After making the difficult decisions to change direction in West Virginia by rejecting the tired, old policies of the past and adopting a new pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda, I am pleased to report that the fruits of our three-year efforts have put our state on a strong winning streak. Consider the last few months:
* In the second quarter of 2017, the West Virginia economy (as measured by real gross domestic product) grew faster than any other state in America except Texas.
* In August, Atlanta-based N3, a business that helps companies with online sales and services, opened an office in South Charleston. It expects to create 300 new jobs as it gets rolling.
* In September, not only did the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals remove the lingering legal barrier to making our state Right-to-Work, but U.S. Methanol, Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Hino Motor Manufacturing, and Niche Polymer came through with huge job and investment announcements.
- In October, by 3-to-1, West Virginia’s voters said “yes” to roads, and with it more jobs and more opportunities for tourism and economic development. If that wasn’t enough, Solvay in Pleasants County announced that it will double its production capacity at Willow Island, Armstrong Flooring in Beverly is planning an 85,000-square-foot expansion, and the West Virginia Great Barrel Company will begin production in Greenbrier County.
An Extraordinary Session of the Legislature that strengthened the West Virginia Jobs Act, cut through the red tape for hiring new employees at the Division of Highways, put in protections to make sure that contractors are always complying with our laws and doing business fairly, and last, but not least, provided our veterans with the benefit they deserve of exempting their full pension from income tax – a way to make it clear to veterans of all ages across the country that we’d love for you to consider making West Virginia home.
When looking at the bigger picture, the last few months are even more encouraging. Last week, Workforce West Virginia released its monthly data, and my, what a difference a year makes.
According to their data, since September 2016, West Virginia’s total nonfarm payroll employment has increased by 3,000. That increase includes 3,100 mining and logging jobs, 900 construction jobs, 200 financial services jobs, 100 professional and business services jobs, and 3,400 educational and health services jobs. Although some of our employment sectors saw some losses, it’s clear new opportunities are springing up left and right.
What do I believe all of this is telling us?
I believe that the changes we have worked hard to bring to West Virginia as a Republican majority are finally paying off. For all of the naysayers who repeatedly asked us, “Where are the jobs?”
I would tell you to look all around you. They’re here, and more are on the way. These numbers are outstanding, and they don’t even reflect the direct and indirect jobs and investment we expect to see as a result of the passage of the Roads to Prosperity Amendment.
In three short legislative sessions, the Republican majority has moved West Virginia forward light years in terms of making this state the kind of place any business or industry would want to locate. Just a few of those ways include:
* Enacted sweeping legal reform, which for the first time since its creation removed West Virginia off the Judicial Hellholes list;
* Tackled regulatory reform, removing hundreds of outdated and obsolete rules and laws from our books;
* Modernized our coal mining rules and regulations, which helps keep our miners even safer and giving them more of the freedom they need to succeed; and,
* Improved our educational system by bringing Teach for America to West Virginia, and making much needed changes to our state bureaucracy that weighs down our local control.
All of this gives us in the Senate tremendous hope and energy as we prepare for the upcoming legislative session. Now is not the time for us to let up on the gas. Rather, it’s the perfect time to accelerate our efforts to make West Virginia the best place in the world to live, work, start or expand a business, and raise a family. All of the pieces are finally in place. It’s time to start enjoying the victories.