Business group holds meeting here
The Eastern Panhandle Business Association combined to with the West Virginia Business and Industry Council to bring awareness to the need for business expansion in West Virginia during an open forum Tuesday at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races.
“Putting West Virginia Back to Work,” was the title of the event that saw legislators, leaders and business representatives come together in a public gathering to discuss what can be done to improve the business climate of West Virginia.
Speakers at the event included U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney, W. Va., who represents the 2nd Congressional District; Attorney General Patrick Morrisey; West Virginia Supreme Court elect Beth Walker; Sen. Mike Hall, R-Putnam and Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, to name a few. Also on the program for the afternoon was a forum between gubernatorial candidates Bill Cole and Jim Justice; however, Justice was not in attendance.
Leading the program were Eastern Panhandle Business Association President Jim Ruland and Chris Hamilton with the West Virginia Business and Industry Council.
Ruland spoke to the need to not only attract businesses to West Virginia, but to make sure that those already here, remain. He also stressed the need for a trainable workforce, a predictable justice system, a competitive taxation scheme, ethical and open governance and fiscal stability.
As part of the necessary workforce, Ruland spoke briefly about the drug epidemic that is raging through the area. That topic was touched on by many of the speakers throughout the afternoon.
First to address the audience was Mooney who spoke about things that have helped create job loss in the state including overregulation from Washington.
One of the most detrimental issues, he mentioned, was a stream/buffer zone to regulate water within in the mountains.
“The goal is to cut down coal,” he said. “I have drafted a bill to place a hold on this for two years. That bill is now in the Senate.”
Patrick Morrisey followed up with discussion on eliminating waste in government, including the Attorney General’s office.
“We have fundamentally transformed this office to help grow and protect economic development,” Morrisey said. He referred to several lawsuits his office has filed against the federal government to help save West Virginia jobs.
He indicated that his office has gone from no role in fighting substance abuse to filling a primary role through prosecution of drug dealers and education, especially for high schoolers who can easily fall prey to drug use.
Lt. Gov. Bill Cole, who serves as the Senate President and is seeking the governor’s chair in November, started his talk about leadership.
“Leadership sets the agenda, so it’s important who is in leadership,” he said. “We have moved strongly to create an environment conducive to job creation-to draw in businesses and help those already here,” he said.
He explained that overregulation is the biggest deterrent to business.
“We have 230 boards or commissions in West Virginia,” he said. “Most states have about 90. We need to roll these back because they are what institute regulations and fees.”
Cole spoke about teachers, young people and the necessity that every student should know how to read by third grade. If they don’t he said, they will not learn in later grades. Cole did stress that college is not necessary for everyone and that West Virginia needs to get back to trade school education.
“We have skipped a whole generation of trades,” he said. “We need to bring a common sense approach to our state government,” he said.
Hall, along with House Finance Chair Eric Nelson, presented an overview of the state’s budget, highlighting the areas where revenue fell off, leading to the deficit faced in the last session. They explained where cuts were made and where funds were allocated to continue with such things as PEIA and the Promise Scholarship. The budget, they said, will remain a challenge in the upcoming months and years, especially as coal production continues to decline.