West Virginia Chamber President Says State Can Do Better
Marlinton, WV – West Virginia Chamber of Commerce President Steven Roberts says statistically speaking the state needs to do better at attracting and keeping businesses. He was the keynote speaker at the Pocahontas County Chamber of Commerce dinner on March 29th in Marlinton. He explains the mission of the Chamber.
“What we try to do at the West Virginia Chamber is create an environment that allows businesses to grow and create jobs,” says Roberts. “We are pleased to have members of the West Virginia Chamber in each county; members of the West Virginia Chamber employ over half of our state’s workforce.”
Roberts says the Chamber tries to help employers create jobs that will give West Virginians a good standard of living. But Roberts, a native of Huntington, West Virginia, says he’s not sure that the state is taking a realistic look at its economic development or lack thereof. He offers some alarming statistics about the state.
“West Virginia is second in the United States for projected population loss,” he says. “We’re second in the United States for the percentage of our population receiving food stamps. We’re fourth in the United States for the percentage of our population with children living in poverty, and that should bother us.”
“We’re 48th in per capita income, and we are 49th in gross domestic product.”
He says the state ranks 50th in terms of real estate appreciation over a 30 year period from 1977 to 2007. And then there’s health, with the state ranking second in the nation for adults who smoke, first in medicare enrollment as a percentage of the population and the third highest cancer death rate in the nation.
Roberts says education is also a concern, with the state consistently being in the top 20 percent in the nation for educational spending, but in the bottom 10 percent for results.
“If you are a school teacher or administrator, I actually want to make you comfortable,” says Roberts. “You are doing very good, very hard work in a tough environment. What I’m here to say is that we as adults very much need to figure out how to help our children learn better.”
“When our West Virginia high school graduates consistently score 44th in the nation on the military placement exam, and we’re in the top 20 in spending, then we need to ask ourselves what can we do to help our children be better prepared.”
Roberts says the legal climate also needs to improve. He says the state is consistently ranked at the bottom for legal fairness, citing no meaningful limits on punitive damages and the most open ended opportunities for bringing deliberative intentional lawsuits. He says some legislators agree with him, some do not.
But Roberts is also optimistic about the future of the state and its more rural counties such as Pocahontas.
“I am conscious of where I am standing, I am conscious of the beauty of Pocahontas County, I am conscious of the importance of the Greenbrier River; so I know the importance of a clean and protected environment to you in Pocahontas County,” he says.
Drawing on his background of growing up in a more industrial part of the state, he says protecting the environment and increasing manufacturing don’t have to be at odds with another.
“We are smart enough to figure out how to do this in West Virginia so that we protect appropriately those pristine rural environments that all of us value,” he says, “but we also have to be able to make things and manufacture things and produce energy in those parts of West Virginia that are prone to and given to that environment.”
In addition to Roberts presentation, the Pocahontas County Chamber also accepted the recommendations for the 2012 Board of Directors.
2012 Board of Directors
3 year term ending March 2015:
Robert Elwood, Michael Holstine, Gail Hyer, Sherry Radcliff
2 year term ending March 2014:
David Cain, Andrew Dean, Dr. Arthur Kreft, Barbara Lay
1 year term ending March 2013:
Paula Garretson, Reta Griffith, Marvina Irvine, Bill Jordan