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Steve Roberts: Let's celebrate bond passage and keep momentum alive (Charleston Gazette-Mail)

10/15/2017

Our state took a great step forward Oct. 7 by passing the Roads to Prosperity Amendment of 2017.

Seen as an opportunity to enhance our infrastructure with improvements to highways, roads and bridges, the public’s endorsement represents more than that. It validates what can happen when we come together for a common cause.

Although turnout was on the low side, 73 percent of those voting supported the plan. I’m convinced the reason is they trust this will benefit West Virginia. I also believe voters saw the effort of many individuals and groups working together for the first time in decades. Labor, education and business rallied for the cause from which all 55 counties in the state will benefit.

This is promising, and it provides a platform from which West Virginia can grow its economy. The enhancements to infrastructure, coupled with the support of our residents, are powerful indicators of what can lead to stronger economic conditions if we are dedicated to the issue.

Continued commitment to collaboration and hard work will provide the setting in which our state and its people can experience prosperity, something every West Virginian deserves.

But to make this happen, it is critical we recognize how important it is to work together, to explore additional changes and to tear down obstacles that have separated us from each other and from believing in ourselves for too long. The approval of the bond confirms what we can do when we work together.

I am proud to say the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce was part of the amendment work. But without the efforts of many others — labor, education and political leaders to name a few — this could not have happened. I commend each person involved and encourage them to continue to work for our great state.

This year, West Virginia has seen economic improvement. Numbers recently released by the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office show 621 new businesses were started. The top counties for business growth are Tucker, Morgan and Wyoming. Combine this with other data, and you notice progress is happening:

Our gross domestic product in the first quarter 2017 was second in the nation.

Coal production increased 31 percent in the last 12 months.

Natural gas production is at an all-time high.

Construction has increased by 1,000 jobs.

Healthcare has added 3,500 positions.

This shows promise. However, we cannot think this is enough. For too long, our state has struggled to find its economic footing. By making changes that demonstrate West Virginia is about jobs, a strong economy will become a reality. Prosperity will happen. However, this takes all of us working together—collaborating—for something much greater than our individual desires.

As West Virginians, we must continue our efforts to create an environment that says our state is serious about attracting and keeping jobs. We must put aside our differences and ask what needs done to aid our state in becoming what she is capable of being.

As author Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together, we can do so much.”

Steve Roberts is president and CEO of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

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