CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia has a "brain drain" problem.
Paul Daugherty, chairman and founder of Generation West Virginia, said the phrase, which refers to young people leaving the state seeking career, social, economic and other opportunities elsewhere, describes one of the Mountain State's biggest challenges.
In an effort to find solutions and pass them on to the state's youth, Daugherty's nonprofit research organization brought together leaders in business, government, education and other fields to speak at the 2013 Solutions Symposium Thursday afternoon in Charleston. The speakers, who hailed from all across the state, addressed an audience of more than 50 attendees at the Summit Conference Center on Summers Street.
"We want to make our state a destination that can attract and retain new young people, existing young people and where people can call home," Daughtery said. "We're not going to complain about it -- we're going to create solutions."
The Symposium began with a speech from Nikki Bowman, founder of New South Media, the multimedia company responsible for regional-themed publications like West Virginia Living, Morgantown and West Virginia Weddings.
"If we don't come up with solutions, our state will rot from the inside out," she said. "That's not a pretty picture. We'll implode."
Bowman, a Kanawha County native, said she knows a thing or two about the "brain drain" problem. After graduating from West Virginia University, she made a beeline out of the state for Chicago, where she spent 10 years working as a political journalist.
After becoming disillusioned with the Windy City's corrupt political scene, Bowman said she realized the place she could make the most difference was back at home. In 2008 she founded her company, one that she said has grown and become more successful than she could have ever imagined.