West Virginia must diversify jobs market

An editorial from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel 

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — West Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose, again, to 6.5 percent in February. Compare that with the national average, which is holding steady at 4.9 percent. The number of unemployed residents here increased by 1,300 last month.

Meanwhile, another study ranks the Mountain State 44th in the country in total “tech jobs.” CompTIA Cyberstates released a report in which it said there are nearly 19,000 technology related jobs in West Virginia. For contrast, the top state, California, has nearly 1 million.

Resource-rich West Virginia is becoming more aware of the need to diversify its job market and economy. The coal, natural gas and oil that is so abundant beneath our soil will not sustain us. The severance taxes from those resources will not sustain our government, either.

It is clear West Virginia needs to do a better job educating, tapping into and marketing its greatest resource: our people. There are some incredible minds in our state, certainly capable of handling “tech jobs” as well as, or better, than those in other states.

“I mean we’re an innovative people,” West Virginia Small Business Center Development coach Joe Carlucci told another publication. “It’s not that we can’t be in the top 10. But it’s going to take some significant legwork to get there.”

Those in government must take on as a primary responsibility the task of making West Virginia the kind of place all companies – including tech companies – want to be.

Oh, and speaking of government, the jobs report noted there was some job creation in West Virginia last month. For example, while 700 jobs were lost in educational and health services, 400 in construction and 300 in financial services, 100 jobs were being created … in government. This was last month, just as the current budget crisis was becoming clear. Where did we find the money for those positions, folks?

West Virginia’s economy cannot be built on a bloated bureaucracy and business as usual in Charleston. The men and women in the Capitol had better get their priorities in order.

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