Tomblin also said the state needs to do more to educate and prepare its workforce for these potential new jobs. He said the education reform proposal that passed through the Legislature earlier this year was a first step but also challenged state business leaders to get more involved in early childhood education.
He said many students begin choosing a career path in middle school, and he thinks more businesses should get involved in schools to interest kids in careers in a given field.
"I need more businesses reaching out and showing our middle school students that you can get a good job doing something you actually like," Tomblin said.
Later Wednesday, during a panel on the future of manufacturing in the state, West Virginia University President Jim Clements spoke about the need to close what academic leaders had called the "innovation deficit."
He said federal and state governments have consistently invested fewer dollars in schools, particularly in research and development. As a result, Clements said, the United States has lost its status as a world leader in educating its citizens.
"At one point, the United States led the world in high school graduation rates; now we rank 21st and continue to fall," he said. "In China, over the last 10 years, the number of engineering doctorates has tripled beyond 10,000 while U.S. has 8,000."
He said academic leaders across the country are warning that ignoring this innovation deficit would have serious long-term consequences, including a less prepared workforce, fewer technological breakthroughs and fewer jobs.
"There is a sense of urgency that we're trying to state," Clements said. "We're simply getting outpaced by China, South Korea, Taiwan and India."
Contact writer Jared Hunt at busin...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.