House of Delegates Speaker Rick Thompson says he’s excited about a new economic development tool state lawmakers will begin putting to work later this year.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has already signed into a law a bill passed by lawmakers earlier this year that will allow for the creation of House and Senate workgroups. The groups will travel inside or outside the state to determine how the state can be more aggressive in attracting jobs.
Thompson says the groups will go to different places to see what’s happening in different states, different cities to see “what can we do to improve our job climate here? What can we do to help businesses expand or come here?”
There’s been some criticism of the recently concluded legislative session that very little was accomplished in the way of economic development. The state’s unemployment rate still hovers around seven percent. Speaker Thompson predicts a lot of good economic development ideas will come out of the new process.
“This will be four of five members from each body, different ones each month,” Thompson explained. “By the time you do this for one year, once a month for 12 months, most of the members who would like to do this will have an opportunity to go an can come back with ideas to help us figure out new ways to create new jobs for West Virginia.”
Speaker Thompson and state Senate President Jeff Kessler are in charge of appointing the workgroups. The law says they can work independently or in cooperation with the state Department of Commerce and the West Virginia Development Office.
Thompson says he wants to make West Virginia a place people want to come to. He says the new education reform law along with tax decreases of recent years will help with that but other areas need to be addressed.
“I think it’s important that we get out and learn what people are looking for when they come here, not one particular idea,” Thompson said.