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Virginia is for offshore wind lovers

By Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam

I'd like to begin by extending our thanks to the Business Network for Offshore Wind, Virginia Department of Energy, and others for the hard work they put in to make this conference happen. It is never easy to pull together so many different companies and organizations under one roof, and to do so safely and effectively during this time is truly an impressive accomplishment.

I am confident that here in Virginia you will find a place that you want to call home. We have a highly skilled workforce with robust workforce development programs, some of the best schools in the nation, investments in major infrastructure such as the Port of Virginia, and most importantly, a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere.

These are just some of the many reasons why just last month CNBC ranked Virginia the Best State for Business—the only state to top this ranking back to back.

I could not be prouder of what this says about the inclusive, commonsense policies that we have put in place, and how they encourage business investment.

However, we are not content to sit back and enjoy our past success. We are constantly striving to remain ahead of the curve, and set our sights on the next big challenges faced by our country.

For this reason and many more, Virginia continues to focus our efforts on the offshore wind industry, which holds such tremendous promise.

In fact, we first began developing our offshore wind assets more than 10 years ago. Today, we are home to the first two turbines in federal waters, and we are well equipped to grow a new American industry. When this project is fully built out, it will be 2,600 megawatts, and power over 650,000 homes.

This is just the start to the development of more offshore wind projects for the region, such as the North Carolina Kitty Hawk Offshore. This project will be 2,500 MW and we appreciate working with the North Carolina team to support this endeavor and our shared goals.

Virginia is home to the largest naval base in the world, and the largest federal shipbuilder, Newport News Shipbuilding.

We are the fourth largest container port on the east coast, with no overhead air draft and only 18 miles to open ocean. Given our proximity to the East Coast Offshore Wind development areas, all less than a day's sail away, we see Virginia as the perfect hub for this booming industry.

However, just like we do with so many of our major initiatives, we are taking a collaborative approach. As we say back in my home on the Eastern Shore, a rising tide lifts all boats.

That is why we created the Mid-Atlantic Wind Training Alliance to bring together schools from across the Southeast to prepare the critical workforce we need to grow this new national industry.

I am pleased to report that we have three Global Wind Organization training programs up and running in Maryland and Virginia. Dozens of K-12 schools, community college and university maritime programs, and skilled trades and engineering programs are incorporating offshore wind skills training into their programs.

To support these efforts, we were proud to work with and learn from local and international partners.

For example, we recently committed to sharing information and working together with the Basque Government of Spain on clean energy, energy efficiency, and energy storage technologies.

About a year ago, we were excited to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland. We will all collaborate to prepare the nation and the world for the benefits of offshore wind.

Now, it's one thing to make an agreement—it's another thing to actually put it in operation. Over this past summer, our three states worked with a consulting firm on how to build a framework to grow and expand this initiative.

They interviewed Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 offshore wind manufacturers and suppliers to find out what they thought our three-state partnership could do that would help their business grow in the U.S.

And what we got back were some good ideas. We will look at ways to enhance our state permitting process and create cross-state workforce development initiatives. And we will strengthen our multi-state coordination in order to help companies work with the various state permitting agencies.

We have taken this collaborative approach here at the International Offshore Wind Partnering Forum, with a tri-state trade show booth between Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland, and I encourage you all to meet the folks hard at work on these initiatives.

Our teams from the Virginia Department of Energy, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and The Port of Virginia are here to answer your questions and help you learn more about investing here—welcome to Virginia!

For the Record is edited from a presentation by former Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, given at the International Offshore Wind Partnering Forum (IPF), hosted by the Business Network for Offshore Wind (www.offshorewindus.org), in Richmond, Virginia, this past August.