Monday, April 27, 2015

Terry McAuliffe: Virginia's Biggest Pitchman

Governor pushes jobs to help with U.S. funding cuts.

Posted By on Mon, Apr 27, 2015 at 10:57 AM

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

Terry McAuliffe has always been a salesman. When he was 14 and got tired hustling golf caddy jobs in Syracuse, New York, he started his very own “McAuliffe Driveway Maintenance” business, pouring hot tar in the summer and running snow blowers in the winter, according to his 2007 book, “What a Party.”

So it’s hardly a surprise that he’s been busy as governor in selling Virginia. Whether it’s a craft brewery in Richmond, a former corporate campus in Fairfax or a gigantic Chinese pulp mill in Chesterfield County, McAuliffe takes to it.

He may put a Kegerator in the Executive Mansion in his kitchen or eat fried cicadas in the Middle Kingdom, but it doesn’t matter. He once supposedly won a political fundraising bet by wrestling a Florida alligator.

McAuliffe knows that Virginia has some serious issues. The state’s mother’s milk, federal spending, is drying up while sequestration kicks in and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan end. According to The Washington Post, 13 of the top 20 employers in the state are dependent upon federal spending of some sort.

And the Post breaks some bad news when it reported last week that for the first time in modern history, more people are leaving Fairfax and Arlington counties and Alexandria than are moving in. The reasons are cuts in federal jobs plus the sheer madness that commuting in Greater Washington involves. It's a bad sign because Northern Virginia is the economic and tax engine that pretty much drives the rest of the state.

So McAuliffe is getting his Kegerator to help lure Stone Brewing Co. to Richmond. He ate fried cicadas while visiting China to finish landing the huge and advanced Shandong Tranlin pulp mill in eastern Chesterfield near where Interstate 95 meets Route 288. At $2 billion, the project will be the single largest greenfield investment by China in this country ever.

When finished around 2020, Shandong Tranlin will employ 2,000 people and will use farm waste such as corn stalks instead of trees for pulp. It won’t use bleach, either, so there won’t be any highly toxic dioxin to pump into the James.

McAuliffe is also trying to make use of the Fairfax office complex that housed the headquarters of ExxonMobil before it split for Houston in 2012.

McAuliffe is a wealthy businessman and took some political lumps for his involvement in GreenTech, an American firm that bought a Chinese-electric car company. He apparently lobbied to get special visas for Chinese as part of the Mississippi project.

But the irrepressible McAuliffe keeps at it. Among his latest initiatives is getting the Redskins to relocate their stadium to Northern Virginia. He’s also trying to convince hotel giant Marriott International to consider NOVA if it tires of Bethesda for its headquarters.

To be sure, former Gov. Bob (“Bob’s for Jobs”) McDonnell also was big on corporate recruitment and set the stage for the Tranlin Chinese paper plant. Unfortunately, McDonnell will be remembered mostly for Star Scientific, the shaky vitamin firm that figured so prominently in his corruption convictions.



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