SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — TechConnect West Virginia hosted a forum Wednesday called “Growing Innovation in the Mountain State,” to discuss how to grow tech-based businesses in the Mountain State.

TechConnect WV Executive Director Ann Barth said the event, hosted at BridgeValley Community and Technical College, was a success.

“It really was an energetic conversation about what we can do together in West Virginia to further innovation and entrepreneurship, and to create jobs,” she said.

Barth said that West Virginia is at a disadvantage geographically, with most venture capital going to bigger states and cities.

“What we’re trying to do in West Virginia is make these connections and identify the opportunities where investors would be interested in putting some funds for start up that will create jobs, Barth said.

Intuit, a California-based technology company and developer of the personal finance programs Quicken and TurboTax was on hand. CEO Brad Smith emphasized the importance of STEM.

“West Virginia has a tremendous opportunity ahead of it. To do that, we have to invest in three things: education, infrastructure and entrepreneurship,” he said. “If we lean into STEM and our schools, if we get broadband connectivity for the state and if we build a great environment for small businesses to thrive and survive, we have a real opportunity to build the next chapter of great for West Virginia.”

Barth thought that the downturn of the coal industry has created some sense of urgency in the desire to move West Virginia forward.

“It’s a combined new sense of urgency, but also energy,” Barth said. “Because I think it’s viewed now as an opportunity we’ve got to take the best advantage of, and people realize that what we do in West Virginia is we come together and work out problems.”

Smith said that West Virginia has the talent in STEM, it’s just matter of developing it.

“God is egalitarian when He actually handed out talent,” Smith said. “We have as much talent here as any other state in the nation, we just have to invest in those students and give them the opportunity to thrive right here.”

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