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Steve Roberts: West Virginia is radiating energy and vigor (Charleston Gazette-Mail - Daily Mail)


West Virginia’s 155th birthday this month was a success and reminder that our state is turning an important corner.

Jobs are being created and the economy is improving. Tax collections and retail sales are growing. All of these facts suggest a healthier and brighter future is in store for our great state.

Among the many advantages offered in West Virginia, none is more important than the wonderful people found within our beautiful and historic landscape. Throughout our nation, West Virginians are known for their sound work ethic, love of country and loyalty to home and family. These are solid American values and they took root long ago in our state.

West Virginia is proud to be populated by caring, kind and intrepid people, whose kind of pioneer spirit built the greatest, most generous nation ever found in the history of planet Earth.

Nothing builds encouragement and hope for the future like experiencing success. Because the picture has improved so much and so fast in our state, it is time to envision a future that includes more jobs, better health, education second to none and a much higher standard of living for all West Virginians.

To be sure, our most important traditional industries are experiencing solid success. Federally collected data indicates jobs in manufacturing, mining, construction and services are growing in our state. Net gains are real and showing.

West Virginia enjoyed the nation’s eighth highest gain in gross domestic product in 2017. Our wages were the eleventh fastest growing in the country during the last 12 months. And tax collections provide the proof. These gains in the economy are leading to real, quantifiable gains in state tax collections and that is proof positive of a growing economy.

Now let’s envision where we can go from here. West Virginia’s small business sector is dynamic and growing. If tax cuts, good economic policy and growth help each small business in our state hire one employee, we would have no unemployed people in our state. Tourism and hospitality, agriculture, and the arts are ideal places to start.

Manufacturing could well provide the basis for a strong future. Historically, our state has been a manufacturing powerhouse. The discovery in recent years of vast quantities of natural gas, combined with other natural resources and a world-class workforce, make substantial gains possible in this all important sector.

Our universities and small colleges are dynamic, exciting hubs. They radiate energy and vigor. With our help and support, and their visionary leadership they will draw students to our state and be hot-houses of innovation.

This is already happening on many of our campuses. With the right help and support, more innovation and creation are around the corner. West Virginia has much room for growth in Department of Defense spending on innovation and technology. Our campuses, in connection with private sector support, will be able to assist our nation with global defensive innovation.

We have further opportunities to be a center for banking and insurance back-office jobs. As we improve broadband and internet speeds and we educate and create a population who can work in data production, opportunities become boundless.

West Virginia school children are taught that President Kennedy visited our state on its 100th birthday. In the midst of a rainstorm on June 20, 1963, President Kennedy, standing on the steps of the beautiful West Virginia Capitol, said, “The sun doesn’t always shine in West Virginia, but the people always do.”

As our state begins its 156th year, let’s continue to shine. It is our time to be a beacon of resilience, hope and human values. The world wants and needs places like West Virginia. Together, let’s embrace a bright future for ourselves and our children.

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

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