Delegate Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach) has hinted that he may be eyeing Virginia Beach’s top elected position after the surprise announcement Wednesday by Mayor Will Sessoms that he is resigning. The move by Davis would just be the next chapter in a highly successful career he touts both on and off the political playing field.
It has been a decade since Davis first entered elected life after he defeated a 28-year incumbent to become the Rose Hall representative to the Virginia Beach City Council in 2008. As a telecommunications entrepreneur, he spent years making business deals and innovating within the market that led him to become to go-to guy for many when it comes to economic trends and the next step in market innovation.
For example, during his time on the Council, Davis helped bring over 1,000 jobs and over $122 million in capital investment to Virginia Beach, part of the greater effort that led the coastal city being defined in 2012 as the “Best-Run City in America.”
Davis then took his economic expertise and business acumen to the General Assembly when he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2013, where he currently serves on the Education, Transportation, and General Laws Committees. Davis was also Chairman of the Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS) Sub Committee on Cybersecurity, and is a member of the Business Development, and Virginia Tourism Caucuses.
As the Virginia Beach native is becoming a big player in Virginia politics, TRS spoke with him at length to discuss why he first waded into the quagmire of politics and what is next to be accomplished for his constituents and the Commonwealth at-large.
“Virginia Beach was a great place to go to school, work, and to raise a family…there were a lot of opportunities.”
Davis originally started as a telecommunications entrepreneur, building a thriving business out of his small apartment. That business did so well that he was voted as one of the “40 Under 40” in 2006 by Inside Business Magazine.
Furthermore, Davis is a community-driven man. He has consistently given back to Virginia Beach, strongly supporting volunteerism and helping others try to reach the same success he has enjoyed throughout the years. Along with his entrepreneurial spirit, he has built his businesses on the “double bottom line” theory, where success is measured not just by a company’s net profit, but by a secondary guideline that measures a company’s positive impact and influence it has on the community it serves.
Davis explained the one underlying factor of why he is working for and with the people of Virginia’s coast is:
“…the sacrifice and tough decisions made by the those before me. It is our job to make sure for the next generation those opportunities exist [and] we continue to make out communities, and out state, and our nation a great place.”
Of course, candidates and elected officials from either political party could pinpoint the origins of their path towards public office to their background in their respective communities. So, even though Davis has been a lifelong Republican, we asked him why.
“The first election I can remember and understood was Ronald Reagan’s election back in 1980…it [The Republican Party] was a party of ideas, a party of solutions. You know, we went from my parents waiting in lines for gas to the largest economic boom out nation has ever seen…It was the party that brought down the Berlin Wall without firing a shot, it was the party that stood for peace through strength.”
Even though Davis has a highly patriotic vision of what the Republican Party has offered and done for Americans, his story of “why” has its foundation on a very personal level as well.
He explained that his great grandfather came to the U.S. only speaking broken English, but was able to earn a living grinding steel blades and shears used in agriculture and industrial machinery with his own grinding wheel.
In the next generation, Davis explained that on the foundation of an entrepreneurial spirit that spurred on his great grandfather, the sheer personal will and hard work of his grandfather led to the formation of a family legacy of building businesses. Although his grandfather dropped out of school in the Eighth Grade and went on to fight and protect the U.S.and her allies in World War II, he still had his sights set on opening a small supply store that was one of the foundations of the community in which he lived.
Therefore, Davis said when it comes to building a life and a community-driven business:
“[The Republican Party] stands for a level playing field.”
“I associated the GOP with less taxes, less regulations, and more opportunity for those people to reach their full potential.”
With a family history dotted with business owners and his own entrepreneurial spirit, the professional life experience. as a telecommunications executive, has undoubtedly affect his legislation. He is a high-energy, ambitious person that has an unquestionable love for technology and what it has done for business.
“Technology is the greatest opportunity for our state and our nation…and learning the technological curve for 21st century jobs.”
“Additionally, as an entrepreneur, you’re always looking for solutions, you always see challenges out there, and looking for ways to solve problems – it’s one of the reasons I love the Republican Party.”
For Davis, the way in which one can be successful in business, or even in politics, is searching for solutions to every day challenges.
“That’s how you grow business, you see a challenge and you look to find a solution.”
As a delegate in the Virginia General Assembly for the last four years, TRS asked Davis what he likes about working in the state legislature.
He explained that it is remarkable that the Virginia General Assembly can process thousands of bills in a span of just two months, while in other state legislatures nearly three to four times longer is taken to review, deliberate, and vote on half the amount of legislation.
Though, Davis still has some concessions about the way in which business is done in the House of Delegates.
“It takes a little longer than I’d like to create change and make reforms…but at the same time, our forefathers thought it should not be easy to create them.”
As many freshman delegates have found, it isn’t easy to be highly-productive in their first year in the General Assembly. Though, that didn’t stop Davis when he first arrived in Richmond as he was named “Freshman Legislator of the Year” in 2014 for his leadership in providing private sector job growth.
Nevertheless, TRS asked him if there was anything unexpected that he had dealt with or run into during his time in the Virginia legislature.
“I was aide to Frank Wagner in the early 1990s when [I was] in college and then for Bob McDonnell in the mid-1990s…I knew kind of what I was walking into. I knew the structure. I knew the committee process.”
During those days, the tech-loving college student couldn’t rely on high-tech utilities, Internet, or email to assist lawmakers in the General Assembly. Just recently, actually, the legislature began live streaming their hearings.
“Back then you didn’t have email and the internet; everything was in binders on top off the aide’s desks. Anyways, there weren’t any surprises, per se. I’ve always been kind of involved in the politics off and on.”
Davis has been a business-driven lawmaker since his time as a member of the Virginia Beach City Council. In his career in the General Assembly, in 2015, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce awarded him their Economic Competitiveness Award and Small Business Advocate Award for his legislation protecting small businesses from costly mandates and helping entrepreneurs attract equity investments.
In 2016, when Davis ran for lieutenant governor, the successful economic message he touted for over a decade was taken to Virginia’s highways and back roads as he traveled statewide an RV he dubbed “Mellow Yellow.” As he met with voters, he campaigned on a message of “Make Virginia #1 Again for Business and Job Growth,” with a platform of tax reform, easing regulations on small businesses, modernizing education, and creating 21st century jobs.
During his campaign, he went on a fact-finding mission to the former Soviet-bloc country of Estonia to cultivate a better understanding of the birth of new developments in robotics and manufacturing and looking at bringing new technology jobs to Virginia.
“There is so much innovation going on there.”
Davis met with one of the co-founders of Skype to see innovations happening in robotics. He talked about a small company in Estonia that is creating delivery robots that ferry groceries and pharmaceuticals to people’s homes.
“Estonia is the world leader in the production of ultra capacitors, the most connected country in the world when comes to the Internet…ahead of the curve when it comes to technology implementation”
Many may believe that such an evolution in markets is nearly impossible just under 30 years since the fall of Communism in the former USSR and its bloc countries. However, Davis explained that Estonians looked to America and the economic system that drives the world superpower to jump start their own economy.
“They looked at our capitalist system and implemented…it takes five minutes to file your taxes online and all regulations for businesses comply with online”
As well, it seems that the populous is rather ambitious.
“When I was over there I talked to their youth…they don’t aspire to be an actor, they don’t aspire to be a professional sports player…they aspire to be the next big international entrepreneur…and it was awesome to see that.”
For the next generation of security and record-keeping technology, Davis introduced a bill this year that builds on what Estonia has done as the only country in the world that utilizes “blockchain” technology.
The resolution from Davis was H.J. 153 to stimulate interest and growth in Virginia’s information technology industry and tackle three problems commonly found in electronic record keeping: maintenance, transparency, and cyber attacks. Paperless transactions and the permanent, unalterable record keeping system will be immune to cyber attacks and data destruction. As well, blockchain can reduce the need for specialized computer systems, software interfaces, and giant computer databases, saving money on maintenance.
As TRS asked Davis about new innovations in technology and business practices, he explained what the near future of the Virginia economy looks like.
“The first thing that needs to happen is that we need significant tax reform…a number of states have already transitioned to prevent double taxation of in-state business and Virginia has not made that transition yet. The second thing we have to do is recognize that the economy has transitioned into a service-based economy.”
“It used to be if you wanted Microsft Office, you went to Circuit City, you bought a box for $100, $6 in taxes, and you walked out. Now, you go on Microsoft.com and pay $35 and no sales tax.”
Davis has some of the contentions as President Donald Trump has with online retail giants like Amazon. Unfortunately, tax legislation in Virginia has not kept up with the innovations stemming from the private sector.
“We need to recognize that a lot of what used to be tangible goods are now services provided, which is impairing our tax base and our tax revenue, but at the same time, if you look at Neal Boortz’s book, ‘The Fair Tax Book,’ as we go to a consumption-based tax, it requires a consumption tax on tangible and service-based goods and services.”
“Also, we use that opportunity to get rid of old, antiquated taxes that no longer are necessary, secondly, are hurting the growth of small businesses.”
As a city councilman in Virginia Beach, he got rid of the Machinery and Tools Tax, which allowed businesses like Stihl to thrive and prosper in the United States. He expounded upon that measure in this year’s General Assembly session with H.B. 966, creating a refundable credit against individual and corporate income taxes for a business’s aggregate tax liability under the machinery and tools tax, the merchants’ capital tax, and the business, professional, and occupational license (BPOL) tax.
In the eyes of Davis, legislation like that helps bolster business in the homeland and attracts it from elsewhere. Moreover, the U.S. has historically been a place of innovation.
“You come to the U.S. to innovate.”
Though, it seems that within the past decade or so, federal intervention has stifled some of the innovation in nearly all industries, but especially in technological advancements.
“[Because of] the overbearing regulations we put on businesses and on new tech, innovation happens elsewhere, and we need to reverse that trend.”
During his run for lieutenant governor, Davis traveled to academic institutions like MIT to look at broader uses for Virginia’s vast coal deposits. Building on his mission in Estonia, and as robotics becomes an increasingly lucrative market, Davis believes Virginia is the perfect place to invent, build, and distribute the technology of the future, creating a new “Silicon Valley-type” market in the Commonwealth.
Curved graphene will be much needed resource for future manufacturing of robotics technologies. Virginia has what the market needs to be a global competitor and a world leader in technology manufacturing. The Commonwealth’s vast coal deposits have more uses than being burned for energy – they can now be used as the building blocks of the infrastructure of Virginia’s and America’s future.
Nonetheless, for the future of Virginia’s economy, deregulation, business-friendly tax legislation, and new emerging markets is not the only key to success.
“Its also workforce.”
“Tech has disrupted so many industries, but one industry is truly hasn’t disrupted yet is higher education…I don’t look at online classes as disruption…Disruption is something that causes a complete change of a business model, a complete change in mindset.”
He explained that for high school students to land high-tech jobs that often have starting salaries of 60, 80, even 100 thousand dollars, more advancement in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) needs to happen.
“We see it in Virginia Beach in the Advanced Tech Center.”
Opportunities like that, he explained, will allow for the cybersecurity sector to develop further and grow to make Virginia an economic powerhouse in the 21st century economy.
Though, not everything TRS asked Davis surrounded politics, business development, and the future of the Commonwealth. We probed into the personal life of the Virginia lawmaker to get a “behind the scenes” look to some avenues that the people may not know.
Davis told us he has an eclectic taste in music, listening to everything from “Phantom of the Opera,” to Eminem, to Kid Rock, to Jay-Z, but at the top of his play list is:
“Dr. Dre and Fort Minor.”
Reading is a part of many people’s daily activities, something Davis does often. We asked him what his favorite, most influential read was.
“The first book I picked up out of high school was ‘The Secret of Closing The Sale’ by Zig Ziglar…I understood that psychology has literally everything to do with life.”
“I’m not much of a fiction reader…I should be learning something.”
Nevertheless, when he has time to read strictly for pleasure he says he chooses Carl Hiaasen, a writer which often features political corruption in his humorous crime fiction novels.
Politics is not something that is often on the minds of children as a future career. Therefore, TRS asked Davis if he could have his “dream profession,” what it would look like.
“I grew up playing baseball and watching the New York Yankees.”
“…and I loved Don Mattingly, so I think I’d play third base for the New York Yankees, or maybe even first base.”
Lastly, we asked Davis what his best or worst purchase was.
So, ladies and gentlemen, get ready for a doozy of a story.
When Davis was in middle school, his father bought him a model rocket, something that he was fond of early in his life.
“…the ones that go up 500 feet in the air and come down with a parachute.”
One day, his father said that after he came home from work they would both go to the local high school to launch it.
“Earlier that day, I hooked up the alligator clips, the light came on, everything was good.”
However, a minute mistake in the building procedure caused what happened next to nearly be the beginning of the end.
“I put the launcher together wrong, so when I put the key in, even though I didn’t hit the launch button, it actually launched the rocket…so the rocket launched in my living room of my parent’s house.”
After frightening his mother up stairs, she came running down to see what had just occurred in her home.
“The rocket took off, put a small hole in the ceiling, and came down in a ball of flames catching the living room rug on fire and burning a hole in the floor all the way down to the concrete foundation.”
Nevertheless, Davis didn’t burn down his whole house, just in case you were wondering.
“So, it was a bad purchase because I set the living room on fire, but a good one because I realized maybe me being an engineer wasn’t the right path for me.”
Many engineers would claim that not only trial and error, but flat-out disaster is one of the quintessential underpinnings for a scientific approach to problems. Although Davis said that those at MIT told him his rocket episode would make him a perfect candidate to pursue a life in engineering, he said that probably wasn’t the right path for him anyways. After all, he’s done great in local politics.