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Panel told taxes not biggest development hurdle

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Secretary of Commerce Keith Burdette told the Joint Committee on Tax Reform Monday that it isn’t the state’s tax structure keeping businesses away.

Instead, Burdette told the committee, companies that investigate the Mountain State for expansion or start-up find that lack of flat land is the biggest disincentive. Less than 3 percent of land is the state is considered level, he said.

 “Location is our No. 1 problem,” Burdette said. “We don’t lose prospects over taxes; I’m not sure we lose them over regulations any more. We lose them over site.”

Legal and regulatory issues rank Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, he said.

Burdette said lack of an educated workforce also hurts West Virginia when businesses want to locate here. He said it should be “no surprise” that states with the lowest number of residents who have college degrees also have the lowest median income.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18.3 percent of state residents have college degrees, 10 points lower than the national average. The median income in West Virginia is $39,170, 48th in the nation, according to the bureau.

Burdette said CNBC ranks the state No. 7 for cost of doing business because of its competitive tax climate, utility costs, cost of wages and cost of rent for office or industrial space.

However, the state ranks much lower in workforce issues (36th) for education level, number of available employees, productivity and worker training programs, as well as infrastructure (42nd), because of access to transportation, quality of roads and bridges, commute time and safe drinking water…


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