By Mark Romer
For four decades, the company I work with has provided equipment to help build Virginia’s infrastructure and lay the groundwork for its industries. We’re proud of the contribution we’ve made to Virginia’s economy, as well as the opportunities we’ve helped create for the dedicated and skilled workers who roll up their sleeves and get jobs done.
Sadly, opportunities for our industry and the workforce that maintains and operates our equipment have diminished in recent years. Construction has lagged. Manufacturing and mining have contracted. Investments in new infrastructure have declined. Too often, and in too many communities, jobs and economic opportunity have disappeared as a result.
That’s what makes the Atlantic Coast Pipeline such an enormously important opportunity for the construction industry and working people in Virginia. As many have put it — most notably Governor McAuliffe — this pipeline will be an economic game changer for hundreds of Virginia businesses and thousands of our working men and women.
The pipeline’s economic benefits are well recognized: Thousands of good-paying construction jobs. Hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts for local businesses and suppliers. Lower energy costs for all Virginians. Increased economic growth and expanded access to more affordable energy.
Building the pipeline will support more than 8,000 jobs here in Virginia, including nearly 5,000 directly involved in construction activities. Construction will also generate more than $1.4 billion in new economic activity in our state — one of the largest capital investments in Virginia’s history.
Much of that economic activity will come in the form of salaries paid to the equipment operators, pipefitters, welders, construction workers and others with the skills needed to put the pipe in the ground safely and efficiently. Years of lost jobs, lost wages, lost opportunities for these men and women and their families will be reversed. Our middle class will receive the huge boost it deserves.
The benefits, of course, will extend well beyond the craftspeople directly involved in building the pipeline. Construction will provide new opportunities for businesses and workers that manufacture and sell the materials, supplies and machines needed to complete it. Retail establishments such as restaurants and stores will get a boost as workers spend their wages throughout the economy. New, good-paying jobs will be the source of more tax revenue for our localities and state government — revenue needed to maintain vital public services like education and law enforcement.
While pipeline construction will provide a major shot in the arm to the middle class, the economic benefits of this pipeline won’t stop when the last mile of pipe is completed and the gas starts flowing southward.
Over the long term, this pipeline will help revitalize our manufacturing sector here in Virginia and bring good-paying job opportunities for the thousands of workers needed to build and operate new factories.
Over the past decade, the increased production of natural gas in the Northeast has already spurred a manufacturing renaissance in many areas that have been fortunate enough to gain access to these new and lower-cost supplies. The missing ingredient in the rebirth of Virginia’s manufacturing base is new infrastructure connecting us to these large new supplies of domestic natural gas. That connection is the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
Virginia’s existing pipelines are operating at the limits of their capacity, often to the point where no new large customers can be served. Without new pipeline infrastructure, we’re not going to be able to attract new industries and new manufacturing. But with new infrastructure like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Virginia will be in a very strong position.
The people I work with and I are proud to support the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. We belong to the Energy Sure Coalition — a group of more than 200 businesses, unions and other organizations that are working very hard to ensure the successful completion of this vitally important project.
The viewpoints of our coalition’s members are diverse, but we agree on one thing: We must move beyond lip-service about strengthening our middle class and providing new opportunities for our working people. It’s time for concrete action. It’s time to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
Mark Romer is president of James River Equipment, which sells and services John Deere construction equipment. He may be contacted at MRomer@jamesriverequipment.com.
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will be an economic game changer for hundreds of Virginia businesses and thousands of our working men and women.