By Pia Talwar
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – Gov. Bob McDonnell ventured to Quebec, Canada, this week to promote Virginia’s wine, tourism and film industries.
The governor and first lady Maureen McDonnell held a reception for journalists and Canadian business leaders Thursday night in Montreal to showcase wines and foods produced in Virginia, including pork, oysters and cookies.
“We were honored to bring these wines and local Virginia food products to Canada as part of our administration’s efforts to grow the Virginia wine industry, promote tourism and encourage film and production in Virginia,” McDonnell said in a statement.
“The growth of these industries is key to keeping Virginia’s economy strong and providing good, quality jobs for Virginians.”
McDonnell, who chairs the Republican Governors Association and has been mentioned for the vice presidential slot on the GOP ticket, continued his economic development mission on Friday, making a speech to the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations.
The four-day trip began Tuesday as McDonnell and other state officials visited New York.
While in Quebec, McDonnell announced an export agreement that will allow Virginia cattlemen to sell directly to beef cattle operators in eastern Canada without having to ship to middlemen in other states first.
“Export sales, such as new direct cattle shipments to Canada, help support job creation and economic development opportunities across Virginia,” McDonnell said.
The governor also said that raising the profile of Virginia wines and wine tourism will create more jobs for Virginians.
Virginia has more than 200 wineries and is fifth in the nation for wine grape production.
The state’s wine industry contributes almost $747 million a year to Virginia’s economy, supporting 4,800 jobs, state officials say.
Virginia was recently named one of the 10 best wine travel destinations in the world by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
“Our upcoming event and related meeting in Montreal are important steps in the governor’s strategic initiative to make Virginia an international destination for wine and wine tourism,” Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore said before the trip.
“In addition to work done already in key domestic markets such as Washington, D.C., New York and San Francisco, the time is right to look internationally at Quebec, one of the most influential wine centers in North America, to expand the reach of the Virginia wine industry.”
Wine tourism is a slice of Virginia’s overall tourism industry. In 2010, state officials say, tourism in Virginia generated $19 billion in revenue, supported 204,000 jobs and provided $1.2 billion in state and local taxes. More than 500,000 Canadians visit Virginia each year.
On the trip north, McDonnell also talked up the state’s film industry, hoping to lure major motion pictures to Virginia.
The state offers financial incentives for movies shot in Virginia. Director Steven Spielberg, for example, filmed the new movie “Lincoln” in Virginia. State officials say it had an estimated $35 million economic effect on the state.
Canada isn’t the only foreign nation McDonnell has visited in seeking to promote economic opportunities for Virginia. He went to England, Holland and Germany in July 2010; to China, Japan and South Korea last May; to France in June; and to India and Israel in November. McDonnell is planning a trip to England, Germany and Sweden in June.