WINCHESTER— Local business leaders are excited that CNBC has again named Virginia the best state for business in 2021.

This marks the fifth time Virginia has received the honor since CNBC began releasing the list in 2007, which is more than any other state. As the list was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Virginia was the first state to receive the top spot in consecutive years, having also done so in 2019.

Even in the midst of a global pandemic, local leaders said Virginia — including the Northern Shenandoah Valley — has done a “remarkable” job at staying positive and pushing ahead.

“Despite working through one of the most challenging economic times of our generation, our businesses have persevered and continue to lead the way for a promising tomorrow for all,” Top of Virginia Regional Chamber CEO Cynthia Schneider said.

The study ranked states in 10 categories, with Virginia ranking second in education, third in workforce, ninth in access to capital, 11th in business friendliness as well as life, health and inclusion, and 13th in economy.

The CNBC study pointed out that nearly 39% of Virginia workers have a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The study adds that Virginia has the nation’s third-highest concentration of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Many local business leaders acknowledged and praised the different programs available in the Northern Shenandoah Valley for students, especially at Lord Fairfax Community College. Those programs, they agreed, play a pivotal role in strengthening the local and state workforce with skilled workers in multiple aspects of business and in a variety of industries.

Beyond that, local leaders said industrial development has been a major focus throughout the region and Virginia in recent years.

“The state has prioritized development over the past couple of years with the creation of new programs, especially when it comes to workforce which is front and center right now for employers and developers,” said Jenna French, Shenandoah County’s director of tourism and economic development, upon hearing the news. “Programs such as the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program and G3 are helping to put the state on the map and stand out in the eyes of the business community. The state is also looking at ways to support development across all regions and not just the metropolitan areas.”

Steeped in a history of manufacturing, factory and warehouse work, the Northern Shenandoah Valley plays a vital role in the state’s business community, according to local leaders.

Companies such as Amazon, Trex, Berry Global, Georges, and Andros Foods, and many others, help the region thrive. Add in the Virginia Inland Port, and that’s a recipe for success, local leaders suggested.

“This designation will hopefully inspire more business owners to start or relocate their companies to our beautiful state,” Nikki Foster, the Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce’s president, said. “With the Inland Port virtually in our backyard and our strong industrial and small business base, this designation also reinforces what we’ve always known.”

Health care facilities and small businesses in the region likely helped play a role in Virginia’s ranking in the business friendliness and life, health and inclusion categories as well.

— Contact Matt Welch at mwelch@winchesterstar.com

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