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Economic development leaders: West Virginia can compete when policy is right


WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. (WV News) “When West Virginia gets competitive, and we have the policy right — we can compete and win against anyone.”

Government officials and business leaders from across the state came together at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs on Friday for the final day of the West Virginia Chamber Annual Meeting and Business Summit. W.Va. Department of Economic Development Secretary Mitch Carmichael and Executive Director Mike Graney were the first presenters of the day, and spoke of the need to “bring investment to West Virginia.”

“I’m here this morning to tell you a story about West Virginia that hasn’t been told very often,” Carmichael began. “The Chamber has brought forth all of the different policy positions that needed to be accomplished. The people in this room — through your Chamber of Commerce — have brought forth and put in documented forms the opportunities and the bills and the legislation that’s required to put West Virginia in the game.”

Carmichael, who served as Senate President until 2020, was appointed Cabinet Secretary of the newly formed Department of Economic Development in March, 2021.

“When West Virginia gets competitive, and we have the policy right — we can compete and win against anyone,” Carmichael told those in attendance.

Carmichael explained that the recent expansion of business in the Mountain State — American Medicine, GreenPower, Pure Watercraft, Owens & Minor, Sparks, Nucor — will bring more than 5,500 jobs to West Virginia, and represents over $6 billion in total investment.

“We had TCL going to Webster County,” Carmichael noted. “Mountain Top Beverage in Morgantown, Omnus in Princeton, 22nd Century in Elkins, American Carbon in Wyoming County — I could go on and on and on, and there are more to follow.”

“These are the wins and the opportunities that you have put us in position to go sell to the world,” Carmichael continued. “We have the right policy positions in place, and we have the right team in place to market that proposition to the world.”

Carmichael further stated that the Department of Economic Development is creating a “sales culture” to position West Virginia in such a way as to “win in the marketplace.”

“We are proactively marketing the advantages of West Virginia,” Carmichael added. “I get accused all the time of always saying ‘yes.’ And frankly, I do. We never say ‘no’ without an alternative.”

“We want to find a way to ‘yes’ for every one of these businesses and opportunities,” Carmichael said. “There’s always a way.”

Before turning the podium over to Graney, who previously served as deputy director of the W.Va. Department of Commerce before assuming his current role, Carmichael shared the “five great points” of West Virginia’s value proposition. According to Carmichael:

-West Virginia has the best geographic location in the United States.

-West Virginia is a low cost state to do business.

-West Virginia has the lowest turnover rate for manufacturing jobs in the United States.

-West Virginia has a secure public-pension system, and no unemployment debt.

-West Virginia is ranked as a top 10 location for business in the United States.

“It’s always tough to follow Mitch (Carmichael),” Graney said with a laugh. “And it’s always tough to be Friday morning at the business summit because you’ve already heard a lot of what I’m going to tell you — but it’s worth celebrating again.”

Graney explained how the time spent in his current position has been both exciting and frustrating, telling the audience, “Economic development is complicated, but the W.Va. Economic Development Department really has a fantastic, passionate, and talented team.”

“We’re kind of like the State of West Virginia — we’re small but we’re mighty,” Graney added.

Graney explained that the Department of Economic Development is primarily responsible for “expanding and attracting businesses.”

“But we do a lot of other things,” Graney added. “We have an international division. We have community advancement and development. We have small business development centers. The Office of Broadband, the Office of Energy — and now we have the West Virginia Film Office, which is really interesting.”

According to Graney, the West Virginia Film Office’s website was launched on Thursday, Sept. 1.

“We’ve already had five applications that will represent about $6 million of direct spend in West Virginia this year,” Graney noted.

Graney further stated that “intentional diversity” is a primary focus of the department. Another major initiative is the “job platform — to talk about all of the jobs that are available in West Virginia.”

The “job platform,” — an online database that is open to the public — serves three purposes, Graney explained, saying, “To keep our graduates here, to recruit expats back into the state, and to recruit remote workers.”

According to Graney, at present, the job platform has been in use for approximately 18 months, and has upwards of 20,000 open positions posted by more than 900 employers.

“Continue to collaborate, cooperate, and communicate,” Graney said. “This is not momentum — this is a movement.”

Story by Matt Young W.Va. Press Association


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