FINALLY, West Virginia has a business plan that seems to be working. More specifically, the state has a plan to attract and grow businesses - and that plan is showing results.
Just last week, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and other state officials participated in two major announcements: the Allevard Sogefi USA plant expansion at Prichard in Wayne County and the potential Odebrecht project near Parkersburg in Wood County.
The Sogefi Group will invest $20 million to expand its auto parts plant, adding 250 jobs over five years. It's the plant's third expansion since it opened in 2004.
"Our company has had great success in West Virginia, and we consider the partnership with the state and local government officials to be important factors," said Sogefi CEO Guglielmo Fiocci. Sogefi made the decision to expand its site in Prichard - among many global sites being considered - after Fiocci and Tomblin met in Europe last month.
Odebrecht unveiled Project ASCENT - Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise. That project is exploring the possibility of constructing an ethylene cracker plant, polyethylene plastic resin plants and additional facilities for water treatment and energy generation.
Many details are still to be worked out, but the fact that a major international company got so far in its planning to make such an announcement shows that international businesses are considering West Virginia.
The CEO of Odebrecht Environmental said West Virginia's stable economy, good bond ratings and lowered business taxes helped attract the company, which may invest more than a billion dollars, to the state.
"We do find West Virginia with a very stable economy," Fernando Reis said. "We see a very stable environment for such a kind of investment. It gives us the right place to put the project."
Senate Finance Chair Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, said changes to state taxes over the last several years have improved West Virginia's business climate. The state has reduced its corporate net taxes and business franchise taxes, as well as transformed the state's workers' compensation programs from among the nation's worst to among the best.
State officials have worked hard to raise West Virginia from being a perennial bottom dweller on business ranking lists. There's still much to do, but at least that effort is starting to show.