West Virginia Executive Spring 2017 - Page 42

Building the Blueprint A great deal of potential exists within the U.S. manufacturing industry. One of the primary keys to unlocking that potential is increasing each state’s com- petitiveness. This is no small feat, but it is made more easily achievable thanks to the insight provided in “A New Blue- print.” The report acknowledges both the important role manufacturing plays in America’s economy—particularly in America’s southern states, including West Virginia—and the challenges the industry is currently facing. Abernathy’s manufacturing blueprint came about as a result of the efforts of the Southern Governors Association (SGA) to identify and address the issues surrounding the industry. “As the South was emerging from the Great Recession, the association saw an opportunity to strengthen man- ufacturing competitiveness in the South as well as a way to attract good manu- facturing jobs,” he says. Using the SGA’s 2013 annual report as a foundation, he and his team took the initiative one step further by conducting their own research. “We focused on several policy areas that are impacting manufacturing competitiveness, rapid technological change, workforce skills mismatches, slow growth in productivity, the impact of innovation and our struggle to make in- vestments in infrastructure,” he says. “We concluded that given the hyper-competi- tiveness manufacturers face from global competition, if we want to successfully compete, there are things we can do.” The end result was “A New Blueprint,” which was meant to encou rage both effi- cient collaboration and immediate action. What the report determined was that im- proving manufacturing competitiveness must be addressed, and in order to do so, focus must be given to four key areas: business climate, workforce, innovation and infrastructure. For the report, Abernathy worked with an advisory group to develop these four key areas into four indexes that assess the relative competitiveness of each of the southern states. The indexes provided information that allowed Abernathy to help the states identify their individu- al strengths and weaknesses instead of merely comparing them with the others, which allows him to help guide each state toward more competitiveness. A health coach with you every step of the way is #LivingProof. Cortne was at risk for diabetes. So Highmark health coach Stephanie put her on a plan. So far, she’s helped Cortne lose 50 pounds. And to help Cortne on her path to better health, she calls regularly and even meets her every month for a walk. Living Proof of the difference you can make, when you’re All for Health. HMKLivingProof.com Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. 40 WEST VIRGINIA EXECUTIVE Ranking the Mountain State “A New Blueprint” was presented to members of the West Virginia Manufac- turers Association (WVMA) at the asso- ciation’s first annual Winter Convention in December 2016. At the event, Aber- nathy shared his report’s findings for the industry as a whole as well as how West Virginia faired among the four indexes. “A pleasant surprise was West Virgin- ia’s strong performance in infrastructure. West Virginia scored the best in the infra- structure index—in the top 20 best states nationally,” he says. West Virginia ranked in the middle among southern states for workforce and, to Abernathy’s surprise, ranked lowest for business climate. “The business climate score was a little surprising,” he says. “The state’s business tax climate is ranked 18th by the Tax Foundation, but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform ranks West Virginia 50th, and the state’s effective tax rate for labor-intensive man- ufacturing operations is ranked 47th.” As a result, his advice for the Mountain State is simple: focus on making improve- ments to the state’s business climate and improving the skills of the workforce.