Governor Touts Business Improvements in Speech

Charleston Gazette - Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin touted changes in the state's business climate, new business investments and workforce training initiatives in his State of the State address Wednesday night. Read

"We've created a business climate where companies are encouraged to innovate, expand and create new jobs," Tomblin said. "Companies across the country and around the world are noticing the changes we have made."

Kenny Perdue, president of the state AFL-CIO, thought the governor's speech carried a positive message about the prosperity in the Mountain State. "There's a lot of opportunity in the state with all the businesses coming in," Perdue said. "It's a good time to be here."

Tomblin championed new business investments to the Mountain State, such as Diamond Electric's recent relocation of its North American headquarters to Putnam County and American Woodmark, which announced a $30 million expansion in Hardy County.

The governor praised Southwestern Energy's more than $5 billion investment to secure Marcellus and Utica shale properties in West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania in October. "We have the potential to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in bonus and royalty payments, monies that can be invested to improve our state parks, support tourism initiatives across the state and finance a number of other worthy endeavors to strengthen job creation," Tomblin said.

Tomblin noted the elimination of the business franchise tax two weeks ago, counting it among the steps the state has taken to reduce taxes for employers. He also discussed continued reductions in workers compensation premiums for the tenth consecutive year, saving more than $280 million since 2005.

Ted Boettner, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, was disappointed the governor's speech "didn't seem to have a lot of meat on the bones."

"Unfortunately there was very little discussion about things that would improve the economy in the state, such as higher education, early childhood development and infrastructure," Boettner said. Overall, Boettner said the speech didn't provide guidance on where we should be going in the future.

"The governor talked a lot about how we can try to get people to invest in the state but talked very little about investing in our own people," Boettner said. "Shared prosperity doesn't happen by accident."

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