- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 22, 2011

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell is scheduled to make what his office describes as a “major economic development announcement” in Staunton, Va., on Monday, adding to what has been a series of positive business developments in the state this month.

Details of the announcement were closely guarded by Mr. McDonnell’s office, with only a reference to the appearance included in the Republican governor’s daily schedule.

But it comes just days after the release of unemployment figures that show the jobless rate in Virginia continues to fall.

The seasonally adjusted April unemployment rate of 6.1 percent was down one-tenth of a percentage point from the March figure and down a full point from last April, according to figures released Friday.

Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate peaked at 7.2 percent in late 2009 and early 2010.

The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for April was 9 percent, up two-tenths of a point from March.

The month began with an announcement from the governor’s office that Steven Spielberg had chosen to film his upcoming biopic on Abraham Lincoln in Virginia.

While the film director noted the abundance of period architecture in the state, he was also promised a $4.6 million incentive package that includes $1 million from the Governor’s Motion Picture Opportunity Fund, $2.5 million from the Virginia Motion Picture Tax Credit program and $1.1 million in in-kind contributions.

The governor’s office in making the announcement noted that the direct and indirect impact of Virginia’s motion-picture and video production industry in 2009 was $346 million, representing 2,700 jobs for the state.

Then last week, Mr. McDonnell returned from the first of two overseas trips he has planned this year to promote Virginia exports, seek foreign investment and open new trade offices.

Mr. McDonnell said the trip had resulted in about six business agreements and some deals with Virginia ports.

He said more details will be announced in the weeks and months ahead.

Accompanied by first lady Maureen McDonnell and more than a dozen others, the governor courted business leaders in Japan, China and South Korea on the 11-day jaunt through Asia.

He met with Japanese chief executive officers, held receptions for managers and executives in Japan and China and discussed trade with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

While Virginia has maintained a trade office in Japan since 1981, a new Shanghai office is the state’s first trade office in China.

China is now Virginia’s second-largest export market after ranking 14th in 2000. Japan is the 11th and South Korea ranks in the top 30.

More than 120 Japanese companies currently do business in Virginia. Mr. McDonnell hopes the Shanghai office will bring about a similar relationship with China.

“It gives us an opportunity for a Virginia presence,” he said, speaking from Shanghai on a conference call to reporters. “There are tremendous market opportunities for both exports to China and Chinese investment in Virginia.”

Mr. McDonnell also promoted Virginia agricultural products like pork, peanuts, soybeans and wine during the trip from May 7 to 17, which included stops in Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing and Seoul.

The delegation included Secretary of Commerce and Trade James Cheng, Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore and economic development and tourism officials, among others.

Last year, Mr. McDonnell led a similar trip to Germany and the United Kingdom, where he promoted Virginia wines and wood products and was involved in closing a deal with a film-production company to expand operations in Winchester, Va.

His office is planning a trip later this year to Israel and India, where the governor intends to open another trade office.

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