Opinion

West Virginia needs plan to attract high-tech jobs

An editorial from The Herald Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The size of the “high-tech” economy in the United States is not easy to define.

Economists agree that it is more than the information services, research and computer industries we may think of first. It also includes vibrant growing businesses that run across the traditional economic sectors such as manufacturing, health care, retail, transportation and finance.

But one thing that is clear is that there’s not much of it here in West Virginia.

The Mountain State ranks near the bottom on business establishments in high-tech industries, workers in science or engineering occupations and workers employed by high-tech businesses.

Sadly, lawmakers were told Sunday during an legislative interim session, that the state is so far behind, there is no ready strategy to catch up, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.

“Our state has fallen so far behind in the accumulation of the needed assets to participate, it’s hard to think of competing,” Jeff Estep of the West Virginia High Technology Foundation told the interim Joint Commission on Economic Development. “These are the loudest of alarm bells and reddest of red flags.”

It is not that the state’s college and universities do not produce graduates with science and technology skills, because they do – although the totals lag behind most states. But many leave the state to find suitable work. Meanwhile, technology-based businesses looking to expand rarely consider West Virginia, because there are so few workers with the skill levels they need.

That type of “chicken or the egg” problem is not going to fix itself.

The state needs a targeted plan…

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