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
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
“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