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WV Secretary of Commerce believes in Governor Justice’s bold plans

By WENDY HOLDREN

The Register-Herald

BECKLEY, W.Va. — West Virginia Secretary of Commerce Woody Thrasher told Beckley Rotarians Tuesday he believes in Gov. Jim Justice’s bold plans for the state.

Part of those bold plans include $2.8 billion in bonds, a debt the state would carry for 15 years, to fund highway construction.

West Virginia Secretary of Commerce Woody Thrasher speaks to the Beckley Rotary at the Black Knight Country Club Tuesday.
(Photo by Chris Jackson)

“If you want to stimulate the economy, there’s no better way to do that. If you do that, you’re going to dramatically stimulate the economy.”

Thrasher said the infrastructure would be an asset for decades to come.

Justice’s bold plans also include a request to the Legislature for $35 million per year over the next three years to the Department of Commerce. Thrasher said previously, the department only received $10 million.

“To a lot of people, that sounds crazy. A while ago, I would have said so, too.”

But he said the development office will use that $35 million to attract businesses into West Virginia.

“We do it on a regular basis with very limited resources,” Thrasher said.

He noted $6 million was invested into the site which now houses Proctor & Gamble.

“From the taxes from the workforce, we will get all that money back in 2.5 years.”

In most investment instances, the department gets all its money back within two and a half to six years, Thrasher said.

“We have to come up with initiatives that will be successful.”

• • •

Thrasher, who created Thrasher Engineering (now Thrasher Group) with his dad, said he traveled extensively throughout all 55 counties in the state when they first started their business.

“In 34 years, I couldn’t identify five communities in better shape than when I started,” he said. “That’s disheartening.”

He said he loves West Virginia, but he also recognizes the state’s failures. As Gov. Justice has pointed out, “We’ve certainly learned how to be 50th.”

“We as West Virginians have to recognize we’re 50th for a reason. It’s not that God intended us to be there, it’s how we conduct ourselves, how we conduct business, and how we seize opportunities or lack thereof.”

While Thrasher considers himself lucky for having a successful career, he knows many other West Virginia engineers aren’t so fortunate.

“The vast majority of (engineering school) graduates leave the state.”

He said Thrasher Group started offering internships to students, 60 to 70 each summer, and many of their employees have started in the internship program. But to be able to support his workforce in West Virginia, Thrasher said he was forced to open offices in Virginia and Kentucky.

“There are very few opportunities here.”

• • •

Thrasher’s first project with Justice was the construction of the federal prison in McDowell County. He’s also worked with him on multiple projects at The Greenbrier.

Thrasher initially thought Justice running for governor was crazy, but he saw his love for the state and was inspired by it.

“Our governor is nothing else if not extremely bold. I would argue this is the right time in our history to be bold.”

He said being bold comes with risk, but with risk can come reward.

When Justice asked him to be Secretary of Commerce, he followed in Justice’s footsteps — he set aside his business endeavors to focus on the betterment of West Virginia.

“I haven’t worked this hard in 20 years,” Thrasher said. “But I’m having a blast… I believe with all my heart we can dramatically change the face of West Virginia.”

• • •

Thrasher bragged on Raleigh County, which is one of the few in which he’s worked where he saw a “genuine sense of cooperativeness” among county and city departments and officials.

He said the county and city have seemingly identified priorities and cooperated to move forward on those priorities over the years.

“Raleigh County and Beckley have benefited from that.”

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