Delegate Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, announced Thursday the passage of legislation that will expand higher education and economic development opportunities for Southwest Virginians.
House Bill 2468, which he co-sponsored, gives greater flexibility for state economic development by enlarging the eligibility for state grants from the Governor's Development Opportunity Fund for economic development projects. They lower the amount of private investment and the number of new jobs, based on both the population of the individual localities and the annual unemployment rate.
"We must find ways to entice and attract companies to locate to rural Virginia, and this bill is a wonderful way to. I am proud to co-sponsor this legislation that expands the eligibility of the Governor's Development Opportunity Fund - I know that this will make our communities very attractive in the eyes of expanding companies," said Kilgore. "Along with the Tobacco Commission's economic development programs, this fund will continue to showcase the many reasons why Southwest Virginia is the place to own and operate a business."
The measure was co-patroned by a broad coalition from Southwest Virginia including Kilgore, Delegate Joe Johnson and state Sen. William Wampler.
The Virginia Senate voted 40-0 on Feb. 19 and the House passed the measure 87-9 on Wednesday.
House Bill 1681 establishes $2,000-a-year grants for those who have earned their associate degrees in Virginia who wish to attend four-year colleges. This bill passed the House of Delegates on Feb. 5, and a substitute that passed the Senate 40-0 on Feb. 20 will likely pass the House this week.
"This is some of the most important legislation we considered this session," said Kilgore. "Our commonwealth must find ways to improve education and technical skills of our workers. This bill will allow people who have earned their associate's degree to receive $2,000 per year to attend a Virginia college to earn a bachelor's degree. I know that this legislation will particularly benefit many in our area who have graduated from Mountain Empire Community College, Virginia Highlands Community College and Southwest Virginia Community College and will now be able to afford furthering their education at our four-year colleges.
"Since we are in a competitive global market, we must produce workers who have sound technical skills and quality education. These grants will encourage Virginians to seek additional educational opportunities to better their lives."
Kilgore, the majority caucus chairman and vice chairman of the Virginia Tobacco Commission, represents Scott County, Lee County and parts of Washington and Wise counties.