March 22, 2017 | Charleston Gazette-Mail
It’s no secret what condition the state of West Virginia is in. State government faces a shortfall of nearly $500 million for next fiscal year.
West Virginia is the only state in the union that has a smaller population now than it did in 1950,
while the number of residents continues to drop.
The workforce participation rate — that is the number of working-age adults who are working or looking for work — is the lowest in the United States.
There are three things that West Virginia needs that can improve all these rankings: jobs, jobs and jobs.
For that reason, creating an environment within the state that will stimulate job growth — from small home-grown enterprises to major international corporations — is vital for West Virginia to grow and thrive.
Otherwise, the state’s economy, and opportunities for its citizens, will continue to wither. And we’ll see the need for government services grow while resources to fund them shrink as willing and able young people fulfill their potential outside of the state’s borders.
So, how can lawmakers, in session for the 83rd Legislature, help turn that around? They need to listen to the job creators.
Some of those job creators — the oil and natural gas industry and manufacturers — organized a rally on the state Capitol steps Tuesday.
“A string of lawmakers, industry officials and business owners took to the stage for the event, promising to help the natural gas industry, calling gas production a path to economic prosperity and improved manufacturing related to shale-gas byproducts, and agreeing that the state’s current regulatory and legal structure gets in the industry’s way,” reported the Gazette-Mail’s Ken Ward.
“We’re at a crossroads in West Virginia,” said Rebecca McPhail, president of the West Virginia Manufacturers Association. “Time is short, and we urge West Virginia legislators to move forward quickly.”
The oil and gas industry has invested more than $10 billion in West Virginia since shale development began accelerating about eight years ago. That’s on top of the billions of dollars worth of investment in-state for more than 100 years. Energy production, including oil and natural gas, is one of the few areas where West Virginia ranks high among the states, fourth overall.
To create more jobs and bring in more revenue for property owners, mineral owners, investors and the state, the oil and gas industry needs laws that are up to date with its technology and capabilities today.
Likewise, manufacturers need up-to-date, reasonable laws and regulations that encourage investment in West Virginia instead of other states.
More mineral and pipeline infrastructure development will bring more manufacturers and, instead of a downhill slide, the state may begin to see an uphill rise in its economy.
Yes, the oil and gas industry extracts fossil fuels, which some modernists see as the devil’s child, but the abundance of clean-burning natural gas ensures long-term, reliable, low-cost supplies that can fuel an economic rebirth rarely seen in West Virginia — if lawmakers lead the state out of the way.