Mapping out high-tech growth
What is your vision for Virginia's economy?
My emphasis is on information technology in Virginia. I intend for Virginia
to be the No. 1
information technology state in the entire United States. We have that
opportunity. Most of the
Internet connections in the world go through Northern Virginia. We have
America Online, we
have major presence there with MCI WorldCom, and others as well.
We have a second component also and that's hardware. We have major chip
facilities in Richmond and also Manassas. So we have pretty much every
aspect of this rising information technology community, but the main
emphasis is really on software production and our information technology
and Internet companies. And I intend to continue to emphasize that.
What are you doing to draw companies away from Silicon Valley to set up
Well, as we have seen recently, Netscape was bought by AOL and in this morning's
paper, as a matter of fact, it was announced that one of the key executives
for Netscape is coming to
Virginia to serve in a major leadership role at AOL. So we're going to
see Virginia become more and more of an attraction to this as I continue to
develop policies that put us in the forward-looking position on the Internet.
I have appointed a Secretary of Technology. No other state in America has
that. I also have developed an information technology major leadership
council and advisory council, including people like [AOL CEO] Steve
Case and [MCIWorldCom vice chairman] John Sidgmore.
We would like to have companies from Silicon Valley locate either
subsidiaries here or branches here or their whole companies here. And you
would be happy here. The quality of life in Virginia is very high--it
balances a lovely environment and lovely greenery and the mountains and the
beaches, one of the greatest histories in the entire world with wonderful
tourist opportunities, but mostly a tremendous tradition of freedom of
people, the entire legacy of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and George
Washington, and the opportunity to come here and to live in a free society
that is on the cutting edge of progressiveness.
What will the Secretary of Technology, Don Upson, be doing?
The Secretary of Technology is a unique position. I've appointed
[him] to find
ways to make Virginia the most appealing and successful state for
information technology. We have a major
presence here, and we want to continue for that to grow and develop.
Secondly, he ought to look and see how information technology should be
used in government. And thirdly, he should be a major
producer of thinking
and policy regarding what is going to be in the best interest of Virginia
and the United States in the 21st century. He's working with me as I have
become the appointee to the congressional commission on Internet commerce.
Do you have any specific ideas about economic incentives that would
lure companies here?
We utilize economic incentives in a sound business approach for all types
of industries and
information technology is no exception. We have been very successful in the
bringing major companies to Virginia, such as Volvo. But now I want to add
an additional component--and that is to focus some attention on companies
that are already here. We have so many good things going on in the
state--if there's an expansion, we want it to be here. If they're going to
be adding new jobs and creating new production lines or creating new
subsidiaries, we want it to be here. So this is an approach that encourages
people who are already here to grow and Volvo was the first example of
that. We're offering incentives to an existing player who is going to add a
major production line and we will produce more Volvo trucks than you could
imagine here. That's going to be good for Southwest Virginia--an
opportunity to build jobs and that are high paying that will also utilize
A lot of high-tech manufacturers, despite the booms, have laid off a lot
of workers in the past year. What are you doing to prepare and retrain
people to be part of an ever-changing workforce, especially in this
In terms of workforce, I've directed the Secretary of Commerce and Trade to
draw together all the workforce programs so that we can in fact prepare our
workforce to fill these wonderful jobs that are available here in the
Commonwealth of Virginia. We hope others will come to the state, too, to
fill these jobs too. We would like to see that. Finally, I've placed a
special emphasis on information technology training at both George Mason
University in Fairfax and Old Dominion University in Norfolk so that we can
continue to develop this type of education and training so we can fill
You supported the three-year national Net tax moratorium that passed in
October. As part of the Congressional Advisory Commission on Electronic
Commerce you'll study when and if online services or access should be
taxed. What will you propose?
Well, I am not a pro-tax person to begin with. I am a believer that people
are better off if they
can keep more of their own money and have an opportunity for
entrepreneurship and economic activity. I don't believe that we ought to be
taxing access to the Internet, [but] I think all views ought to be
listened to. I am aware of the concerns of state and local people who are
concerned that sales taxes can be threatened by the burgeoning growth of
e-commerce. At the same time I am concerned that we try to give incentives
for this industry to grow. So we have to find the correct answer on this.
One idea that has come up is a flat tax on e-commerce for sales, which
was sparked by
the problems states and localities have had with collecting sales tax on
mail-order items. What do you think of that idea?
I have heard that there's a proposal that all 50 states each should have
their own separate
taxing ability and their own separate tax authority and tax rate, or the
idea of a national flat tax certainly ought to be considered, but at the
same time I would not assume any particular result. We don't want to lay
additional taxes on any sooner than we have to or any more than we have to.
We should be liberating the people of this country to engage in commercial
activity with the
fewest taxes possible. We are sensitive to the concerns of the needs of
revenue for government, but at the same time we ought to be liberating
people to conduct their private enterprise to the greatest extent that they
can in the fairest way.
Based on the Commission on Information Technology's recommendation, you
preliminarily endorsed open Net access at public libraries. Recently a U.S.
District Court decision in Virginia found the practice of filtering Net
access in libraries to be unconstitutional. Do you think there is ever a
case when a library should screen certain online content?
There are major issues that have to be addressed. In addition to commerce,
privacy issues are very important, free speech issues are very important,
pornography issues are very key. I don't think anybody thinks that
pornography is protected speech, and therefore we have a right to protect
our children from pornography. I am certainly a person that believes in the
maxim of freedom of speech, so we have to find technical ways to be able to
interact and to make all of these values come into fruition at the same
Should libraries have at least one computer with open Net access for
adults to use?
I can't answer that yet. I think that we have to study the question of
library usage and
availability. It may be that we ought to just be recognizing that people
have access in their homes and we maybe ought not to have in libraries, but
I think that's an open issue that remains to be discussed and I'm open to
discussion on it.
Since you have a young child, do you use any filtering programs at
We believe in parental responsibility. I supervise my children directly,
but I believe that there are a variety of ways that parents can choose and
I believe that we ought to be discussing all options and possibilities.