Manassas Journal Messenger 04-26-01


speaks on tech market


Alfred M. Biddlecomb



Gubernatorial candidate and venture capitalist Mark Warner told local

business leaders Wednesday that continued innovation and an educated work

force can sustain the area’s high-tech economy for years to come.

Warner addressed members of the Prince William Regional Chamber of Commerce

in the latest installment of its Dialogue 2000 Plus forums at George Mason

University’s Prince William campus Wednesday.

Warner, who built a fortune through investments in the wireless industry

during the 1980s and early 90s, said that a progressive attitude in the

business community and in government can help sustain the economic surge

experienced in Virginia over the past six years.

“High-tech innovation has helped areas like Northern Virginia, but

technology will flow everywhere,” Warner said. “Regardless of

the slow down, this information age is not going away.”

The key, Warner said, is to take steps in providing a properly trained

work force. While colleges and universities are training grounds, Warner

said an emphasis on vocational education is often underestimated.

“Middle-class jobs are disappearing at an alarming rate,” Warner

said “They are being replaced by knowledge-based jobs and jobs in the

service sector.”

But even service sector jobs will eventually be trimmed while moving

toward high tech, he said.

“A strong work ethic and strong back may not be enough to support

your family in the new economy,” Warner said. “It may not be an

appropriate choice for every kid to go to a four-year university.”

Warner said that vocational education has long been underutilized and

should be reinvigorated not solely because of the skills that are taught

but because of the values of teamwork and problem-solving that go along

with it.

“Every kid should be exposed to vocational education by the eighth

or ninth grade,” Warner said.

Warner, the Democratic candidate for governor, will be challenged by

Republican John Hager or Mark Earley in the November election.

Speaking with business leaders for more than an hour, Warner took the

time to give his opinion on the new economy as well as take questions.

Though speaking mainly on business and the changing workplace, Warner

couldn’t avoid referring to his run to succeed Gov. James S. Gilmore III.

“I’m a job applicant myself at this point,” Warner said about

his run for governor.

Warner describes himself as a fiscal conservative who believes the state

government’s role in maintaining a strong economy is to provide infrastructure,

such as top-notch schools and a quality transportation system.

One of his ideas includes requiring every road built in Virginia to also

include a conduit for fiber-optic cable to be built beside the roadbed.

This, he said, would spread high-speed communication capabilities in both

urban and rural areas.

“We could lease this high-tech right-of-way to cable or high-tech

companies,” Warner said. “It’s innovation like this that will

prepare our state for the years to come.”

One lofty goal Warner described is wiring a long stretch of highway linking

urban and rural areas.

One example, he said, would include wiring U.S. 58, which connects the

research community at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg with the Tidewater area

while providing high-tech infrastructure to rural Southside.

“We’ll never prosper in Virginia if all the good jobs are only in

Northern Virginia,” Warner said. “It’s innovation that drives

our high-tech economy and brings high-tech jobs to places that once had