Democratic candidate for Virginia Governor discusses improving Southwest Virginia economy
A candidate for Virginia Governor has been touring Southwest Virginia this weekend, with a focus on issues close to home.
News 5's Jessica Griffith sat down with Tom Perriello to learn if elected, how he plans to help the economy in Southwest Virginia.
Democratic candidate Tom Perriello wants to see more job options for our region.
He tells us people here have been extremely dependent on coal jobs, so he wants to focus on more opportunities our area provides.
"We want to make sure we're not left behind in the jobs of the future," Perriello said. "I think there's a big hope and a possibility for reviving the economy in this region." We wanted to find out what Perriello would do for the coal industry. While he didn't tell us his stance on the issue, he says Virginian's need more options, outside of coal for job opportunities. "Today there are more Americans in the clean energy economy than the fossil fuel economy. And we want to make sure we're putting Virginia at the cutting edge of that as well," he said.
But, Delegate Terry Kilgore disagrees. He doesn't think there are more clean energy jobs.
"Because when you look at fossil fuels you not only look at coal you look at gas, you look at oil. And there's a lot of jobs in gas, oil and coal," Kilgore said. He said coal is here to stay. "We are looking at diversifying the economy but coal is still going to be here. Coal is going to be part of any power grid that we have in the United States. I don't think we're going to be able to get away from that," he said. Perriello thinks Southwest Virginia has opportunities for new industries in agriculture and energy, which could make it a destination for people in Northern Virginia and beyond. "Perhaps by purchasing more locally grown artisanal products, looking at these small businesses they can invest in, we think there's a lot of opportunity here," he said. Kilgore and Perriello agree that coal miners deserve what they were promised.
"I think we want to make sure that these people who gave their life to coal mining and are guaranteed certain health benefits and pensions that we have to respect that sanctity of contract," Perriello said. "Anybody who's ever been in a coal mine anybody who's witnessed the job that they do realize that they deserve every penny," Kilgore said. Both men agree that Southwest Virginia should be a top priority for the next governor. "We need a governor that first of all knows where Southwest Virginia is and that realizes we do need some economic development we need marketing from the state to help us a little bit more," Kilgore said.
"I think there's a lot of interest as well in making sure that the next governor of Virginia actually pays attention to this area," Perriello said. As governor, Perriello said he'll push for two years of free community college for Virginians.
He tells us this would appeal not only to coal miners, but also their kids, as there isn't enough opportunities for graduating high school seniors.