CHARLESTON, W.Va. - From Kyrgyzstan to Cote d'Ivoire, West Virginia businesses expanded into new foreign markets at a record pace last year.
During a Thursday morning ceremony at the state Culture Center, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and state commerce officials presented 52 state businesses with the Governor's Commendation for International Market Entry awards.
The awards recognize state companies that exported goods and services to new countries during the year. The 52 companies honored Thursday was the highest number of awards passed out during the commendation's 12-year history.
In total, the 52 companies -- most small businesses -- exported their products to 136 new countries last year.
"West Virginia businesses have much to celebrate," Tomblin said.
Tomblin said the companies represent a diverse selection of West Virginia industries and demonstrated the underlying strength of the state's workforce.
"They're demonstrating that our ability to compete in the global market is very real," Tomblin said. "Behind every shipment is an entrepreneur and a team that work together to build a successful company."
West Virginia exports surged to a record high for the third year in a row last year, growing by more than 25 percent to $11.3 billion, up from $9 billion in 2011.
That 25 percent growth rate far outstripped the national average of 4.6 percent. Only one other state saw exports grow at a faster pace.
"We have consistently the three years been in the top two or three in the country for percentage growth in exporting and that is taking place because of the folks and the companies that are represented in this room," state Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette said.
Each company honored Thursday received a framed award containing a piece of currency from each new country it began exporting to last year.