West Virginia Executive Spring 2017 - Page 43

West Virginia Manufacturing In the Mountain State, manufacturing alone accounted for $7.43 billion in output, $3.92 billion in exports and 48,300 jobs in 2015, according to the Center for Manu- facturing Research. Those in the industry recognize its challenges—like the growing lack of a qualified, skilled, drug-free work- force—as well as its opportunities. “West Virginia’s tax structure is less favor- able than other states,” Rebecca McPhail, executive director of the WVMA, says of the challenges facing the state’s industry. “Our state is one of the few that taxes inventory and machinery, which is an issue for manu- facturers. West Virginia’s current financial situation does not lend itself to addressing this issue in the short term. We hope law- makers and leadership will continue to look for ways to create a more competitive and modern tax structure in West Virginia.” Despite the challenges, McPhail is op- timistic about the potential she sees in the Mountain State. “There is tremendous opportunity for manufacturing growth in West Virginia related to the downstream development of ethane and other shale de- rivatives,” she says. “The resource lends itself to the likely rebirth of the chemical manufacturing industry and West Virginia.” Path to Prosperity As Abernathy reports, all southern states have the opportunity to improve their com- petitiveness, but it requires a commitment to growth and the support of policymakers, who play a crucial role in addressing com- petitiveness in manufacturing. “Once policymakers have a clear analysis of the state’s current competitive position, they have to ask, ‘What efforts will it take to move the state from its current competi- tive position to where it aspires to be,’” he says. “Then they must make very hard choices about investments and regulations.” West Virginia is no stranger to hard choices. Facing a financial crisis, the state is strug- gling to balance harmful budget cuts with the exploration for new revenue sources. As optimistic chatter about the potential for a manufacturing renaissance spreads through- out the state, the report couldn’t have come at a better time. “A New Blueprint” provides a roadmap to prosperity for an industry full of potential. Today, competitiveness is king, and in order for West Virginia to capture the throne, state and industry leaders will need to commit to investing in the state’s talent and addressing its business climate.  WWW.WVEXECUTIVE.COM S P R I N G 2 017 41