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Steve Roberts: Road bond will benefit all West Virginians (Charleston Gazette-Mail)

10/4/2017

West Virginians will have an opportunity this week to make a true difference in our state.

As we go to the polls on Saturday, it is crucial we recognize what the Roads to Prosperity Amendment of 2017 means to the entire state.

The Roads to Prosperity Amendment is the chance to complete major highway projects that have been under discussion for decades. It will better connect West Virginia to our neighboring states, it will provide thousands of jobs to hardworking West Virginians, and it will accelerate the economic recovery underway in our state.

A strong infrastructure is a leading contributor to a vibrant economy. Businesses know that good roads and highways are essential to success, and that success means more good-paying jobs and quality of life improvements.

If you travel to areas with booming economic development, you will find roads and highways that are in excellent shape. These areas realize that businesses place a high priority on infrastructure when making decisions on where to expand.

This past month delivered promising news to West Virginia. Five major companies took steps to locate or expand their operations in our state. Toyota Motor Manufacturing announced it will invest more than $115 million in its Buffalo plant to produce the first company’s first American-made hybrid transaxles.

Hino Motors Manufacturing announced it purchased the former Coldwater Creek distribution center off of Interstate 77 and will add about 250 jobs in Wood County.

Niche Polymer, which produces engineering polymers for the automotive industry, will add 30 jobs to its Jackson County plant.

PPD of WV One announced plans to locate in Greenbrier County and convert solid waste materials to diesel fuel.

And US Methanol broke ground in Institute for its first facility in the United States, and will employ 300 workers for construction and 50 permanent jobs.

These announcements signal that the economic recovery in West Virginia is well underway, and by passing the Roads to Prosperity Amendment, we have the chance to entice more businesses to follow suit.

Beyond the numerous economic development benefits that passage of the amendment will bring, our roads will become more safe for travel.

According to National Transportation Research Group, 29 percent of the state’s major roads are in poor condition. In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers reported 17.3 percent of our state’s bridges ranked as structurally deficient.

The Roads to Prosperity Amendment means that potholes, washed-out sections of road, and bridges that have fallen into disrepair will be fixed. School buses transporting our children will traverse better and safer roads. And less wear and tear on vehicles means more money back in the pockets of our citizens.

Every West Virginian will benefit from the passage of the Roads to Prosperity Amendment. Projects are planned in all 55 counties. The surge in construction will employ thousands of hardworking West Virginians, and the economic development boost will provide countless good-paying jobs for future generations.

That is why a diverse coalition that includes organized labor, teachers, local chambers of commerce, statewide industry organizations, higher education leaders, county commissioners and mayors, and legislators of both political parties have signed on in support.

The Roads to Prosperity Amendment will bring positive change to West Virginia — now and into the future. It is needed, and it will be effective. We must do our part to ensure this becomes a reality by heading to the polls on Saturday and voting “Yes.”

Steve Roberts is president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce

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