Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
Charleston (West Virginia) Daily Mail on economic growth:
West Virginians aren't getting any younger. Neither is the state's overall population. That's not good news for a state that lags in economic growth.
From July 2013 to July 2014, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that West Virginia lost 3,269 people (0.2 percent). The year prior, from July 2012 to July 2013, the population loss was recorded as 2,376, according to MetroNews.
While there is something to be said for the state maintaining its rural character, doing so at the expense of job growth means the state will continue to lag in development and opportunities.
West Virginia needs more young people, but its birth rate and immigration rates are low.
"A declining and aging population is one of our key long-run economic concerns in West Virginia," said Dr. John Deskins, director of West Virginia University's Bureau of Business and Economic Research regarding a study released earlier in 2014. "A smaller working-age population may mean that fewer businesses would consider locating in the state since a smaller potential workforce would be available."
In 2012, the WVU bureau reported that the prime working age population — people aged 25 to 44 — and the kindergarten through 12th grade aged population saw declines the previous year of about a half a percent.
Meanwhile, a study by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce projects that the nation will need an additional 22 million new college degree holders by 2018, and that 67 percent of jobs will require education beyond high school.
West Virginia will need another 20,000 college graduates by 2018, and 49 percent of all state jobs will require a two-year or four-year degree.
People at any age can get a college degree, but for the large part new degree earners are the young.
So the facts are clear, to grow economically, West Virginia needs more people, particularly those in the prime working age of 25 to 44 years of age (which also are the prime child producing age).
It's a conundrum for state leaders, no doubt.
How does the state grow its population? More jobs. How can the state grow jobs when it doesn't have enough workers?
The state needs comprehensive reform on many levels to be more attractive to job growth, job inmigration and organic job creation.
Much of this will take work of the Legislature, which needs to:
— Make notable changes in the legal system to remove the stigma, deserved or not, of the state being considered a 'judicial hellhole' for businesses and investors;
— Comprehensively reform its business tax and regulatory structure to be competitive with others states, encourage investment and job creation, and provide businesses with legal and regulatory certainty.
In addition, the state citizens need to adopt more of a entrepreneurship culture, such as that espoused by Create West Virginia, to encourage individuals not just to look for jobs, but to create their own.
Change won't happen overnight. And change is not likely to happen without smart people coming together to make significant reforms and an economic and population growth plan.
Bluefield (West Virginia) Daily Telegraph on rejecting McAuliffe's plan:
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is taking the wrong approach when it comes to finding funding for the pot of money he can spend to attract companies to the Commonwealth. The Democratic governor, who actively campaigned in support of President Barack Obama's controversial plan to essentially eliminate coal-fired generation, now wants to limit tax credits originally designed to bolster the coal industry in Virginia. Republican lawmakers, who have majority control of both the state Senate and the House of Delegates, should act quickly during the 2015 General Assembly session to reject this ill-advised proposal.
McAuliffe proposed the changes to the state's biennial budget last week. He said he was proposing "common sense ideas" that should garner bipartisan support when the GOP-controlled General Assembly takes up his budget during the 2015 legislative session. But we disagree with that assessment. The coal industry in Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and other Appalachian states is struggling thanks in large part to President Barack Obama's war on coal. The individual states should be working to help — and not harm — the coal industry.