Mali R. Schantz-Feld (Apr/May 08)
According to Kelley Goes, secretary of the West Virginia Department of Commerce (WVDC), the state's average unemployment rate last year was 4.6 percent, the lowest unemployment average in the state's history; the number of West Virginians working last year averaged 778,269, the highest number ever recorded; in addition, the cost of living was 4 percent below the national average.
To attract new investment, Goes notes that by 2012, plans include decreasing business taxes by $175 million through reductions to the Business Franchise Tax and the Corporate Net Income Tax. Another tax break will be offered to companies that create good paying jobs in defined fields, such as manufacturing facilities that commercialize technology.
The Mountain State has high hopes for its automotive sector. Charleston Stamping and Manufacturing Inc., which stamps steel and aluminum sheets into auto and truck body parts and builds subassemblies for vehicle manufacturers, purchased a closed stamping facility with intentions to invest more than $35 million to refurbish the plant with new automation equipment. Up to 500 manufacturing jobs are expected within five years. In 2007, Hino Motors announced the first vehicle assembly facility in West Virginia, to produce medium and heavy-duty trucks in Williamstown, in Wood County. The $8.6 million, 194,000-square-foot investment is slated to employ about 80 people building 2,500 trucks annually.
West Virginia has a bond with the chemical industry due to the presence of industry giants such as Dupont, Bayer, PPG, and Dow, says Goes. The American Chemistry Council notes that the chemical industry is one of the most productive industries in the state, with 10,159 jobs directly created by chemical companies. In chemical-related news, Bayer CropScience experienced a 20 percent increase in production over 2006 levels, necessitating a staff expansion for the first time in three years.
Energy continues to be an important topic in the state. Governor Joe Manchin is committed to research in green coal technology and natural resources. His goal is to become the nation's first energy independent state by 2030 to decrease dependence on foreign oil. To start the trend, American Electric Power has received authority from the Public Service Commission of West Virginia to build a 629-megawatt Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) electric generating plant in New Haven. The state is also exploring potential new uses of wood, including bio-mass energy. West Virginia's sustainable timber industry is worth about $4 billion annually to the economy, providing 30,000 jobs and paying about $45.5 million in state taxes.