House passes site development, workforce training bills aimed at economic growth

Delegates passed several bills today meant to help West Virginia’s economic development efforts.

The bills, several of which dealt with tax credits or tax exemptions, will now go to the state Senate.

“It’s freedom day, I think,” said Delegate Kayla Young, D-Kanawha, joking lightly about a phrase often used in the House to describe bills meant to loosen regulations or provide more flexibility for citizens.

“Today it is,” responded House Finance Chairman Eric Householder, R-Berkeley.

House Bill 4002 would create the Certified Sites and Development Readiness Program. Lawmakers in the House of Delegates have been advocating for the bill since the start of the regular session and passed it today, 98-0. 

The West Virginia Economic Development Council passed a resolution earlier this year in support of the Legislation.

The bill is meant to push the state Department of Economic Development to develop evaluation and site criteria standards as well as application processes for developers. Applicants may only include state, county, municipal or regional government entities such as economic development authorities.

From there, the department could use the applications to select sites for the program, allowing for matching grants of up to 50 percent. There is a micro grant program of up to $25,000 per site.

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw touted the bill as a vital economic development tool during an appearance this week on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

Roger Hanshaw

Hanshaw drew a line to last month’s major announcements of investments by Nucor Steel, GreenPower Motor and Owens & Minor.

“It is that we have to have property ready to be developed if we’re going to expect to recruit and attract development,” he said.

“We got a masters education from recruiting and landing the Nucor investment here in West Virginia. We’re determined to learn from that and take it out for all it’s worth.”

Hanshaw also promoted HB 4465, “Relating to the tax credit for apprenticeship training,” which also passed the House of Delegates today. It provides a credit for employers for wages paid for apprentices.

That bill passed 96-0 today.

“Workers matter, and they matter more than they have ever mattered before because we have such a national shortage of trained and qualified workers,” he said.

“We know that the skilled trades play a critical role in making any viable investment in West Virginia a reality. So if we’re going to the market to attract and recruit those kinds of Fortune 500, Fortune 100, Fortune 50 investments here in our state, we have to have people who can build those buildings, who can wire those lines, who can install those machines, who can commission those buildings.”

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