the following editorial appeared in the Charleston (West Virginia) Daily Mail on June 25:
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is West Virginia’s CEO, and he’s spent a lot of his time as governor “selling” West Virginia to investors, both foreign and domestic.
It’s not an easy job. As the Daily Mail’s Joel Ebert reported last week, it involves a lot of travel, meetings and negotiation to make these trade missions a success.
But Tomblin’s administration has been successful in attracting foreign investors to West Virginia and maintaining relationships with foreign-based companies already here. Investments linked to trade trips to Japan and Europe over the past two years have greatly exceeded the costs of those trips, according to media reports.
“When you look at what these trips cost compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars of investments, I think anyone would be hard-pressed to say they’re not worthwhile,” Tomblin spokesman Chris Stadelman told The Charleston Gazette.
West Virginia has enjoyed a successful, lengthy business relationship with Japan in particular. Since the first time Sen. Jay Rockefeller met with Toyota officials in the 1990s until now, West Virginia has been successful in wooing several Japanese companies, mostly auto parts manufacturers, leading to investment from some European-based auto part manufacturers as well. State officials are still working with Brazilian company Odebrecht in hopes of bringing an ethane cracker plant to the Wood County area.
American companies like Macy’s and Procter and Gamble have seen the benefits of locating in West Virginia, too.
Meanwhile, some of the state’s small businesses are continuing to expand their foreign exports, selling their products to many countries across the globe, including parts of Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.
Without these trade missions, people outside of West Virginia may not know what we have to offer. Meeting face-to-face with foreign business leaders and government officials establishes a connection that’s hard to beat. Having that sort of close relationship is beneficial to all parties involved, as Rockefeller demonstrated in his friendship with Shoichiro Toyoda, former chairman of Toyota Motor Corp.
“People will not find us with us sitting behind our desks in Charleston,” state Secretary of Commerce Keith Burdette told Ebert. “You’ve got to be seen. You’ve got to be aggressive.”
A lot of people outside of West Virginia have a misconstrued image of who and what we are. Our government and business official must continue to work hard to change those misconceptions and draw business to our great state.