident of the Fifth District.
District-wide Priorities for Expanding Economic Opportunity
Investing in Access to Broadband Internet and Mobile Networks
More than four out of every ten residents of the Fifth District lacks access to broadband internet, and vast areas receive spotty or no cell coverage. In the modern economy, where the ability to instantly communicate with co-workers, family, and friends is paramount, this lack of access represents an enormous barrier to economic development, education, and healthcare delivery.
Today’s rural broadband needs are identical to the electrification needs facing rural Americans a century ago. That’s why I am committed to improving and expanding rural broadband grant and loan programs like USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program and the Broadband Loan and Loan Guarantee Programs, as well as the FCC’s Connect America Fund. Furthermore, existing programs can be improved by giving awardees the flexibility to apply portions of grant and loan funds towards requisite broadband investments on certain projects.
Expanding Workforce Development Programs to Close the Middle-Skills Gap
Despite the Fifth District experiencing overall job loss since 2000, employment opportunities exist for those who have in-demand skills and access to job markets. Healthcare and education, in particular, remain critical sources of employment across the district. Jobs in these fields are more difficult to automate or ship overseas than those in the textile mills and furniture factories that have closed in recent decades. We can also uses data from U.S. Cluster Mapping to identify “clusters” and “subclusters” - regional concentrations of related industries that produce either local or tradable goods - to be targeted for growth and development.
I support the expansion of programs to train residents of the Fifth District for careers in healthcare and education. These programs represent not only an investment in individuals, but in broader communities as well.
The Fifth District’s network of community colleges already offers courses towards a career in nursing or prepare students to transfer to a four-year institution to complete a degree in teaching. I will fight to make these programs accessible for every resident of the Fifth District. I will also advocate for the expansion of work-based and experiential learning, as well as national service opportunities, all of which can provide the credentialed skills that lead to a solid job and good wages at a fraction of the cost of a traditional four-year degree.
I will lead a coordinated effort between community colleges, universities, and the private sector to provide local residents with the in-demand skills necessary for success in the changing economy. Data shows that many of the Fifth District’s clusters employ relatively few people and have lost jobs since 2000.
Despite this challenge, there are strong clusters and subclusters located across the Fifth District, from computer services in Fauquier to hospitality and tourism in the Charlottesville area to forestry in Southside. I will capitalize on these strengths by ensuring that a concentrated effort is made to bring public officials, the private sector, and non-profit organizations - including faith-based groups - together to train a modern workforce.
Enabling Entrepreneurship and Small Business Success
New and small businesses play an outsized role in the Fifth District compared to the rest of the country. More than one in six employees in the Fifth District works for a company that is less than five years old. That share is closer to one in ten employees across the rest of Virginia and the country. More than 40% of employees in the Fifth District work for either a micro-business (fewer than 20 employees) or small business (fewer than 100 employees). Both in Virginia and nationwide, that share is close to 33%.
I support reforming the federal tax code to give new and small businesses the tools they need to grow and thrive. I support the creation of an entrepreneur tax status that would subject businesses to a favorable income tax for the first five years after launching. If properly implemented to avoid abuse, such a tax status would provide relief and certainty for new companies in the critical initial stages of growth. The tax status could be structured to provide further relief for new companies in rural communities, which face challenges that those in urban areas do not.
I will work closely with incubators and the Virginia Small Business Development Center (SBDC) network across the Fifth District to provide new and small businesses with proper levels of support.
Supporting Workers’ Rights
Americans have never worked harder for less. There are several factors that contribute to sluggish wage growth in recent decades, but it is undeniable that workers have not been properly supported for too long: In Virginia, union membership has been halved since its high in 1992. Minimum wage remains at the federal level of $7.25/hr and $2.14/hr for tipped employees since the last increases in 2009 and 1991, respectively.
I am a strong supporter of unions because I believe an adversarial system of bargaining ensures the best outcomes for our workers and our economy. In Congress, I will push the Department of Labor to properly enforce rules that protect the right to organize for American workers while working to update labor laws to reflect the realities of the modern economy.
I support raising the minimum wage and attaching it to inflation. More than one third of minimum wage earners are over 40. These workers have seen the price of goods and groceries go up over the last several years while their wages and benefits remain stuck. American taxpayers currently subsidize companies that pay their workers so little they are forced to rely on assistance programs. To change this, I will advocate for policies that incentivize companies, both large and small, to raise their employees’ wages so that they no longer need SNAP benefits or Medicaid to get by.
The Path Forward for Economic Development
Rural communities can no longer plan in a silo. We must look to our regional partners and leverage our collective assets to address the unique challenges and opportunities facing our rural communities. That’s why I support programs that incentivize regional collaboration like USDA’s Strategic Economic and Community Development Program and Virginia’s “GoVirginia” program. Through grant programs like these, our communities in the Fifth District can force-multiply their economic development efforts and increase the likelihood of project funding.
I am committed to utilizing data and the expertise of those who live in our communities to complete our mission to build an inclusive, accessible economy everywhere in the Fifth District. A variety of quantitative data sources were consulted when putting together this economic development plan, including the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Moody’s Analytics, U.S. Cluster Mapping, and the U.S. Census. Stakeholders from across the Fifth District were also consulted in its development.
My plan for economic development in the Fifth District is far from finished. I will continue to advocate for policies that address the holistic needs of our communities, such as building a 21st century energy grid and addressing the opioid crisis. I will continue to travel the district, listening to residents, students, business owners, and elected officials to learn more about their ideas to strengthen their communities. I want to hear from people of all walks of life, and no idea is too small.