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FORBES magazine dropped West Virginia from 43rd to 45th place among the states for business climate. The magazine ranked Maine as the least attractive state.

Forbes looks at states based on six factors —

business costs, labor supply, regulatory environment,

current economic climate, growth prospects and

quality of life.

It showed West Virginia with only a 1.2 percent five-year annual growth rate in gross state product, a population growth of just two-tenths of a percent since 2006, and the lowest college attainment rate in the nation at just 17 percent of the population over the age of 25.

And although Maine was scored the least attractive state, its gross state product per employee beat that of both West Virginia and Montana.

Wow. The business climate here has been so bad for so long that it is 49th in business activity per person.

A state that once was home to a thriving Chemical Valley in Kanawha County, a healthy steel industry in the Northern Panhandle and glass factories throughout the state is now shunned by business.

A repositioning is in order.

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THE re-opening of the stamping plant in South Charleston means that parts for BMW, Ford, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen soon will be made in West Virginia.

Gestamp, based in Madrid, Spain, will invest at least $100 million in the plant. But Paul Meisel, controller for the plant, gave a troubling answer when asked about the quality of the work force.

"It all depends on the particular job you're hiring for," Meisel said. "The fallout here is not higher — it's probably a little lower than I've experienced in other locations. We've had good luck hiring engineers, good luck hiring business people. I'd say on the whole, the skills are available.

"The biggest concern I have when you hire a production entry-level workforce is your turnover is

always big. One issue is substance abuse. Over the years I've seen more people terminated for not coming to work than for any other cause. You do see some issues but it's not so bad.

"Some people say they have a GED (General Educational Development certificate) or high school diploma but don't. If you don't have one, we just can't let you in the door."

Small wonder that in addition to phasing out the corporate net income tax, state officials are focusing on improving the state's work force.

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HOUSE Republican Leader Tim Armstead,

R-Kanawha, leads the largest Republican delegation to the state Capitol in 82 years. But he sees the two parties cooperating in Charleston.

"We've already had discussions with Democratic members about working together," Armstead told Mannix Porterfield of the Register-Herald in Beckley.

"I think we will certainly reach across the aisle to try to get support for those issues that we believe are important. There are a lot of goals we think we have in common and a lot of ways we can address these things together."  

House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, made the same point.

"I don't think there's anybody who would expect us to come here and act like Washington, just fighting party all the time," Thompson said.

"I don't intend to do that. I intend to do what the people elected me to do. I intend to do the best we can to make West Virginia a better place."

West Virginia lawmakers can make as much progress as any state.

And in the end, the same voters who are driving progress at the state level are likely to insist on the same kind of performance at the federal level.

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THE federal government will spend $900,000 to remove an inscription on the Martin Luther King memorial at the National Mall.

The monument now reads: "I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness." That is a paraphrase of a passage in a speech King gave in 1968.

What King said was this:

"Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major,, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter."

The larger mistake is that in selecting a quote, officials inexplicably ignored King's "I Have A Dream" speech, which he gave in 1963 at that very mall.

The words he said that day — "I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character" — are soaring in their eloquence.

Those are the words that belong on the memorial.


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