In West Virginia, we often hear it said that we are our own worst enemy. A fatalistic attitude, deeply rooted in our Appalachian culture and fostered by our tumultuous history, tempers our hope for the future.

But we do have good news occasionally. We will not rival Hawaii, Colorado or Minnesota (the happiest states, according to a Gallup Poll), but there is enough to give us some traction as we slog through the constant challenges.

For example, the WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research reported last week that the state’s economy grew for the fifth consecutive month.   “Overall the outlook for the West Virginia economy appears positive, as evidenced by healthy and consistent growth in the Mountain State Business Index,” said director John Deskins.

The release of the economic report card coincided with the start of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s “My State, My Life” campaign to encourage middle and high school students to further their education.

The campaign includes a three-minute, fast-paced, artfully produced video* explaining career opportunities in the Mountain State. The narrator (a young male) skips the usual puffery associated with such messages (“we have the best workforce in America”) and confronts our challenges head-on.

“This is my state, West Virginia. It’s my home. Some say it’s old… some say it’s tired. They tell me there’s nothing here.  Some say it’s sad or behind the times. But you know what? They are wrong. This is my state, and this is my life.” You can watch the video here. 

The announcer then points out how young people can have good-paying careers in West Virginia in fields such as radiation therapy, aircraft mechanics or registered nursing with just a two-year degree.

“In two years or less, I will have the skills needed to design it, build it, fix it, run it, drive it, and get hired,” the announcer says.

Yes, it’s just a video, but it’s a candid, tailored message that can serve as a starting point to bend the curve of pessimism that discourages young people from pursuing a livelihood in their home state.

And it’s encouraging to know that well-run campaigns do work. The Washington Post reported a few days ago that West Virginia has made more progress than any other state in getting motorists to wear their seat belts through the “Click-it-or-Ticket” program and the legislature’s decision to make failure to buckle-up a primary offense.

Figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that in 2001, just 52 percent of West Virginians buckled up, but by last year we were up to 82 percent. Granted, we had more ground to make up than most states, but it’s still good news.

Seat belts do, in fact, save lives. The Post reports that Census Bureau figures show state highway fatalities have dropped from 411 in 2000 to 332 last year.  Additionally, Bob Tipton, director of the governor’s Highway Safety program, reports that serious injures have fallen from nearly 14,000 in 2000 to just under 5,000 last year.

Tomorrow I’ll pick up again on the myriad challenges we face, but today let’s lean into the wind and keep pushing forward.

(*Editor’s note: The “My State, My Life” video was produced by Pikewood Creative, a division of West Virginia Radio Corporation, for the Governor’s Workforce Planning Council.)

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  • JTC

    This column is nothing more than an infomercial for Pikewood Creations. Pat each other on the back boys and say how great you guys are.

  • Wirerowe

    Yes and yes.

  • The bookman

    Dr. George Hammond is the guy that was in charge of the annual WV Economic Outlook. I think you are correct that this is the next iteration of that work.

  • Hillboy

    Thanks, I think I am incorrectly assuming that the index was a continuation of intermittent reports from the WVU school of economics. Can't recall the name of the person who used to issue those.

  • GregG

    I only have a problem with "profit" when a business operates with only the goal of amassing more and more profit. In my world there is a fine line between making a reasonable profit and placing profit above all else. When this lust of profit gets to a point where it impacts the economic stability of our nation, then yes, I have a problem. A damn big problem.

  • Rocky J Squirrel

    Were you watching Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons again?

  • The bookman

    "The following seven variables are most appropriate for pointing to where the state economy is headed and are combined into the index: building permits, unemployment insurance claims, the value of the U.S. dollar, stock prices for publicly traded West Virginia employers, interest rates, coal production and natural gas production."

    --Times West Virginian

    I guess it is possible, but I think it is too early to tell. WVU is certainly a very political place, and this index could certainly be manipulated for political gain.

    The index has only been published over the last few months, and the variables may or may not indicate future strength or weakness. I would immediately question the inclusion of the strength of the dollar as an indicator, as it can have both positive and negative impacts on our export and extraction driven economy. The variables listed also seem to lean too heavily on the energy sector.

    The index is simply being misrepresented by almost every outlet and headline as defining growth in the economy. That is not what it is saying. Time will tell whether this index is of value in predicting growth, and hopefully it doesn't become a tool of political machines to spin our economic condition.

  • Hop'sHip

    You are calling Silas liberal?

  • Hillboy

    I've sometimes wondered how objective these reports actually are. They generally seem to be positive even though it doesn't always look so great on the ground. As a state-funded institution is there a political benefit for a WVU group to paint the situation with a rosy glow? If they issued a series of negative reports that made a governor look bad could that potentially affect funding?

  • GregG

    Oh, but we don't dare "tax" big business WV Grad. We let them rape this state and walk away. Then we rant and rave about our roads, bridges, schools etc...... While we are crying because we don't have money for this project or money for that project, big business is sitting on there profits laughing their butts off.

  • CaptainQ

    You just NOW discovered this, Mister G?

    That's the way it's been for YEARS on this MB. Using the R-word is an automatic ticket to 'moderation' on this MB.

    This is why most veterans MB users, such as myself, refrain from using that name. It's never a good idea to 'ask for trouble' and anyone who posts that 'one who shall not be named' is asking for trouble here.

  • mntnman

    Depends on where you live. Southern coal fields are dying on the vine. I guess the fracking boom and eastern panhandle growth are skewing the numbers to show we're growing. South western WV is declining, not growing. So your good news isn't really that good if you live down south.

  • The bookman

    I've read Greg's posts. He knows it's in there, but he would like it removed.

  • Todd

    Hoppy, after listening to your conversation with Kent Carper, and I hate to say this, you are becoming so partisan it's hard to take you seriously!!

  • Helen

    West Virginia 3.........there you go again.

  • WV Grad

    WV prosperity: our once thriving glass industry is long past tense. Coal companies have reaped untold billions here--how much or how little has our infrastructure as a whole faired from coal--are we a top ranked state economically as a result of King Coal?

    Will we allow the Marcellus boom to flourish and then continue to rank at the bottom of the economic totem pole of American states?

    Or will we insist that our legislators have the guts to enact severance taxes on gas production commensurate with the untold billions in profits they will make from this newest West Virginia resource boom?

    Texas and Oklahoma companies are leading in this Marcellus windfall. Our short term prosperity looks good. But what about the long haul? Will we capitalize on it or get the short end of the stick? Take a look at the current economies of our leading coal producing counties.

    Will this become our Marcellus legacy also?
    It is up to us to see that it doesn't.

  • FungoJoe

    If Natalie Tennant becomes governor in 2016, those MSBI numbers in 2017-2021 will retreat faster than an Obama led army.

  • FungoJoe

    They are called liberals.

  • FungoJoe

    When did profit become a bad word? It is something every business, large or small, strives for.
    It is only a bad word to the liberal, socialist, leftists who think only THEY should be the only ones able to profit at anything.

  • The bookman

    Well we certainly have the benefit of that hindsight, and how not to manage a resource. Just as it would be foolish to blindly embrace the short term gain of extraction, so it would be not in our interest to responsibly develop the valuable resource because of the sins of the past. It's a valid point that you make, and we should be watching and asserting ourselves.

  • Hop'sHip

    You should also remind Greg that there IS an I in profit.

  • Hop'sHip

    Does Hoppy's new contract include a no-trade clause? I'd hate to learn that he has been sent to IMG as part of some legal settlement.

  • WV Grad

    Untold billions of dollars have been made from West Virginia coal for more than a century. How much did the state's infrastructure really benefit from it compared to what it could have if the state had more realistic severance taxes on former "King Coal"? Will we and our elected officials let the same thing happen with the Marcellus gas boom?

  • J the C

    That comment explains it all, Silas.

  • Ron from Morgantown

    Unless he is running for office I never see or hear Mr R .

  • Ron from Morgantown

    As Hoppy often says on his show , he is "self actualized " and "comfortable in his own skin ". A new 10 yr contract helps with the confidence as well . I post here often and occasionally call the shows on the West Va Radio network . I never felt uncomfortable or felt like I've been treated unfairly when I participate in the discussions of the day .

  • Ron from Morgantown

    I was surprised that Hoppy didn't use the "editors note" when he was gushing about this video last week on his show . He's usually pretty good at full disclosure . Having said that I do like the video and I can see it motivating high school students . I couldn't watch it here because it didn't work however I saw it on another site . What is real is the potential for incredible job grown throughout the region especially related to natural gas extraction . It looks like the region will have three crackers built within five years . That's huge . When you read what others in the industry say about the potential for job creation related to natural gas extraction in the region they speak enthusiastically. A well respected source from Dallas said this region will become the Silicon Valley of manufacturing for the United States . They predict a rebirth of the manufacturing base in the United States with a significant number of sites located in the region . West Virginia will be part of the great revitalization of the middle class in America .

  • Hop'sHip

    I was going to respond to your comment but got distracted by a squirrel. Never mind.

  • Hop'sHip

    Don't you wonder if he had been elected to public office how this required kid-glove treatment would have been handled? Look how Manchin and Rocky are treated here. Do you think he would have had to divest his "news" operations? Hopefully we will never have to find out.

  • The bookman

    They also have the opportunity to police those comments and respond or defend their position as part of their daily responsibility. Not so with .... Ya know. In most cases those comments are cheap shots and irrelevant.

  • The bookman

    Because Hoppy IS part of the story. Like Allan Taylor on the sports side, as the guy with the pen or the mic, at times you have to take the good and the bad. I think there are legitimate times when Mr R.... Is part of the story, but I think we can get our point across on those occasions without names.

  • Hop'sHip

    Why is it you can say almost anything about Hoppy here and avoid moderation? Could it be that Hoppy, not feeling entitled, is not as thin-skinned?

  • The bookman


    The index from the Bureau of Business and Economic Research isn't a measure of growth. It is a measure of potential growth. The leading indicators, like a top recruiting class, point to future success. But, like on the football field, it takes more than just 4 and 5 star athletes. Just ask the Texas Longhorns. We still have to use the tools we have and execute a game plan. That is our collective challenge. We have to prepare to meet our challenges, work hard and do our part. Remember. There is no I in Team.

  • GregG

    Gee, Hoppy is feeling all warm and fuzzy today. He must have had a little Irish coffee this morning. I'm curious, can our economy really be growing? When we are continually being told that there is a "War on Coal" and Obama is winning the war, this just doesn't seem possible. Something isn't adding up here. I think Hoppy needs to dig into this WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research report. Something smells very fishy. We all know Obama has spent the past six years doing everything in his power to kill this state so I know this report can't be accurate.

  • The bookman

    Mr G,

    Mr R.... need not provide a sounding board for you and others to take shots at him on a daily basis. As a frequent visitor to this site, when appropriate, I have inadvertently used his full name in a comment, knowing in hindsight the awaiting moderation policy.

    Both positive and negative comments are treated with an equal rejection, and I would rather utilize a few more words to fully develop the character of a relevant comment than wade through the morass of irrelevant ones that would clutter nearly every article tearing down the very polarizing figure that provides this platform. Look no further for such an irrelevant example as your post.

    Have a good day,

    The bookman!

  • Hillboy

    Unfortunately, the "my state, my life" promo video, which runs slightly more than 3 minutes in length, greatly exceeds the average attention span of the target audience.

    I was impressed, however, that Pikewood actually included some solar industry images.

  • David

    Then why does my auto insurance keep rising if accidents have fallen 150%

    Does anyone ever ask the important questions ?

  • Medman

    Hoppy, Years ago I read a summary of research that was done about negativism. It basically found that about 15% of people are against, criticize or otherwise express negative comments about virtually every issue. It appears that a disproportionate number of the negative thinkers like to post here.

  • Mister G!

    How about that! When I write a comment that includes the name of the owner of the video production company -- which starts with an R -- and who also happens to own the radio network and website upon which you read this, the comment "is awaiting moderation." When I remove the R word, it gets posted immediately.

    That's an indictment of the kind of stuff that's wrong with this state...

  • Mister G!

    The video isn't that great. Some nice canned footage of the state, and some colorful graphics. But it's not really inspiring, especially to young people. Sorry to unplug the author's plug for the his colleagues, but it's the truth. Grade: C

    But otherwise, keep up the good work, West Virginia...

  • Jackson

    So a Raese company got another state contract? For someone who rails against big government, ever notice Hoppy and his boss constantly are standing outside the Capitol with their hands out?

  • What about us?

    The only jobs that are ever promoted in WV are jobs that require a two year degree or less. What about the rest of us? The ones with a Bachelor or Masters degree? We have to move out of state to find a job worth all the years of school. Good job WV, keep aiming low.

  • The bookman

    The MSBI is not a measure of actual economic growth. It is a forecast index that looks at leading indicators of the future environment in the Mountain State that would be supportive of growth. Given the Governor's lean toward taking another $100M from the Rainy Day Fund to balance the coming 2016 Budget, I'm not too optimistic regarding our state wide economy.

    If we aren't replacing the loss of jobs in the coal industry with better wage jobs, or significantly more jobs than we are losing, then how can we really be moving forward? Mr. Deskins, who compiled the MSBI, reports a net loss of 2600 jobs that he attributes to the decelerating coal industry.

    Well it's time to get back to work and do my part. Glad Silas is doing his part as well. It will take all of us pulling the rope.

  • Silas Lynch

    Go back to bed! Who has time to sleep? I have 79 families depending on me keeping the wheels of capitalism and gears of production turning...

  • Hop'sHip

    I was wondering why the usually dire Hoppy was acting like he was dancing in a Pharell. Williams video. Wasn't there some Obama-attack angle he could have addressed instead? I got my answer with the little note he included at the end.

  • Hop'sHip

    Silas: I think you are dragging us down in that happiness poll. Maybe if you moved to Hawaii, we would trade places with them in the next poll.

  • CaptainQ

    Well Hoppy, there's a lot I could say here, but I'd prefer to keep things positive today, like you are. This is not only GOOD news, this is AMAZING news under the circumstances. Imagine, economic growth in West Virginia! Honestly, I didn't think it was possible considering all this state has going against it. We all can only hope that somehow, some way, this positive economic 'momentum' will continue.

  • Kelly

    I came to WV in the early 80s and have enjoyed a successful 30 year engineering career in the Mountain State. Would not have it any other way.

    WV allows many opportunities for long and well-paying careers for those with drive and responsibility.

    Well done video they have.

    It is always interesting to hear the excuse, "we have no mfg base anymore". In other words, a low skilled job for those out of high school or dropouts who find no value in one of the three tracks that can provide the basis for a bright future....1 - college tract....2 - SKILLED jobs training ala plumber, electrician, carpenter, computer technicians, etc. or 3 - military career.

  • Buck

    Silas, did you get up on the wrong side of the bed, if so, go back to bed and try it again.

    Nice piece Hoppy.

  • Silas Lynch

    Hawaii, Colorado along with Minnesota are gauged as the happiest states? I can certainly appreciate why Hawaii and Colorado may be deemed worthy of being the happiest with Hawaii’s fondness of Maui Wowie and Colorado taking Rocky Mountain High to the next level but Minnesota! A state that gives us Michele Bachman, Jesse Ventura and Al Franken and is also proving to be the epicenter for the Jihadist movement in the U.S. should at best be gauged as the wackiest.

    Meanwhile, Hoppy, care to opine about Ebola and beheadings hitting our shorelines,,, or isn’t that happy enough talk for you?