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Matthew Ballard

Manufacturing is critical to the economy of West Virginia. Manufacturing generates new advances in innovation and creates good-paying jobs. For every $1 spent in manufacturing, the economy receives an additional $1.82. That is the highest multiplier effect of any economic sector. In addition, for every worker hired in manufacturing, there are four employees hired elsewhere. (Source: National Association of Manufacturers using IMPLAN modeling).

Consider that wages in manufacturing jobs in West Virginia for the past year (2017-18) experienced a 3.1% wage growth — ranking 17th in the country. In the past five years (2013-18), our state experienced a 13.9% growth in manufacturing wages — ranking 13th in the country. During the past decade, West Virginia experienced a 27.1% growth in manufacturing wages — ranking 20th in the country.

Additionally, manufacturing jobs typically provide health care to those employed in this industry. According to the National Manufacturers Association, the industry has one of the highest percentages of workers who are eligible for health benefits provided by their employer. In addition to the industry’s high eligibility, there is high participation. Of the 92% of manufacturing employees eligible for health insurance benefits, 82% participate.

Supporting and growing our manufacturing economy must be a priority. The promise of downstream manufacturing in the petrochemical industry via our vast natural gas assets, the growth of 3D printing, the promise of robotics, and the advancement of automotive technology are just some of the opportunities we must support and advance to spur our economic diversity and to create stronger economic resilience for the Mountain State.

Continued investment in manufacturing workforce initiatives, research spending at all levels of government, and the elimination of unique taxes applied to manufacturing that stymie innovation, product creation, and production should be addressed with the highest urgency for governmental leaders interested in growing the economy.

West Virginia holds a rich history of production. From energy through our natural resources, transmissions and spark plugs in our automotive sector, chemicals like the foam in our car seats, and the arts with our wood and food products, West Virginia manufacturers safely make products that are used around the world. With continued hard work, smart and innovative policies, and additional investments in innovation and workforce, West Virginia will realize the tremendous economic benefits that growing our manufacturing sector can bring to our state.

Matthew Ballard is president and CEO of the Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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