Washington has a lot to learn from Virginia.
During the past 50 years, Virginia has pursued smart strategies that maintained an environment where businesses can create jobs. And in the past year, I've met with small business owners, industry leaders, employees, educators, students, veterans and others to discuss how Virginia lessons can be applied to the economic challenges we face as a country.
Through these conversations, I've road-tested my ideas for economic growth and taken feedback from those who build our economy. At each stop, I hear the same themes.
Congress needs to put aside partisan divides and come together to encourage job creation. And we must educate our workers with the skills they need to ensure sustainable growth. This month, I released a document that outlines my vision for our economic future, and embarked on a two-week economic tour to share my agenda and continue conversations across Virginia. My vision is forward-focused, Virginia-based and will strengthen our economy by emphasizing growth, talent and balance.
First, we must engage strategies now that will allow businesses to grow immediately. To create new jobs, we need to support initiatives that make it easier for businesses and entrepreneurs to access capital, increase exports and support research and development efforts that will keep us competitive. We cannot adopt the anti-investment mindset that some in Richmond and Washington promote. Investments in infrastructure create jobs immediately and raise the platform for long-term economic success.
In addition, we must pursue an all-of-the-above energy strategy like the one I championed as governor. I put in place Virginia's first comprehensive state energy policy that encouraged conservation and efficiency, while also promoting Virginia's wealth of natural resources, including coal, nuclear power, natural gas, wind, solar and biomass. We must continue this strategy to ensure Virginia and our nation are leaders in the emerging $2.3 trillion clean-energy market.
Government won't be the primary force behind job creation, but it can implement policies — as we've done in Virginia — to unleash the creativity and ingenuity that has made America an economic superpower.
To compete in a global economy, we need a long-term plan that produces the best work force in the world by investing in education, from early childhood development through college and work force training programs, and pairs workers with the skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow.
After the GI Bill greatly expanded higher education access in the aftermath of World War II, our nation became the best-educated one as measured by the percentage of adults who earn some post-high school diploma or credential. But today we've slipped to 16th in the world in the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds achieving post-high school degrees. If we fix everything else but do not return America to its status as the best-educated nation, we will cede our role as the most dynamic economy on Earth.
Finally, we need a balanced approach to our budgets and our politics. The best ideas will not get any traction unless parties work together to solve our big challenges — such as closing our deficit and reducing our debt. As senator, I will work to find common ground to make significant cuts — like the $5 billion I cut from state spending as governor — but also will be open to finding targeted revenue that can be invested to bolster our economy.
These strategies of growth, talent and balance aren't just abstract ideas; they are Virginia ideas that are producing results in communities across the Commonwealth. My work in Richmond helped Virginia's capital revitalize its business climate. When I was governor, Virginia was in the top 10 states for median income; had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation; recruited many world-class companies in the midst of a deep national recession; and was Forbes' Best State for Business four years in a row.
As mayor, I helped Richmond's Governor's School move into a renovated, state-of-the-art facility at Maggie Walker that prepares students for jobs in the increasingly competitive global economy. And as governor, I championed the largest higher education construction bond package in Virginia history, which updated facilities across the state, including at Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia State University. Investments in the training and development of talent have paid off. Businesses such as Rolls Royce and Tumblr have relocated and invested in the Richmond area because our workers and higher education institutions are top quality.
America's economy has been the world's largest for more than a century and, by taking steps now, we can solidify our position for the next century.
Washington can learn from Virginia's success. I'm optimistic about the days ahead, and confident if we put the right people and the right policies in place to make tough decisions, we will excel in the global economy.
Tim Kaine (D) served as governor of Virginia from 2006 to 2010, and is running for the U.S. Senate.