WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Business leaders and panelists Wednesday talked about a need for clear regulation standards, industrial infrastructure and an educated state workforce during the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce's 2013 Annual Meeting and Business Summit at The Greenbrier.
Steve Hedrick, CEO of Mid Atlantic Technology Research Innovation Center, mediated a panel of industry and education leaders. Hedrick opened by noting that manufacturing jobs are leading the state and should continue to do so.
Corporations have the potential to achieve goals anywhere in the world. Why not in West Virginia, panel members asked.
Greg Babe, president and CEO of Liquid X Printed Metals, said businesses and investors are looking at proximity to customers, site infrastructure, workforce skills, legal and regulatory ambiguities and state tax structure.
"Do we have a trained, reliable, drug-free workforce?" Babe asked.
His biggest concern in attracting manufacturing investments is the corporate tax rate. Lowering the rate below 7 percent would make the state more competitive with its neighbors, he added.
West Virginia University President Jim Clements said industry alone couldn't turn around the state's economy.
"A well-educated society is key for our nation," Clements said. "It takes a combination of industry and education working together to produce that kind of talent."
Clements said America is being outpaced in the classroom by other countries in areas that are crucial to manufacturing, such as science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
"This is an international issue," he continued. "Research, I believe, is one of the keys."
Despite nationwide funding cuts to higher education, Clements said, in a global market, it's critical to continue to allow "our research universities to operate at a world-class level."