This is the latest in an occasional series focusing on the issues,
records and platforms of the state's candidates for governor. Today's
installment focuses on the economy.
Republican Gov. Cecil Underwood and his Democratic opponent for
governor, Rep. Bob Wise, offer similar economic catchphrases:
technology, diversification and work-force development. Their means to the
end, however, are as different as a Sunday sermon from a Catholic and a
Underwood prides himself on the out-of-state companies that have opened
which has dropped from 6.4 percent in 1999 to 4.9 percent this year.
Wise wants less emphasis on recruiting out-of-state companies. He
prefers encouraging existing businesses and individuals who want to start
their own businesses.
Wise disputes Underwood's unemployment rates by pointing out that by
Mississippi's. In 1998, Mississippi was the only state with a lower per
capita income than West Virginia's $19,362.
Last year, West Virginia's total job growth was less than 1
percent. The increase in female workers entering the work force was more
than 2 percent, which helped fuel the state's low unemployment rate.
Two weeks ago, Underwood explained in his Capitol office why two New
York-based companies in Clay and Mannington are exactly the type of
economicgrowth he wants for the state if re-elected.
"New industry locating in rural areas ... I think this is the direction
we need to go," Underwood
Last month, Filcon opened with 20 employees in a former Rite Aid store
in Clay. Employees manufacture heavy-equipment filters. They make $6 to $8
In June, Molecular OptoElectronics Corp. hired 40 people in an old
Mannington industrial building. Employees assemble fiber-optic connectors.
They make $8 to $10 an hour.
"We're a state of small towns," Underwood
been a problem that led to isolation. That's different now with interstate
highways now in place ... and the electronic network."
"High-tech companies" like MOEC chose West Virginia for its available
and low-cost labor, higher education system and outdoor recreation,
By next year, MOEC could hire 200 people, he
is a direction where we can keep the momentum going," he
During a telephone interview from his Washington office, Wise talked
more about fostering a "spirit of entrepreneurism" in West Virginia.
"There needs to be some change in the effort to encourage retention and
development from within, as well as industrial recruitment from the
outside. I don't think there is enough development from within," Wise
"I can't predict every job that's going to exist." But, Wise said, "my
hope is that we are actually conceiving and creating many of those jobs."
Wise emphasized "individuals getting the training, the skills and the
financing they need to make a success for themselves and whatever business
Recruit out-of-state or grow in state? It's an old debate that
typically pits politicians against non-profit grass-roots development
groups. That's changing.
Lately, more politicians like Wise are choosing the "grow from within"
approach, said Mark D. Waterhouse, former chairman of the American
Economic Development Council and president of Garnet Consulting
Services in Connecticut.
Since the North American Free Trade Agreement, factory expansions and
relocations are harder to come by. States are increasingly competitive
with high-priced incentive packages when luring new industries. And the
Internet has spurred high-profile, fast-growth companies that
Ten years ago, Waterhouse worked for Kentucky's Economic
Development Partnership, a business group similar to West Virginia's
Council for Community and Economic Development.
Ideally, states emphasize both outside recruitment and inside
expansion, but limited resources force decision-making. Kentucky "went
through the same sort of debate about where to set priorities," Waterhouse