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Study says W.Va. economy is falling further behind

by James Fisher

REGIONAL WRITER

FAIRMONT -- Compared to other states, West Virginia is not growing economically and is actually falling further behind, according to a study by the state Council for Community and Economic Development.

Dana Waldo, president and chief executive officer of West Virginia Roundtable, a private non-profit group dedicated to strengthening the state's economy, spoke about the study during Monday's annual meeting of the I-79 Strategic Planning Group at the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation in Fairmont.

The study, prepared by Market Street Services, Inc., identified several areas of concern, Waldo said.

A low and slowly growing per capita income, a rapidly aging population, poor educational attainment and a stagnant economic structure all combine to make West Virginia one of the lowest ranking states in the nation, he said.

"West Virginia is not competing successfully," he said. "During the last few years of unprecedented national growth, West Virginia did not grow and in fact the gap is increasing. We are further and further away from where we were a decade ago."

One of the biggest problems is that West Virginians as a whole have not embraced change, Waldo said. During the recession of the early 1980s, many states developed plans to work through the changing economic environment. West Virginia leadership, however, held on to the belief that the traditional manufacturing-based economy would make a come-back.

"The citizens of this state are frustrated by the state of the economy and want change, but at the same time they are skeptical of that change," he said.

U.S. Rep. Alan B. Mollohan, D-W.Va., spoke to the assembled group about strengthening the state's economy by embracing high tech businesses and developing a regional attitude.

"It is crucially important that this state buys into the concept of regional development," he said. "We need a community push. Everyone comes at this from a different perspective and everyone can make a difference."

Regional writer James Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at jfisher@exponent-telegram.com.

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