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Virginia asks small business: How can we help?

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia and America’s future economic success lies in the ability of small businesses to grow and create jobs, Gov. Bob McDonnell told a group of small business owners and policymakers Thursday.

McDonnell’s office hosted the summit to support small businesses, which make up 98 percent of all business in Virginia and create about 75 percent of all new jobs in the state. The event in suburban Richmond featured panels on procurement, technology, key issues and financing for small businesses.

McDonnell said the summit was an opportunity to hear how policymakers can support and foster a positive environment in which the state’s 225,000 small businesses can innovate, expand and grow jobs and opportunities.

“The key to creating those opportunities for our fellow Virginians lie with you and we want to know how we can do more things to be able to help you,” McDonnell told the crowd of an estimated 400 attendees.

“There are tens of thousands of new businesses that must be created in this country over the coming decades just to sustain the current level of economic success that we have. … That’s a big burden on you. But I feel it’s a burden on us as well to find out what can government do to create the environment where you entrepreneurs can thrive.”

The governor said that Virginia has worked to grow small businesses by expanding trade opportunities, creating a one-stop website to help streamline the process of starting a business, increasing the availability of incentives and tax credits and supporting small business retraining programs.

Since February 2010, Virginia has seen its unemployment rate drop from about 7.2 percent to about 6 percent, but that number has ticked back up in recent months to about 6.3 percent — a number that McDonnell is hoping to reverse.

“It’s a sign of great caution for us and we’re all over trying to find out how we can continue to chip away at that unemployment rate,” McDonnell said.

Jim Cheng, state secretary of commerce and trade, also addressed the group, saying that job creation remains the No. 1 priority in Virginia.