Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has tapped Caren Merrick to be his secretary of commerce and trade. Caren Merrick currently helms Youngkin’s non-profit VA Ready, which Youngkin started in June 2020, a month before announcing his departure from the Carlyle Group.
“Virginia’s jobs machine has stalled out, and Caren is going to play a pivotal role on the team that will jumpstart our economy and reinvigorate job growth here in the Commonwealth,” Youngkin said in a Tuesday press release. “Caren is an innovator, a business builder, and a true leader in workforce development—the kind of experience needed to develop talent, train workers, attract investment, and make Virginia the best state to start a business as we set out to add 400,000 jobs and launch 10,000 startups.
Caren Merrick cofounded WebMethods in 1996 with her husband, Phillip Merrick; their product enabled e-commerce transactions through XML, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. She served as board director for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. In 2011, she ran for Virginia Senate District 31 and lost to now-Senator Barbara Favola (D-Arlington).
Caren Merrick is a friend of Youngkin and a member of Holy Trinity Church, which the Youngkins helped found, The Associated Press reported in October. In November, Youngkin appointed Caren Merrick to his labor transition landing team. In 2021, Merrick gave $27,000 to Youngkin’s gubernatorial campaign and $50,100 to his inaugural committee, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
Merrick on Labor Shortage, Regulations, and Tax Reform
VA Ready focuses on quickly training disadvantaged workers with new, in-demand job skills. Caren Merrick has emphasized the role of education in the workforce and the need for more entrepreneurs.
In a June article for The Hill, Caren Merrick argued that businesses can’t wait for Congress to address the labor shortage; she said businesses need to take action by eliminating hiring requirements like four-year degrees, and called for public-private partnerships with community colleges.
“At this moment, business leaders need to step up and take on the challenge of solving the labor shortage from within. By incentivizing employees to train in their fields, changing hiring practices to do away with the outdated four-year degree requirement, and pursuing public-private partnerships with community colleges to create a talent pipeline, business leaders can lead the effort to get Americans back to work,” she wrote. “Government funds and programming will take us only so far, and it is, therefore, the responsibility of business leaders to take charge of this shortage and turn it into a moment of transformation.”
In a 2011 candidate essay for ARLnow, Caren Merrick called for spurring business growth through tax and regulation reform alongside research and development tax credits. She also emphasized the importance of introducing STEM topics to students in earlier grades.
“My plan to grow our economy addresses business tax and regulation reform, transportation, and education as we need to improve all three areas to advance a growing economy and a brighter future,” she wrote at the time.
In his campaign a decade later, Youngkin also called for tax reform and more entrepreneurs.
Senator Stephen Newman (R-Bedford) said in a Facebook statement, “Governor-Elect Youngkin made a tremendous pick for his Secretary of Commerce and Trade in Caren Merrick. Over the past year, the Governor-Elect made getting Virginia’s economy and workforce ‘rip roaring’ again a central theme of his campaign. Today, with this selection for Secretary of Commerce and Trade, he made good on that promise.”
Senator Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) focused on Youngkin’s comment about Virginia’s stalled jobs machine. He tweeted, “‘Good’ to see that we’re starting off this administration completely detached from reality – we have record low unemployment, more Virginia jobs than workers per the last briefing I received, and VA unemployment rate has fallen for 18 months straight?”
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