CHARLESTON, W.Va. — New state Commerce Secretary Ed Gaunch says one thing he wants to concentrate on in his new position is celebrating the successes of existing businesses in the Mountain State.
“I won’t say it’s something that we’ve failed at but I think it’s something we need to give a little more emphasis to and say to those existing industries, ‘How can help you? How can we help you expand? Be more healthy and hire more West Virginians,'” Gaunch said during an appearance Wednesday on MetroNews “Talkline.”
Gaunch, who is serving his last weeks as a member of the state Senate, was named secretary of commerce by Gov. Jim Justice Tuesday. It was an offer Justice put on the table the day after the November General Election when Gaunch lost his reelection bid.
Gaunch, a retired insurance company executive, will lead an office that oversees seven state agencies including the state Development Office.
He said during the last four years as a member of the state Senate, he often heard existing industries express concern about the state’s focus.
“I’ve heard that said and I believe that it’s definitely the perception and perception is reality until we know different,” Gaunch said. “That will be one of the emphasis of what I try to do up there.”
Gaunch said that doesn’t mean his department will ignore the recruitment of new business. He said he looks forward to working with Development Office Executive Director Mike Graney, a person Gaunch said he’s known for years.
However, the state does have some infrastructure problems, Gaunch said.
“As it relates to the health and welfare of workers, substance abuse, roads, broadband, workforce participation rate and educational outcomes,” he said. “These impact what we are trying to do. We need to help those departments and make sure were are in sync with them, rowing in the same direction.”
Gaunch said teamwork is key moving forward.
“Ideally we get West Virginia in a position that we can be attractive without giving away the company store, so to speak, to bring a business in here. We can do that,” Gaunch said.
He considers his new role much like an offensive coordinator on a football team.
“I’m the strategic person who looks at all of these agencies, makes sure they’ll in sync, make sure they all have a common goal and mission. The goal is to attract business to our state,” he said.
Gaunch lost in the November election to Democrat Richard Lindsey by less than 300 votes.