Chamber Insider Blog

We’ll All Go Up Together

Blog Series by Government Affairs Manager Brian Fauls

“The World Turned Upside Down” is an old English ballad from the 17th century that tradition has it was played by the British band as they surrender after the Siege of Yorktown. 

The song served to underscore (and I’m simplifying here) how the defeat of arguably the most powerful country in Europe at the time, at the hands of some upstart colonials, profoundly disrupted the established world order. 

If I could have figured out how to play the song on Facebook on June 24th (which I couldn’t) I would have.  Why, because once again a decision made by the British has potentially shaken the very foundations of the modern world order.  On June 23rd, in a surprise vote, the British electorate signaled to the world its desire for Britain to withdraw from the European Union (gasp). 

The immediate reaction was shock and horror.  Stock markets plunged, the value of Pound Sterling dropped, the government in Britain collapsed, and politicians from across the globe shook their fingers at the English electorate for being so foolish. 

In the days since, the stock markets have rebounded, the Pound has rebounded, and, eventually, Britain will have a new government.  It remains to be seen if the British do formally withdraw from the Union, or whether they find a clever diplomatic way to undo what they’ve done.  Even if they do go, it remains to be seen whether June 23rd is truly a world-turned-upside-down day or a mere blip in history.

For me, the debate on Britain’s exit from the European Union – or Brexit as it came to be known – was about one fundamental question; was it better for the countries and peoples of Europe to work together or not? 

The common-sense and obvious answer is yes.  Success is a team sport, just ask any athlete or business owner.  They will also tell you that teamwork is never more valuable than when the team is facing adversity.  So, as strange as it may seem, Brexit is a teachable moment for Loudoun County and Northern Virginia. 

We are at a crossroads.  Our regional economy is weak, federal sequestration, a shrinking federal workforce, and changes in federal spending priorities in the last two to three years have hit our economy quite hard. 

While Loudoun County has weathered this storm better than anyone, thanks largely to the technology sector and data centers.  We would be naïve to again put our eggs in one basket, trading the company town of the federal government for the company town of the data center.  Nor can we hope our craft beverage industry will be our savior.  Our wineries, breweries, distilleries and cideries, are important industries, particularly for our rural communities, but they are not enough.   

Thankfully, we have here in Loudoun County a world-class educational system, a highly educated and talented workforce, a competitive regulatory climate, and an improving, if still congested, transportation network.  In short, we have the foundation to attract and retain a more diverse mix of companies, industries, and talent. 

And the General Assembly has given us a choice in terms of how we reach this goal.  We can either go it alone, or we can, through the framework of the new Go Virginia program, collaborate with private-sector, educational, and government partners from across our region to spur investment and job creation.  

I know which way I prefer, and I think Benjamin Franklin summed up my thoughts very nicely when he signed the Declaration of Independence.  He said, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” 

Blog Series by Government Affairs Manager Brian Fauls