CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s leaders will need to implement several initiatives in order to boost the state’s economy, according to findings from the West Virginia Forward report.
The findings, released Wednesday at the state Capitol by West Virginia University, Marshall University and the state Commerce Department, identified potential solutions to help solve economic challenges in the state.
The study was conducted by McKinsey & Company, a consulting firm based out of New York.
According to the report, West Virginia should build on its existing assets, identify potential sectors beyond what has already been established, improve the state’s infrastructure and business climate, help people navigate around the state, attract businesses to the state and connect universities to business opportunities in West Virginia, to name a few.
Governor Jim Justice said at Wednesday’s press conference the report creates a blueprint to reshape West Virginia’s struggling economy.
“It’s a road map that could lead us to what all of us want so badly and that is boosting our economy, getting us out of dead last,” Justice said.
While the initiative includes a partnership between the state’s universities, WVU President Gordon Gee said it’s about moving the entire state forward.
“This is not about investing in higher education. I think higher education is one of the incredible opportunities that we have. It’s about investing in the state and all aspects of the state. If the state does well, the university does well,” Gee told reporters.
The collaborative effort will allow universities to engage in business opportunities across the state, said Marshall President Jerome Gilbert.
“We’re coming together to provide leadership and ideas about how we can capitalize on sectors that we may not have been in before and looking at those opportunities to help attract businesses and create jobs for West Virginia,” he said.
Creating jobs in the Mountain State has been a top priority within the Justice Administration. The governor said West Virginia is already making great strides to improve state roads. He said he hopes West Virginians vote for the road bond amendment during the Oct. 7 Special Election.
“I would tell all of you, everybody, that the biggest launching pad to movement that this state has ever had is going to happen on October 7th. If we miss that, I don’t know what we do,” Justice said.
Rob Alsop, vice president for strategic initiatives at WVU who presented the findings, said the report confirmed the governor’s initiative to fix the roads is the right thing to do.
“We’ve got to upgrade our infrastructure. We’ve got to do that if we expect to compete moving forward. Same thing with broadband. There’s been a lot invested in broadband in this state, but we are not where we need to be from that perspective,” Alsop said.
To implement the initiatives, the West Virginia Forward report suggests creating a steering committee, engaging stakeholders and creating a structure of accountability. Working groups will also be formed to focus on energy, business climate, human capital and entrepreneurship.