Officials discuss business climate in W.Va.

CHARLESTON – Lawmakers said more needs to be done to make the state business friendly after the state’s image has seen improvement with business leaders from across the country and representatives from the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

Citing the results of an annual survey ranking the Best and Worst States to do business in, the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce is urging members of the West Virginia Legislature to continue its efforts to pass job-creating legislation.

In the 2012 national survey of CEOs by Chief Executive magazine, West Virginia moved up eight places and out of the bottom tier of the annual survey.

“This is a prime example of the positive results derived from the Legislature developing a better business climate,” said Steve Roberts, president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce. “Working together with Governors Manchin and Tomblin, legislators stepped forward and took bold steps to begin revitalizing the state as a good place to do business.

“For the nation’s CEOs to move West Virginia from 42nd to 34th place in one year is very significant. Certainly more is needed, such as passage of Governor Tomblin’s comprehensive education reform bill, but this new perception by the nation’s business leaders is substantial proof we have begun moving in the right direction.”

The West Virginia Chamber pointed to recent U.S. Department of Commerce figures showing the growth of West Virginia’s Gross Domestic Product as one of the best in the nation. The Mountain State’s 4.5 percent GDP growth outpaced neighboring states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and Kentucky.

“The chamber sincerely acknowledges the Legislature’s foresight in enacting bold initiatives such as the privatization of workers’ compensation, which has resulted in an average 60 percent reduction in premium costs, the phase-out of the Business Franchise Tax, the phase-down of the Corporate Net Income Tax, and the innovative approach to solving the Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) predicament,” Roberts said.

“Certainly these issues and several others have convinced many CEOs of the state’s desire to become more business friendly, which is the key to job creation.”

Sen. David Nohe, R-Wood, said he has heard about what the chamber has been saying.

“It is fantastic from what I have heard about it,” he said. “The Legislature has worked hard with a strong effort to get us out of the basement. We deserve to be out of the basement.”

Nohe hopes the state’s business position will continue to improve as more work is done in Charleston, he said.

“We have so many natural resources here and so many tremendous people,” he said.

Business leaders believe changes in the state’s education system will help to attract businesses and employment to this area.

Nohe said he does not support the governor’s education bill as it is written and believes changes need to be made to make it more equitable to everyone.

“I am hoping with the right amendments and changes, we will all be able to get on board with it,” he said.

Jill Parsons, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley, said it takes hard work and a consistent long-term focus on improving the business climate to see movement in the annual ranking of the Best and Worst States to do business in.

“That West Virginia moved up eight places demonstrates that the work done over the past several years is paying off,” she said. “But it doesn’t end there.

“We agree with the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce that it is crucial for our Legislature to continue to focus on job creation and other legislation that make it easier for businesses to succeed in our state,” Parsons said.

Parsons said area officials have been promoting West Virginia as a prime opportunity to do business, and telling why a business should select the Mid-Ohio Valley over other parts of the state.

“I am encouraged; our chamber gets calls on a weekly basis from business interests outside the state asking about such items as available property, workforce development, our education system, chamber activities, local support for businesses – several of the key triggers involved in making the decision to bring a new business venture to our community,” Parsons said.