MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A West Virginia University economist says a trend has developed in the growth of the state’s economy.
“The (Mountain State Business Index) has been growing for 11 out of the last 13 months. So for over a year we’ve been looking at positive territory and that’s very encouraging,” WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research Director John Deskins said Wednesday on MetroNews “Talkline.” “That index combined with all of the other economic data clearly indicates the state’s economy is on the mend.”
The business index grew by a modest 0.3 percent in August, Deskins said, adding the growth is tied to what it has been tied to for most of the state’s history, the extraction industries.
“It’s almost always energy in West Virginia. Coal–we’re pretty confident has hit bottom and coal has bounced back to some extent and natural gas has been growing again for a little over a year now,” Deskins said. “So those two together–the headline numbers look good and that’s helping West Virginia.”
Other areas of the economy, like manufacturing and tourism, are growing at a slower pace, Deskins said.
“That’s where we need to really look for diversification and to promote those sectors to a large percent but they are more slowly growing,” Deskins said.
The development of “downstream activity” from the continued growth in production of natural gas will also be key in the state’s future, Deskins said.
“Jobs in the chemical industry–chemical manufacturing–that could be a total game changer for at least a region of West Virginia if not the entire state if we can land a lot of that activity in our state,” he said. “That’s yet to be determined how much of that will happen.”