Kaine’s standard campaign message includes a heavy emphasis on the importance of education and the “talent economy.” In Northern Virginia, that can mean luring workers with advanced engineering degrees. To the south, it might refer to vocational training.
In Floyd, Kaine said, “they really get the training issues, because unlike Northern Virginia, this is a part of the state where there is a significant concern that parents have: When our kids finish school, will they go away, and will they come back or not?”
In the south, Kaine continued, “these folks get the infrastructure stuff. It may be different kinds of infrastructure. It may be broadband rollout that is what they really need here rather than the next interchange.”
Allen also delivers a reliably consistent stump speech at his appearances, regardless of geography. He nearly always promotes smaller government, lower taxes, the repeal of President Obama’s health-care law, and increased oil and gas exploration.
In recent weeks, he has emphasized the billions of dollars in defense cuts looming in January unless Obama and Congress reach a deal to avert them. In Danville, he also mentioned the need to quickly approve new construction and the protection of Virginia’s right-to-work laws.
“Every part of Virginia has its own strengths,” Allen said in Danville.
To illustrate his point, Allen cited data centers, which many counties — from Loudoun and Prince William in the north to Mecklenburg in the south — are trying to attract because they bring plentiful jobs.
“There are more [workers] that are conversant in running a data center in Northern Virginia, but the costs are less here,” he said.
Energy prices are lower to the south, as are labor and construction costs. Local leaders are trying to use those advantages to gradually transform the region.
Typical of Danville’s economic journey is Multi-Wall Packaging, a company Allen visited this month. It started in the 1920s, making textiles and then furniture, and now has transitioned to making cardboard packing materials. Business has been decent and will continue as long as U.S. companies have plenty of products to ship.
“We’ve been kind of holding our own, but we’ve got to make sure we keep manufacturing in the United States,” Keith Kushner, Multi-Wall’s vice president of manufacturing, told Allen.
In Floyd, 90 miles northwest of Danville, the economic goals are very distinct.
“We don’t need big factories coming here,” said Woody Crenshaw, the owner of the Floyd Country Store, where Kaine played the harmonica with a bluegrass band on a recent night.
Own quality of life
With its galleries and burgeoning music scene, Floyd has sought to become a destination for artists, tourists and retirees. “We have a quality of life that we’re interested in protecting,” Crenshaw said.
Winchester, where Allen chatted with business owners on a recent morning, falls between Virginia’s two economic extremes. The unemployment rate in June was 4.9 percent, below the state average but slightly higher than most of Northern Virginia. “It’s very slow growth, but it’s going in the right direction,” said Lanita Byrne, the co-owner of Espresso Bar and Cafe on Winchester’s downtown mall.
Down the block, at Bell’s clothing store, owner Stephen Shendow also told Allen that business is “flat right now. But we’re hoping things will change.”