State workforce plan focuses on extraction industry jobs
Frost. W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Commerce is seeking public comments on a plan to develop the state’s workforce for the next five years. A draft of the plan is available for review and comment on the Workforce West Virginia website.
Tourism provides more than twice the number of jobs in West Virginia than all extraction industries combined, but the word tourism appears in the 140-page plan just once. The phrase Marcellus shale appears 13 times and the word gas appears 33 times.
West Virginia Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette says tourism is very important to the state.
“Well, it’s very important,” he said. “The economic impact to the state is about $4.2 billion a year. It produces a little over half-a-billion dollars in tax revenue. It employs 44,000 plus people. So, it has a huge economic impact on the state.
“Tourism has to be in the top three. As an industry, tourism is a lot of different things to a lot of different people. It’s everything from mountain hiking to bicycle riding to skiing to whitewater rafting to zip-lining to historical tourism – people who like to go to museums and like to see sites that were significant in the history of the state or country. So, tourism is a lot of different things.
“Oil and gas and coal will play dominant roles, as far as industrial players, for the foreseeable future in West Virginia. But I would say, if you looked at it in the broadest sense, tourism would have to be in the top three.”
Pocahontas County CVB director Cara Rose says tourism is even more important to Pocahontas County.
“Compared to West Virginia counties, our county is more positively impacted by tourism, through earnings and employment, than any other county in the State of West Virginia. One out f every four jobs – that’s 25 percent of the jobs in our county – are directly related to tourism and travel. Twelve hundred and ten jobs were directly attributed to tourism in 2010.”
Burdette says his department does not favor one industry over another.
“We don’t look at one industry as being more important than any other,” he said. “They’re all different. Their needs are different. Their infrastructure that’s required to support them is different. The skill sets are different. The Development Office works hard to attract industrial and commercial development. The Division of Tourism works hard to expand opportunity in the tourism industry.”
The Secretary compares tourism with the extraction industries.
“If you look at gas, you know, gas is regionalized,” he said. “It’s not in every section of the state and the development and opportunities associated with it are not as widespread. Tourism is in every corner of the state. There’s opportunity for tourism in all 55 counties.
“Coal is the same way. It’s a huge economic player – a massive economic player – if you look at the revenues it produces. But it’s not everywhere. It’s in the south and in the north-central part of the state and up into the northern panhandle. So, we take each of these responsibilities seriously and we don’t pin them against each other.”
Jacqueline Proctor, deputy director of the State Division of Tourism, says Governor Earl Ray Tomblin fully supports the tourism industry.
“Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has always supported tourism very enthusiastically,” she said. “He most certainly has participated with tourism to highlight small town gems. He participated just recently last week to talk about learn to ski month with the West Virginia Ski Association. So, he is always there and I greatly appreciate that.”
The deputy director is very familiar with our local tourism officials.
“I just really want to mention the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau group,” she said. “Cara Rose leads that group and they do a wonderful job.”