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Editorial: Job losses, economy hitting southern W.Va. hard

From The Charleston Gazette-Mail, Daily Mail page:

The economic news here in central and southern West Virginia isn’t good these days.

“CAMC to cut 300 jobs” the Gazette-Mail’s Thursday headline blared. “Kanawha Electric & Machine Co. closing after 80 years” says one story in today’s print edition.

Economically, it seems we are seeing more down than up lately for the Charleston area.

“Regrettably, there is no end in sight for West Virginia’s economic situation, poor reimbursement from governmental insurance, rising cost of drugs and technology, the nursing shortage and the cost of caring for government-insured patients,” said Charleston Area Medical Center chief Dave Ramsey in a video in announcing the hospital system’s job cuts.

He goes on to say that CAMC’s operations were on course to lose $40 million in 2017, so leadership had been “working on a plan to stop the financial losses and work toward a sustainable future.”

Kanawha Electric & Machine is wrapping up its final repairs this week after decades of work fixing motors, pumps, generators and other items for clients across the U.S., owner Tom Sheppard told Gazette-Mail reporter Max Garland.

Sheppard said many of the company’s biggest clients in the coal industry have been hit hard by the continued shift toward natural gas and renewable energy. This has led to a lack of work for the company, which repairs motors, generators and pumps used in coal mines.

The company’s 14 employees will lose their jobs.

The southern region of West Virginia, particularly, seems to be a tough place for a business to succeed right now.

As a whole, the state’s population has declined by around 12,000 over the past three years, and is likely to lose more than 20,000 residents over the next two decades, reports West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research in its 2017-2021 Economic Outlook.

Also, the state’s population is significantly older than the nation’s as a whole, will continue to age, and ranks at or near the bottom in many basic health outcome measures.

This means the economy won’t get better on its own. West Virginia must take drastic steps to make its business climate more attractive and bring in more people, particularly young people eager to work.

“A positive shock to encourage in-migration is essential to lessen the severity of natural population decline,” the outlook says.

“Economic development strategies should focus on ways to improve health, drug abuse, and education outcomes in the state to make West Virginia’s workforce more attractive to potential businesses.”

It’s not easy for business, economic and government leaders to find ways to grow West Virginia’s economy, but the status quo is unacceptable. It’s time to think differently, stop partisan bickering and quit protecting old turfs.

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