CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Commerce Secretary Ed Gaunch said one thing is certain after he finishes his listening tour at businesses around the state: He wants to develop regional strategies.
Gaunch spoke to MetroNews this week before meeting with local Kanawha County officials at the Charleston Area Alliance during his Charleston stop on the tour.
Previous stops on the tour that he calls a ‘celebratory tour’ has included four north-central West Virginia counties, Wood County, Wyoming and Raleigh counties, and the Northern Panhandle.
“The needs are different,” Gaunch said. “Some of them are crying for people, they can’t get enough folks trained to come into work. Other folks say they have plenty of workers and they need more business. We try to figure out what we can do to spur that on.”
Gaunch said he will move on the regional strategies idea in the next few months with the potential of moving it into a state strategy.
The stops in Kanawha County included Shafer Equipment, a family-owned heavy equipment rental and sales company in Clendenin; NGK Spark Plug USA in Sissonville; and Peerless Block and Brick in St. Albans.
“We have been spending time with existing businesses,” Gaunch said of his tour. “Thanking them for being here, employing West Virginians and finding out what we can do to help them be more successful.”
“We listen to what they have to say, try to bring it back and turn it into policy.”
The current tour by Gaunch is the fifth time the secretary has gone around the state to speak with businesses, their workers and local community leaders. He said each time he learns or hears something new that can be brought back to his desk for work.
“We spend so much time trying to hit the home run, like the cracker plant,” Gaunch said. “We are going to continue to do that but we are going to divert some of our attention to existing people.”
Gaunch noted the industries that are growing in the state include aerospace, automotive and technology industry.