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Virginia creates Office of Telework Promotion and Broadband Assistance September 14, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Innovation, Technology, Workforce.

It appears that Virginia is not just for lovers, but for telecommuters, too.

Governor Tim Kaine has created the Virginia Office of Telework Promotion and Broadband Assistance, which “will work to promote telework activities for public and private employees, as well as facilitate the deployment of “last-mile” broadband technologies throughout the state.” (PDF of Gov. Kaine’s executive order) Here’s a little more from the article:

“Telework is a family-friendly, business-friendly public policy that helps us recruit and retain a high-quality workforce in a competitive job market,” Kaine said. “It also protects environmental quality and promotes energy conservation by reducing traffic congestion and vehicle emissions. Telework also allows a better balance between work and family. For all of these reasons, it is important for state government to support public and private sector efforts to promote widespread adoption of telework.”

Citing the ability of telework to reduce air pollution, lower mileage on vehicles and make employees happy, Fairfax County Delegate James M. Scott said, “State government should lead the way” on this issue.

I throw the term “innovative” around a lot (and probably cheapen the term through overuse), but this is visionary. Just last week I wrote a blog entry on telecommuters and the economic development potential that they offer to communities:

There’s a larger workforce and economic development imperative to addressing the world of telecommuters. More and more people are, as they say, “Going Bedouin.” The Gallup Poll says that 1 in 3 Americans have telecommuted to some degree. CCH HR Management indicates that two percent of Americans telecommute on a full-time basis…but many more could if they wanted to.

Whoa. Two percent of 298,444,215 (the July ‘06 population estimate from the CIA, who I suspect has a better grasp on these issues than I) is 5,968,884.

Nearly six million people. All looking for a place to nest, a place to learn, a place to live, a place to plug in. This is a radically different view of economic development than the world of industrial parks. Infrastructure will relate more to quality of life than cargo load capacity of highways and rail lines. With rapidly dropping costs in telecommunications infrastructure due to wireless communications, this is an economic development game that nearly every community can engage in.

So how do we attract telecommuters to our cities, to shop in our grocery stores, buy our gas and (of course) drink our coffee?

I never thought that these concepts would be acted upon by anyone this quickly, let alone by a new State government agency. But what impresses me even more is how Virginia fleshed out the role of telecommuting in the State’s master plan. They found telecommuting to be better for the environment, leaving workers with more time for family and offering more efficiency for busineses.

By the way, the Virginia Department of Transportation has created Telework!VA – a program dedicated to building the numbers of teleworkers in that state. They’re offering up to $35,000 in grants to facilitate teleworking for employees of Virginia companies. No kidding – these folks mean business on this front. (The Resources page also has plenty of excellent links. I guess Connecticut and Maryland, and the Federal Government, also are active in the world of telecommuting.)

Now, the rest of the country has to catch up to Virginia and the other telework-promoting states on this emerging front in the talent wars.



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