CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In front of business and policy leaders at the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Meeting and Business Summit, Gov. Jim Justice announced a new task force that will be responsible for bringing manufacturing jobs to the Mountain State.
Justice, who spoke Wednesday morning at the Greenbrier resort, said the Governor’s Downstream Jobs Task Force will focus on jobs related to the anticipated growth of the petrochemical industry in Appalachia.
The executive order from the governor comes more than four months after President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at promoting the use of fossil fuels and the growth of related industries; the executive order also included a requirement that Energy Secretary Rick Perry submit a report regarding growing the petrochemical and other industries in Appalachia.
“If you don’t believe that that’s a reality that is coming our way that absolutely has potential beyond belief, you’re thinking wrong. You’re absolutely thinking wrong,” Justice said.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the rebirth of the petrochemical industry in Appalachia could bring more than $30 billion in capital investment and create 100,000 permanent jobs in the process.
“That is going to become a reality, and we sure to goodness got to reelect our president,” said Justice, who is friends with the president and his family. “But that is absolutely going to be a reality.”
Justice named state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Austin Caperton as the task force’s chairman. Caperton is a former coal executive.
Other members of the task force include Department of Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy; Commerce Secretary Ed Gaunch; Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby; Javier Reyes, the dean of the West Virginia University John Chambers College of Business; and James Wood, the interim director of the Energy Institute at West Virginia University.
Caperton and Hardy also discussed plans for the task force, which will include encouraging energy companies to come to West Virginia and support petrochemical facilities.