BECKLEY, W.Va. — State Senator Jeff Mullins (R-Raleigh) complimented the planned widening of the West Virginia Turnpike through Beckley.
He spoke on MetroNews affiliate WJLS Monday saying the project is a great step forward to developing southern West Virginia. A previous report said the plan is to widen the highway between the U.S. Route 19 interchange and the I-77/1-64 split. Mullins said companies and industries who want to come to the region say highway infrastructure is a top priority.
“That’s a big part of economic development. We’re putting the pieces to the puzzle in place that allow us to recruit new industries into southern West Virginia, create opportunities and jobs for the citizens here.”
As the legislative session begins this Wednesday, Mullins said he is excited to take part in the process again. While applauding the achievements of the Roads to Prosperity Bond so far, he also wants to focus on education.
A recent meeting with an interested delegation further proved the priority interested companies put on the education level of the state’s workforce.
“One of their concerns were the education of our workforce,” said Mullins. “Not just-four year degrees, but also two-year degrees and being able to fill positions in manufacturing facilities and things of that sort.”
One proposal on this year’s legislative agenda would allow eligible West Virginians to be able to attend two-year colleges free. Mullins hopes this will not only help improve the workforce, but also the state’s image.
“We want an educated workforce. We want people outside West Virginia looking in to know that if they bring a business here to West Virginia, we’re going to have the workforce there to be able to fill those positions that they need.”
Mullins added that other states have recently enacted similar programs and have so far found success.
“It would be similar to Tennessee, whereas the individual will apply for every federal grant possible. They’ll have to pass a drug test, they’ll be some other stipulations in the bill. But at the end of the day after the analysis has been done, it’s going to cost the state about less than $1,000 per participant.”
According to their website, the “Tennessee Promise” program covers the cost of tuition and fees not covered by the Pell grant, the HOPE scholarship, or other state-supported student assistance.
“To me that’s a drop in the bucket to keep educating our workforce, our citizens, and attracting new industries to West Virginia and especially southern West Virginia,” Mullins concluded.