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Governors' Forum

A selection of Southern governors address our concerns about the future.

GOVERNOR MIKE BEEBE, ARKANSAS


THE OXFORD AMERICAN: What could be your state's most outstanding accomplishment by 2050?

 

GOV. MIKE BEEBE: By 2050, Arkansas's per capita income ranking can improve to the point that we are among the top tier of states in the nation. This is a very ambitious goal, as per capita income ranking is one of the most difficult statistics to change, but Arkansas is making steady progress—moving from forty-eighth to forty-fifth in the past three years.

 

THE OA: What could be your state's biggest challenge in 2050?

 

GOV. MB: By 2025, Arkansas is projected to have the fifth-highest percentage of elderly population in the country, and providing medical care to an aging population is likely to be the state's biggest challenge for decades. We have currently begun the work needed to address this issue by exploring ways to reduce health-care costs while increasing access to care.

 

THE OA: Which industry, currently quiet, could be booming in your state in 2050?

 

GOV. MB: Developing technology has brought us to the cusp of a revolution in bio-fuels. By 2050, I believe scalable, non-subsidized gasoline, made from cellulosic feedstock such as wood chips, will be commonplace, and Arkansas, with an abundance of timber resources and a long history in fuel refining, is in position to lead this industry.

 

THE OA: How can public education be improved by 2050?

 

GOV. MB: Over the past ten years, Arkansas has made tremendous strides toward improving public education, becoming a national leader in areas such as early-childhood education and Advanced Placement courses and testing, but increasing the number of Arkansans who hold baccalaureate degrees remains our biggest challenge. We must continue to improve college readiness and stress the importance of education and training beyond high school to students who will be competing for jobs in 2050 and beyond.

 

THE OA: What is the biggest problem in your state now, and how can it be resolved by 2050?

 

GOV. MB: If left unchecked, unsustainable growth in Medicaid and in the Arkansas Department of Correction will overwhelm state government's ability to meet its obligations without drastic cuts to other essential services. We will address these issues, today, through health-care cost containment and sentencing-reform efforts currently underway.

 



 

 

GOVERNOR STEVEN BESHEAR, KENTUCKY

THE OXFORD AMERICAN: What could be your state's most outstanding accomplishment by 2050?

 

GOV. STEVEN BESHEAR: Our most outstanding accomplishment in 2050 will be the aggressive investment and recruitment of new-economy jobs and industries to our state, supported by a highly educated workforce.

We are already pursuing investments in new automotive technology (Kentucky has the third-highest production of cars and light trucks in the country), energy, biomedical research and other emerging industries—our development efforts today will help us land those jobs for the future.

 

THE OA: What could be your state's biggest challenge in 2050?

 

GOV. SB: One of our state's biggest challenges will be managing growth in our state—we expect that our hard work in education, economic development, and energy development combined with the state's natural beauty and relatively low cost of living will mean lots of people will want to live here. It will be a good problem to have.

 

THE OA: Which industry, currently quiet, could be booming in your state in 2050?

 

GOV. SB: A year and a half ago, I declared Kentucky's intention to become the "Energy Capital of the Nation," and I unveiled a comprehensive seven-point strategy to move us in that direction.

Since then, we together have created an array of initiatives to further that goal, including conservation and efficiency measures and the potential for a viable alternative energy industry that relies on biomass and biofuels.

 

THE OA: How can public education be improved by 2050?

 

GOV. SB: I started a new effort to re-energize our schools and gauge whether they're prepared for twenty-first century challenges. The Transforming Education in Kentucky initiative comes twenty years after our landmark reform effort, and weaves together efforts to improve curriculum, dropout rates, graduation rates and teacher retention. This holistic review will guide us as we strengthen all aspects of a student's education, from preschool to graduate school.

 

THE OA: What is the biggest problem in your state now, and how can it be resolved by 2050?

 

GOV. SB: The recession continues to hurt our working families, and the fastest way to recover from a recession is to create jobs—a goal which we are aggressively and tirelessly pursuing.

A bipartisan overhaul of Kentucky's tax incentive programs, which I proposed and worked with the legislature to get passed last summer, has invigorated our job creation efforts. The payoff has been dramatic—since last year, 158 projects were approved under the revised incentive programs, with the potential to create more than 8,200 jobs, save another nearly 4,300 jobs and result in a capital investment of more than $1.3 billion.

 



 

 

GOVERNOR BEVERLY PERDUE, NORTH CAROLINA

THE OXFORD AMERICAN: What could be your state's most outstanding accomplishment by 2050?

 

GOV. BEVERLY PERDUE: Today, North Carolina is already one of the best places to work and live. By 2050, we need to make sure it is also the best place to get an education. Every student graduating from high school needs to be ready for college, a career or technical training.

 

THE OA: What could be your state's biggest challenge by 2050?

 

GOV. BP: With several million more people projected to call North Carolina home by 2050, our biggest challenge will be managing our growth and natural resources. From the mountains to the coast, we need to explore ways to protect our great quality of life, while balancing our needs for power and water with economic development and job creation.

 

THE OA: Which industry, currently quiet, could be booming in your state in 2050?

 

GOV. BP: North Carolina is where biotech will grow in the future. We have the anchors in the Research Triangle Park and the Piedmont Triad Research Park surrounding some of the best universities in the country. With the addition of a natural medicine cluster in Asheville that's just getting started and a marine biotech cluster in Wilmington, we have the fastest-growing biotech cluster in America.

 

THE OA: How can public education be improved by 2050?

 

GOV. BP: Public education is a two-step process: K–12 and higher education. The first step is to support teachers and schools so we can give kids a firm educational foundation. This leads to increased graduation rates from high school.

At the higher education level, we must make sure the resources are available for the community college system and the university system to handle the growth in enrollment in the coming years. We also need to provide funding for university research programs for relevant industries including green technologies, alternative fuel sources and biotechnology. These industries are a source of innovation and jobs for the future of our state.

 

THE OA: What is the biggest problem in your state now, and how can it be resolved by 2050?

 

GOV. BP: The biggest problems I've faced as governor are the effects from our global recession. To continue to balance the state's budget, I have cut billions of dollars in core services, public health, education economic development and public safety.

To solve the problems today in North Carolina, we need to take a second look at the way we manage the state's budget. We must continue to provide citizens with the services they need, educate our children so they come to the table ready to join the workforce, and assist businesses so they can create and maintain jobs across the state.

"To be rather than to seem" is North Carolina's state motto. We want to position our future leaders with the tools they need to make sure we remain a better place to work, to live and to be!

 


 

 

GOVERNOR MARK SANFORD, SOUTH CAROLINA

THE OXFORD AMERICAN: What could be your state's most outstanding accomplishment by 2050?

 

GOV. MARK SANFORD: What comes to mind first is a principle this administration has promoted for almost eight years now—namely that there's no contradiction between improving a state's economic competitiveness and conserving its natural beauty. What draws people and investment to South Carolina is, in large measure, our state's unique look and feel—especially its undeveloped green spaces—and accordingly, we've made that a central part of our approach to economic development.

 

THE OA: What could be your state's biggest challenge in 2050?

 

GOV. MS: Currently, through our retirement system, South Carolina government owes $20 billion in unpaid political promises. Despite our best efforts, there have been too few policymakers who see the problem for what it is—but in forty years, if we continue on the same course, I can guarantee you the problem will be impossible to ignore.

 

THE OA: Which industry, currently quiet, could be booming in your state in 2050?

 

GOV. MS: Just in the last few years aerospace giants Boeing and GE Aviation, among others, have made major investments here—a total of around $1.4 billion tied to over 6,500 new jobs. Boeing's investment alone is expected to have a $6.1 billion impact annually and create 15,000 new jobs across South Carolina. For that reason I suspect that in a generation, South Carolina will be a leader in the aerospace industry.

 

THE OA: How can public education be improved by 2050?

 

GOV. MS: We have to get out of the mindset that says government knows where and how every child should be educated. It's my view that only when parents are given the right to make educational choices for their children—and let's remember it's the parents who pay for public education—that we'll make significant progress.

 

THE OA: What is the biggest problem in your state now, and how can it be resolved by 2050?

 

GOV. MS: South Carolina's government structure is antiquated—it's inefficient, lines of accountability are often unclear or nonexistent, and as a result South Carolinians pay 139 percent of the national average for their government. We've achieved some significant reforms on that front, and I think it's telling that both the Republican and Democrat candidates vying to be the next governor fully intend to press forward with further reforms on that front.

 



 

 

GOVERNOR PHIL BREDESEN, TENNESSEE

THE OXFORD AMERICAN: What could be your state's most outstanding accomplishment by 2050?


GOV. PHIL BREDESEN: The state of Tennessee aspires to see that every child graduates college or is career-ready, and to have dramatically increased high school and college completion rates.

 

THE OA: What could be your state's biggest challenge by 2050?

 

GOV. PB: Tennessee's biggest challenge will be balancing the up-and-coming businesses seeking an economically competitive environment with demands for a productive workforce, low taxes, and cost of doing business while continuing to preserve those qualities that make Tennessee distinct and a great place to live, work, and visit.

THE OA: Which industry, currently quiet, could be booming in your state by 2050?

 

GOV. PB: The area where we have a great toehold is in the area of clean-energy technology. Tennessee was recognized as one of the top three states in clean-energy job creation in 2009. Our footprint in clean-energy technology, specifically solar energy, continues to expand, especially due to entrants like Hemlock Semiconductor and Wacker Chemie, two companies that have each recently made billion-dollar investments in Tennessee, not to mention the increasingly bright prospects for existing solar firms like AGC Glass in Northeast Tennessee and Sharp Solar in Memphis. Our state is a leader in energy efficiency technology, the cornerstone of sound energy policy, as well as pollution controls, biofuels, and cleaner automotive technologies thanks to Nissan and Volkswagen partnerships.

THE OA: How can public education be improved by 2050?

GOV. PB: The state of Tennessee has already begun to lead the way in educational reforms as one of just two states to win funding in the first round of President Obama's "Race to the Top" competition. Our success in "Race to the Top" speaks to the commitment we've made to meaningful and significant improvement in public education. The innovative educational improvements currently in progress are shaping the next generation of Tennessee children for the better. Tennessee has aggressive plans to improve teacher and principal evaluation, use data to inform instructional decisions, and turn around our lowest-performing schools. By 2050, we hope to raise the bar even higher by establishing groundbreaking graduation rates and providing every school with top quality learning environments for Tennessee's children.

THE OA: What is the biggest problem in your state now, and how can it be resolved by 2050?

 

GOV. PB: Tennessee's biggest problem is the rising numbers of infant mortalities and low birth weights. Our state has taken the initiative to lower these numbers as quickly as possible through programs like the Tennessee Initiative for Perinatal Quality Care, a statewide effort focused on rapid cycle quality improvement, standardization of data collection, broad implementation of evidence-based best practices and educational outreach to providers and the community. While the state's efforts are making progress, the numbers are still not as low as they should be. To have healthy babies, we must start with healthy mothers. Healthy habits must be learned at a young age in order to maintain healthy lifestyles as adults. The challenge we face is enforcing healthy living among all Tennesseans in order to diminish the potentiality of children developing unhealthy habits as they age. 

 



 

 

GOVERNOR BOB MCDONNELL, VIRGINIA

THE OXFORD AMERICAN: What could be your state's most outstanding accomplishment by 2050?

 

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL: I don't want to limit the Commonwealth of Virginia to just one accomplishment. To do so would not be in keeping with our legacy as the home of Washington, Jefferson, Henry, Maggie Walker, Booker T. Washington, American Independence, Yorktown, Appomattox, Tom Wolfe and the world's best ham and peanuts! In 2050, I want Virginia to have the lowest unemployment rate in the country, an active and thriving commercial spaceport at Wallops Island on our Eastern Shore, globally recognized film and wine industries, the best public education system in the world with opportunities for all our young people, and a vibrant tourism industry. I want to see a Virginia that is the home of the United States military, the global leader in energy and technology, and the site of the largest and most efficient port in the country. In short, I want the Virginia of 2050 to still be notable for our past, but even more noteworthy for our present and future.

 

THE OA: What could be your state's biggest challenge in 2050?

 

GOV. BM: Virginia is a diverse and large state. We are home to small coastal communities, bustling urban centers, and mountainous rural counties. Residents of Lee County, in far Southwest Virginia, are closer to nine other state capitals than they are to Richmond. However, roughly sixty-six percent of our population can be found in the "urban crescent" that stretches from Alexandria and Arlington through Richmond and down to Hampton Roads. Between 2010 and 2035, the Commonwealth's population is expected to increase by thirty-three percent, to approximately 10.5 million residents. That growth will occur predominately in that same urban crescent. The challenge then, for the elected leaders of today and 2050, is how do we continue to grow and move forward as one Commonwealth? How will we ensure that as the state grows collectively larger our different regions don't grow separately apart? We must retain the "common" in our Commonwealth, and in a big state with needs that can differ greatly by area that is a real challenge we must successfully address. All our citizens must have great opportunities to live the American Dream, no matter where they call home.

 

THE OA: Which industry, currently quiet, could be booming in your state in 2050?

 

GOV. BM: Though it's hardly quiet, Virginia's fast growing wine industry has not yet attracted nearly the attention it deserves. The Commonwealth is now the fifth largest wine-producing state in the country and the seventh largest commercial grape producer. We now have more than 160 wineries located throughout all the beautiful regions of the state. Wineries Unlimited and the North American Wine Bloggers announced recently that both of their organizations will hold their respective annual meetings in Virginia next year. With our outstanding Cabernet Francs and Viogniers leading the way, Virginia is quickly achieving a reputation as being home to some of the top wines not only in America, but the world. Thomas Jefferson's hobby has become big business in the Commonwealth, and in 2050, I expect Virginia wine to be sought out in restaurants and markets across the globe. In addition, I expect Virginia will have long been established at the premier East Coast destination of wine tourism, much the way California is today on the West Coast.

 

THE OA: How can public education be improved by 2050?

 

GOV. BM: I believe Virginia can be the most highly educated state in the nation by 2050, an accomplishment that will mean more good-paying jobs, higher incomes, and an even better quality of life for our citizens. We are already home to some of the nation's top universities, and our public education system continues to receive top rankings. Now, we are building on this success by committing the Commonwealth to more innovation in our K–12 system, providing training and new opportunities for our existing workforce, and ensuring greater access and affordability in our higher education system. We will expand high-quality charter schools, bring dynamic virtual learning programs to our classrooms, and open college laboratory schools. We will also focus on introducing more Virginia students to the subject areas powering the global economy of tomorrow—especially the "STEM" disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math. Our plan to award 100,000 additional college degrees over the next fifteen years will further position Virginia as a national leader in educational attainment. We cannot tolerate a single underperforming school in the Commonwealth. A good education is the prerequisite for a good job, and we are committed to making Virginia America's "Jobs Leader."

 

THE OA: What is the biggest problem in your state now, and how can it be resolved by 2050?

 

GOV. BM: Virginians need and deserve good-paying and rewarding jobs in the communities they call home. While our unemployment rate is below the national average, and we have announced a number of new job-creating private sector projects in the past few months, we have much work ahead. My focus as governor is to ensure that state government does everything necessary to help the private sector create good jobs and grow the economy, and after that, get out of the way! The current economic downturn has been tough on Virginia families, businesses and government. As we navigate our way through it, we should act not only to improve our current situation, but also to ensure that we are well prepared for the future. That is why we closed an historic budget shortfall in Virginia through realistic forecasting and spending reductions, not tax increases. It is why we are focused on eliminating unnecessary regulations and impediments to free enterprise and reforming state government to make it smaller, simpler, and more efficient. That is how we will help business owners to grow and expand their enterprises, employing our citizens and revitalizing our economy. And the benefits of our actions today will continue to be felt in 2050 and long after that.

 

ART BY MATT FOX, LITTLE ROCK

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