CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Two Hungarian companies are looking at expanding their operations in the Mountain State, officials announced Tuesday at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between West Virginia and Hungary.
Gov. Jim Justice, state Development Office Executive Director Michael Graney and Hungary Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó signed the agreement.
The MOU will allow both governments to “develop and intensify” economic relations of mutual benefit. The agreement “offers no obligation on either participants part to enter into any other type of agreement.”
Szijjártó said his country and West Virginia have several things in common.
“Nine years ago we had a terrible economy but since then have been running brave. We have highest growth rate in the European Union and we’ve broken employment records,” Szijjártó said. “You (West Virginia) have the highest growth rate of the United States. What I see is that you broken the record of employment and you’ve improved your exports by 16 percent in only one year.”
Hungary is interested in the petrochemical industry and IT, Szijjártó said.
“You will soon see a couple Hungarian companies coming here, creating jobs and creating added value to the economy performance of this wonderful state,” he said.
One of the companies is looking at a large site for development within an hour of Charleston both Szijjártó and Gov. Justice confirmed. They declined to release other details.
The Justice administration signed an MOU with China Energy in 2017 in connection with natural gas development but little has come of the $83.7 billion deal. Justice said Tuesday the agreement with Hungary is different because the U.S. and Hungary have a better relationship than the U.S. and China.
“Before we could clear that obstacle the tariffs came into play,” Justice said. “So in this situation we don’t have that. We’ve got a government that is on the move and doing a lot of great stuff and leading the European Union.”
Justice said he hasn’t lost hope in the China Energy deal.
“Hopefully that will get worked out but everyone is lockjawed right now,” he said. “If not, there are many other suitors (for the state’s natural gas).
West Virginia’s exports to Hungary were in excess of $6 million in 2018. Szijjártó said Dow Chemical and Mylan Pharmaceuticals are already in the country.
Justice said the state has discussed possible incentives with the Hungarian businesses but nothing has been obligated at this time. Justice said he’s open to the possibility.
“I am a business guy first and foremost,” he said. “I want to try and do anything we possibly can to bring people to this state to create jobs because once they get a taste of West Virginia they are going to love it just as much as I love it.”