CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In the new global economy, information-based businesses can locate anywhere there's electricity, broadband, telephone service and the like. Such firms no longer need to cram into Manhattan or other high-stress urban beehives.
This is good news for West Virginia, because high-tech workers can choose gentle, safe, serene life in Appalachia's green hills, while conducting instantaneous worldwide operations through the Internet and fax connections.
There's no reason the Mountain State cannot acquire more and more "smart" companies whose employees want to raise their children far from the madding crowd.
Two former governors -- Gaston Caperton and Bob Wise -- discussed the snowballing knowledge-based economy Monday night in a Vision Shared session at the University of Charleston. Both agreed that keener education and technology skills are crucial for the future of young West Virginians, even in blue-collar industries like the new Marcellus Shale gas boom.
"Fracking and hydraulic drilling are sophisticated at a technological level that grows every day," Wise told the gathering.
As head of the national Alliance for Excellent Education, he said two-thirds of jobs that today's first-graders eventually will fill don't even exist yet: "We don't know what they are, so every child needs to learn how to use technology to succeed."
Study after study finds that West Virginia schools lag behind in producing graduates ready for the Brave New World. That's why Gov. Tomblin ordered a statewide "education audit" to find ways to boost skill levels.
Concerned West Virginians should support the upgrade effort, and also spur their own children toward higher school achievement. Both are necessary to help draw more technology-based businesses to life in the hills.