Economic development is essential to creating and keeping jobs in West Virginia. Although for now, offices may be empty and meetings conducted remotely to comply with public health measures, the state’s vital economic development work goes on.
What economic development does for us
“Economic development” refers to what we do — our policies, plans and practices — to create a good standard of living for our people. The ongoing aim is to improve the economic well-being and quality of life in West Virginia.
State government agencies such as the West Virginia Development Office and its parent West Virginia Department of Commerce play key roles in the process of economic development. These state agencies:
- Support entrepreneurship within the state
- Help established businesses to succeed and grow
- Recruit new businesses to come to the state
- Coordinate activities with other economic development authorities
- Foster a pro-growth business environment
- Encourage talent pipelines from resources such as universities and training programs such as Apprenticeship in Motion and Governor’s Guaranteed Work Force.
How the agencies work
In 2018, Gov. Jim Justice appointed Mike Graney as executive director of the West Virginia Development Office. Graney had a long career as an entrepreneur, serving in the petroleum industry and heading a large chain of successful stores.
“The Development Office takes the lead with client relationships and connects needs to resources,” Graney said. “We are a ‘concierge service provider.’”
As a concierge provider, the Development Office acts as the one “go-to” source for the information and help businesses need to start or expand an operation in West Virginia. The Development Office representatives build relationships with a company before recruiting it to come to the state.
Perhaps even more important, our representatives continue that relationship and support after the recruitment succeeds.
In 2019, West Virginia Secretary of Commerce Ed Gaunch underscored that point in a series of listening tours conducted across the state. Before being appointed to head the Department of Commerce, Gaunch worked for more than 30 years in private industry, including serving as a company president. The tours presented an opportunity to engage with people doing business in West Virginia.
“I want to hear how we can help them succeed and grow,” Gaunch said at the launch of the tour series. “I also want to recognize our West Virginia businesses, new or established, large and small. We value our businesses and the contribution they add to our state’s economy.”
Economic diversity makes progress
West Virginia has made strides forward in diversifying our economy. Today, the state hosts operations in the industries of aerospace and defense, agriculture, automotive, building products, chemical/polymer, energy, fulfillment distribution, information technology, manufacturing and metals.
Diversification is part of the process necessary to prepare for the constantly evolving job market.
“Job creation is critical. So is the continued diversification of the economy,” Graney said. “Our K-12 schools, community technical colleges, West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, and Governor’s Guaranteed Work Force are working to develop training that produces ‘job-ready graduates’ at all levels of achievement. We are training to be ready for the jobs of the future.”
The Development Office has long worked with other state agencies, local government and area economic development authorities. Successful collaborative projects include:
- Procter & Gamble and the Development Authority of Berkeley County
- Hino Motors and the Wood County Economic Development Office
- Infor and the Charleston Area Alliance
Secretary Gaunch has advocated stepping up to a broader, regional approach. A coalition of multiple counties draws on more resources than a single municipality or lone county can muster.
“We can be more beneficial and productive if we can work regionally,” he said.
The New River Gorge Regional Development Authority initiates economic development in Fayette, Nicholas, Raleigh and Summers counties. The Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation promotes economic development in Greenbrier, Pocahontas and Monroe counties.
“A shift toward regional collaboration and cooperation to promote West Virginia is a critical element required for success,” Graney said. “We need to continue to diversify West Virginia’s economy. It will take all entities involved with economic development to focus on collaboration and coordination of efforts.”
If you would like information on how to grow or invest your business in West Virginia, please contact one of our development team members today.