Strengthening Existing Industries
These simple principles led us to discoveries that can change the future of West Virginia. Discoveries such as our state having many robust industries that we can grow, such as aerospace maintenance, repair and overhaul; automotive parts manufacturing; and metals manufacturing.
West Virginia also has sectors that are growing more slowly here than nationally, but we can succeed by differentiating ourselves from the competition. One area is downstream oil and gas manufacturing, specifically in carbon-fiber-reinforced plastics and fine chemicals.
Creating New Sectors
New sectors the state can capture that promise high growth are cybersecurity, cloud services and data centers, and higher-end tourism. And two areas that create distinct opportunities in West Virginia are the life sciences and automotive assembly.
Attracting New Businesses
We must also turn our attention to creating incentives for innovation and business development. For example, we should consider creating a one-stop shop that aligns current resources with business needs and directs businesses to the right offices for help, thus nurturing a business-friendly environment.
And though the state’s infrastructure poses challenges, we must improve roads and bridges, increase broadband access and develop a landscape where data centers can thrive.
Developing Our People
Perhaps our biggest opportunity is also our biggest asset: our people. However, circumstances such as a mismatch between labor supply and demand, the opioid crisis and large waves of out-migration have left that asset in short supply.
If we can create jobs and the space where businesses can succeed, West Virginians will come home.
We can do this by building our future talent pool, especially in STEM areas, and expanding vocational training. We need to improve the health and skill of our existing workforce to attract employers, and we need to engage our universities’ alumni to reach out to the talent we have lost.