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Warner to Entrepreneurs: ‘Make a Whole Lot of Money and Stay in Virginia’

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) called the Orange Line corridor in Arlington “the core of startups in Washington” during a Q&A with entrepreneurs in Rosslyn today (Thursday).

Warner spoke to several dozen attendees at ÜberOffices (1400 Key Blvd) as part of “Startup Across America” Day, focusing on ways to boost the local startup economy, which has been a driver of job growth in the area.

Warner suggested the local and state governments provide discounts on rent and incentives to preserve the startup community in Arlington. He also spoke against over-regulation of crowdfunding and in favor of additional funding for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education.

During the wide-ranging talk, Warner addressed several other issues facing entrepreneurs and young people — a group that is overlapping more and more in Arlington — such as Bitcoin, entitlement reform and the national debt.

“You guys are up a creek,” Warner said. The national debt of “$17 trillion is a big number, even for the United States.”

Members of the audience asked questions about the Keystone XL pipeline and how Big Data has changed political campaigns. Warner, who was a co-founder of Nextel and a founder of Columbia Capital, a venture capitalist firm in Alexandria, said the young, tech-savvy generation has better answers to the new technology questions, even from a policy standpoint, than he or his colleagues in Congress do.

“This is the future of the economy,” Warner said. “[Entrepreneurs] are the future employers of the region. I can learn from them as much as they can learn from me.”

The issue Warner focuses most on in the Senate is the budget, and when one of the audience members asked him about the budget, he spread his arms wide, smiled, and said, “thank you for asking me that question.” He then delved in to how the U.S. accumulated its deficit, citing Bush-era tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan funded on credit, additional funds into entitlements and longer life expectancy.

“Medicare and Social Security are great programs,” Warner said, “but the math doesn’t work anymore.”

Warner, a moderate Democrat, had a few nuggets of advice for the crowd on how they can personally try improve national politics.

“If you’re frustrated with politics, don’t vote for anyone who signs one of those stupid pledges,” he said, acknowledging both parties. “Turn off Fox News and MSNBC, they both lie.”

Warner spoke in favor of reforming congressional redistricting by making it a process independent of politics. Politically driven redistricting is at least partially responsible for the current hyperpartisan environment on Capitol Hill, he said.

Warner also encouraged the audience to vote across the aisle on issues they believe in — voting for Republicans who aren’t opposed to raising taxes and Democrats who are open to entitlement reform.

Closing the discussion, Warner encouraged the crowd of mostly 20- and 30-somethings to contribute to the Commonwealth by building successful businesses here.

“Make a whole lot of money and stay in Virginia,” he said, smiling. “Don’t even think about moving to D.C.”

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