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Gov. Tomblin offers insight, information during Convention remarks

Among key statements by Gov. Tomblin: Workforce West Virginia office has more than $40 million in federal funding to retrain displaced workers

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Press Association was fortunate to have Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin speak at the WVPA’s Convention 2015 in Charleston, Aug. 13-15.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin

Gov. Tomblin’s comments at the convention’s Advertising Awards Banquet, on Friday, Aug. 14, are posted below.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin:

Thank you Samantha (WVPA Advertising Director Samantha Smith) for the kind introduction, and thanks to all of you here today for the work you do every day keeping our state’s residents informed about what’s happening in their local communities.


Newspapers are a critical part of our state and our local communities. We may not always agree on every issue, but I truly respect your role and am glad to be with you here today.


I know you have a busy agenda today—honoring great work done in advertising departments across the state—so I will quickly highlight some of the issues I know are important in your local communities and across the state.


I have read a number of the stories in your newspapers regarding the condition of our roads, and I understand and appreciate the concerns of residents across the state.


This spring I announced $82 million in additional funding to repair slips and slides, fill potholes, resurface roads and repair bridges.


This was an aggressive effort, but we know much work still needs to be done.


To continue these improvements, the Division of Highways has allocated funding at an all-time high of more than $300 million for paving and repairs statewide. These repairs include pothole patching, asphalt overlays, and other re-pavement work.


We also continue to make progress on a number of major highway initiatives by moving up timelines on key projects that were otherwise outside of our 6 year plan, including Corridor H and widening I-81 to the Maryland line.


In June we awarded the contracts to complete Route 35 to ensure the safety of our residents and make it easier for new and existing businesses to transport their products on a four-lane highway.


We’re replacing and reinforcing our state’s bridges and addressing critical needs areas.


But let me be clear, regardless of any additional funding appropriations we may make, all states—including ours—count on federal funds to assist with both new construction and road maintenance.


Congress must pass a long-term funding plan to secure the Federal Highway Trust Fund, and I continue to work with our Congressional delegation to encourage that action.


Last month, I met with the Senate President and Speaker to work together to find ways to improve our highway infrastructure, and I look forward to continuing those discussions in the coming weeks and months.


We’ve made it a priority to find ways to maintain our current transportation infrastructure, prioritize existing revenues, and review existing fee structures and tolls to expand our roadways and increase economic development opportunities.


I know the hashtag F-T-D-R has gotten pretty popular. The first time I heard it was from Hoppy Kercheval during the Greenbrier Classic, but rest assured we doing all we can on the state level to F-T-D-R. That’s “Fix the Damn Roads” if you don’t know.


Last month, we welcomed 24 governors from across the country to White Sulphur Springs for the National Governors Association Summer Meeting. It was the first time in 65 years, since 1950, that we have had that opportunity.


While these meetings gave us the opportunity to sit down with one another and discuss polices on issues important to our states, this year’s meeting also gave us the opportunity to showcase and share all that’s wild and wonderful about the Mountain State to a number of governors and their families—many of whom were visiting West Virginia for the first time.


During the meeting I chaired a committee work session that included an impressive presentation from your very own Bob Nutting. We highlighted ways the public and private sectors have worked together to encourage economic development and new investments that help increase both the number of visitors and successful businesses in our state.


Tourism brings in more than 5.1 billion dollars and supports more than 46,000 good paying jobs in West Virginia. Research shows that for every dollar we spend to promote tourism in our state, we see a seven dollar return.


I know your newspapers and advertising departments play a key role in helping to get the word out about events and attractions in our state through both news stories and paid advertising.


These combined efforts enhance our local communities and the state’s growing tourism industry in some of our smallest towns.


In one of our many efforts to stimulate tourism-related business, I proclaimed next week West Virginia Craft Beer Week with events scheduled at several pubs across the state.


As some of you have reported, the bill I proposed this year has already resulted in significant increases in sales for craft beers in our state, and brewers are looking to expand to keep up with demand.


Our public-private partnerships also include significant infrastructure improvements that make it easy for people to access businesses and attractions like the partnership between the Division of Highways, the Monongalia County Commission for the construction of a new highway interchange, and a state-of-the-art baseball stadium in Morgantown used by WVU and a minor league Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate with more development anticipated in the near future.


As students head back to school this week, we want to make sure they are learning every day.


In June, we launched a statewide truancy diversion initiative, as part of my comprehensive juvenile justice reform plan passed earlier this year.


Our state’s students deserve a world-class education, and we’re working hard to increase the number of opportunities available to them to ensure their long-term success.


This new initiative will help county school systems provide early intervention services to kids who need them most—keeping them in school and providing them with the individualized attention they need to get back on track and prepare to take advantage of the opportunities we’re creating in the Mountain State.


When we keep our kids the classroom and engage them in the learning process we can prepare them to succeed at the next level—whether through technical training, an apprenticeship program, a two-year degree path at one of our community and technical colleges or at a four-year degree at a state college or university.


As our students explore higher ed opportunities, we’re investing in their futures by supporting the PROMISE scholarship program, which has provided more than $400 million to more than 35,000 graduating high school seniors.


Thousands of our state’s best and brightest are finding success here at home and we’re helping companies investing in West Virginia grow by supporting their future workforce.


Just this week, we celebrated expansions at Cynergy in Cabell County which supplies the natural gas industry and Unicare in Kanawha County, which is expanding to help provide quality, affordable health care to our residents.


We also will break ground soon on Procter & Gamble’s new facility near Martinsburg and are working on numerous other projects to provide employment to your readers and new advertisers in your communities.


Staffing these new and expanding businesses requires a drug free, highly skilled workforce.


Companies doing business in West Virginia are investing in our state and in our people, and my administration is committed to helping them by training our state’s workforce for the jobs of today and tomorrow.


Since 2007, West Virginia’s community and technical colleges have developed 133 programs specifically tailored toward workforce development.


Procter & Gamble, for example, is teaming up with Blue Ridge Community and Technical College to train its 700 new employees.


Macy’s has taken advantage of Blue Ridge’s programs for its fulfillment center employees in Martinsburg.


Toyota has partnered with BridgeValley Community and Technical College to support an apprenticeship program that gives students hands-on experience while earning their two-year degree and getting a job with one of our state’s premier employers.


As we encourage our young people to explore these opportunities, we are also expanding our efforts to prepare more than just our future workforce.


Our community and technical colleges are providing new opportunities for our men and women in uniform and supporting new training opportunities for our veterans.


Blue Ridge Community and Technical College has developed a new cyber-security program for National Guard members, and Mountwest Community and Technical College has been recognized as the best two-year college in the nation for veterans by Military Times.


I also understand times are tough for many families, particularly those affected by the downturn in the coal industry.


With the help of Workforce West Virginia, we are retraining displaced workers, including our state’s coal miners and members of their families, to put them back on the path toward success.


Right now our Workforce West Virginia office has more than 40 million dollars—let me repeat that—40 million dollars in federal funding to retrain displaced workers and those affected by long-term unemployment.


In 2014 alone, Workforce West Virginia helped more than 132,000 job seekers find employment.


These grant funds are helping thousands of people find good-paying jobs in high-demand fields.


At Workforce career centers across the state, job seekers are provided the tools they need to get back into the workforce through resume help, interview prep, training opportunities and a variety of specialized services.


We have a significant amount of money available for these retraining programs. I won’t list all of them today, but please contact Chris or Shayna in my communications office and they can get you the details you need to help us share these opportunities with people across the state.


While we work hard to develop a strong, skilled workforce, we must ensure it is also a drug-free workforce.


This spring, we kicked off the 16th round of regional taskforce meetings for the Governor’s Advisory Council on Substance Abuse.


Members of the taskforce have worked incredibly hard to confront our state’s drug problem.


Since establishing this working group in October 2011, more than 3,000 West Virginians representing law enforcement officers and the judicial branch, faith-based organizations and health providers, local officials, concerned family members, and many many more have shared valuable input.


These recommendations have led to a number of critical reforms, including expanding access to Narcan (Nar-can) to first responders and family members of those struggling with addiction, creating West Virginia’s first-ever 24-hour call center to provide referral support for those seeking help and services, and providing funding to expand critical substance abuse treatment services in areas where those services did not exist.


Since 2013, we’ve reinvested nearly $10 million to enhance community-based treatment services to provide those struggling with addiction with the support they need to get on the path toward recovery and return to their families, communities, and workplaces.


Soon we will release a map that details the services available in local communities, and again, I hope you will help us spread the word about that.


Businesses operating in West Virginia want to hire West Virginia skilled, drug-free workers, and the Governor’s Drug Free Workforce initiative is helping carry that message.


As we prepare workers with the skills for the jobs of today and tomorrow, Workforce West Virginia is drug testing all applicants before we start career training to avoid spending state dollars on people who can’t pass a drug test.


I know we’ve touched on a number of topics fairly quickly today, but I wanted to give you an overview of what we have accomplished and what we plan to do in the next 18 or so months.


Again, thank you for having me here today, and thank you for all you do for West Virginia.


Don and Samantha (WVPA Executive Director Don Smith and Advertising Director Samantha Smith) , I know you need to get back to the awards program, but if there’s time I’d be happy to take a few questions.



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