I was present at today’s NCTC event in Roanoke – Coffee with Senator Mark Warner. The first order of business was to announce the nominees for the upcoming TechNite banquet next month. I regret that I will not be able to attend this year’s event. Congratulations and good luck to the nominees.

The second order of business was an brief Q&A session with Senator Warner. He gave a brief recap of his first 90 days at the Capitol. It was clear he is humbled by the change of scenery between being top of the heap in Richmond and “Junior Senator No. 91 with a basement office” in Washington. Even so, he seems to be glad to be serving on crucial committees such as Commerce and Banking.

He asked all questions to have a theme: “How can he help the greater SW Va Technology and Business community?” I felt his answers were tempered with reality. For a question regarding the credit freeze on seemingly creditworthy, established business, his answer wasn’t “Don’t worry, everything will get better because of TARP”, it was more along the lines of “The banks need to rebuild their balance sheets with the TARP funds. It’s not all going to waste just because it’s not directly being lent out. Give them some time to show the market that they are managing themselves better and can inspire confidence.” This is what I want to see from our politicians: reasoned, pragmatic hope.

Another question that arose was centered around the effectiveness of a particular grant selection process. The Senator’s response was that he couldn’t be concerned about one particular entity’s concern about fairness, but if collaboratively as a group, the community represented by the NCTC could make a case that there was a systematic disadvantage in any bid process, he would track it down. Again, this is what I like to see from a politician. I don’t want promises that seem like our representation is trying to please everyone. I want realism and an appreciation of the common good. It’s also clear that the Senator understands the scale of the Roanoke Region relative to the rest of the country. There was an interesting juxtaposition at one point with comparing Pulaski County to Roanoke/Montgomery Counties followed by a comparison of the RNR to Fairfax/NoVA. It was a somewhat sobering reminder to remind us of our pecking order, but the Senator’s enthusiam towards the region should reassure us that we do have a voice on a national stage.

Jim Schweitzer and Senator Warner at an NCTC Event in Roanoke, VA

Jim Schweitzer and Senator Warner at an NCTC Event in Roanoke, VA - April 15, 2009

The event ended with s brief opportunity for handshakes and one-on-one questions. I used my opportunity to express my approval to him.
I’m proud to be associated with the NCTC today. I enjoyed the event, but more importantly, I feel like we have a voice where it matters. I feel the mutual respect that the members have for each other and the intrigue that outsiders have for the sophistication of technology development in this region. Having an advocate on Capitol Hill who appreciates this as well can only mean good things for our future. Senator Warner’s background in technology business, gubernatorial experience in Virginia, and thoughtfulness and realism make him a great advocate for the NCTC and RNR region.