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A conversation with. Mark Julian, Director of Business and Industrial Development Division, West Virginia Development Office

"In the first six months of 2007, U.S. exports grew 10 percent, but West Virginia exports grew by 17 percent, surpassing the national average. In order of size, West Virginia's top international export markets are the European Union, Canada, Japan and China. The state hosts more than 100 international manufacturing facilities."

Oct/Nov 07
Q. What is the most exciting bit of development news this year?
A.
Certainly one of our largest development announcements this year is CertainTeed Gypsum Wallboard Plant in Marshall County. This $150 million investment is the single largest in the state since 1996, when Toyota announced it was locating a $400 million engine plant in Buffalo. The 750,000-square-foot gypsum plant, which will take fly ash that would ordinarily become landfill waste and convert it for use in the production of gypsum wallboard, is now near completion. The project is expected to create about 150 jobs.

Q. Will any new legislation encourage the growth of new business?
A.
Governor Joe Manchin and the state legislature have worked together to enact tax modernization that improves our business climate and encourages development. For example, in the 2006 special session and 2007 regular session, we reduced the Corporate Net Income Tax rate. The Business Franchise Tax is reduced for now and will be phased out by 2009. We enacted a sales tax exemption for contractors whose purchases are used directly by manufacturing facilities. This reform will assist our manufacturers in their building efforts and encourage them to invest more in West Virginia. Effective January 1, 2008, high-tech manufacturing businesses making computer and peripheral equipment, electronic components, or semiconductors can receive a tax credit to offset 100 percent of the Business Franchise Tax and 100 percent of the Corporate Net Income tax for 20 consecutive years.

Q. What are your growth industries?
A.
West Virginia's traditional industries include chemicals, plastics, steel, glass, fabricated metals, and value-added wood products. Our expanding industries include biometrics/biomedical technology, energy and environmental technology, transportation equipment, aerospace, business services, information technology, printing and tourism.

In 2006, the automobile and parts manufacturing industry's presence in West Virginia circulated $7.79 billion through the state's economy. In 2007, NGK Spark Plugs (USA), Inc. announced it will build a new spark plug producing plant beside its existing oxygen sensor plant and distribution center in Sissonville.

Q. Are any areas growing with a particular type of industry?
A.
We see a strong correlation between population change and increases in employment. According to Workforce West Virginia county-level data for 2000 and 2005, we have seen population and job gains in Monongalia County. Morgantown, the county seat, is home to the National Biometric Security Project's Test, Research and Data Center, the only ISO-accredited biometrics laboratory in the world. Other growth areas include Berkeley County, part of the Washington, D.C., metro area; and Putnam County.

Q. What is happening in the area of exports and direct foreign investment?
A.
West Virginia's export shipments of merchandise in 2006 totaled $3.2 billion. In the first six months of 2007, U.S. exports grew 10 percent, but West Virginia exports grew by 17 percent, surpassing the national average. In order of size, West Virginia's top international export markets are the European Union, Canada, Japan and China. The state hosts more than 100 international manufacturing facilities. Successful international companies operating in West Virginia include Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Buffalo, Allevard Springs USA in Prichard, Diamond Electric in Eleanor, and Hino Motors Manufacturing in Williamstown.

West Virginia staffs a European business development office in Munich, Germany, and an Asian business development office in Nagoya, Japan.

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