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A cargo ship is loaded at a Chinese port. U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports worry some Virginia retailers.


Where leaders convene on the issues that matter


regional economies of Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads are even more dependent on the federal budget. “T is is not to say there are not


storm clouds on the horizon,” McNab says. “Virginia’s relationship with the federal government is a strength and weakness. When discretionary federal government spending increases, Virgin- ia’s economy tends to benefi t. Likewise, contractions or uncertainty in federal government expenditures create head- winds for the Virginia economy.” But McNab says the more immedi-


ate threat to the economy is the uncer- tainty being caused by trade tensions. A majority of accountants taking the survey agree that the nation’s aggressive trade position will have a negative impact on the economy. Still, more than 43 percent of respondents believe U.S. trade policies either will have a positive impact or won’t hurt the economy. Bill Becker doesn’t share that view. He


says the U.S. trade relations with China are creating problems for his Chantilly- based furniture company, BDI. T e com- pany sells to retailers, including LaDiff . It designs furniture in Northern Virginia but outsources production to manufactur- ers in China and other countries. Because of the tariff s, he has delayed


hiring employees and expects his revenue to take a hit next year. “It’s a very bad strategy for dealing


with issues that we have with China because, ultimately, this burden will fall on local retailers — in many cases small manufacturers and also the consumer,” says Becker.


Imaginechina via AP Images Nancy T omas also is keeping a


close eye on trade tensions with China. Her organization, the Retail Merchants Association (RMA), represents roughly 500 retailers in the Richmond area. She’s urging her members to get in touch with vendors to see what eff ect tariff s will have on products they import. So far, T omas hasn’t fi elded many questions about the trade situation, but she expects that to change as the end of the year approaches. “For the holiday season, most retail-


ers won’t feel the worst of it because a lot of them may already have inventory in,” she says. “It’s the new year that’s going to bring some woes to people.” T e ultimate impact of tariff s on


retailing and other industries could de- pend on how U.S. trade talks with China shake out. An additional factor could be the renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), now known as the United States-Mexico- Canada Agreement (USMCA), which still must be approved by the three na- tions.


Rising cost of health care Another issue that raises big con-


cerns for businesses and consumers is the rising cost of health care. T ose costs consistently rank in the CPA survey as the most-pressing issue for Virginia. Nearly 34 percent of respondents picked health-care costs as the state’s biggest problem. RMA’s T omas says providing


adequate health care at an aff ordable cost continues to be a huge challenge for re- tailers. Many believe they have to provide


www.VirginiaBusiness.com


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Apply online by January 15th leadvirginia.org


VIRGINIA BUSINESS 39


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