West Virginians Look to Washington

Today's story on unemployment in the Washington area reminded me of an Associated Press article I ran across last week. The first sentence was, "Four counties in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle are planning a joint marketing effort aimed at luring jobs and investment from the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area."

That seemed a bit adversarial to me, and I spoke about it with Matt Erskine, head of the Greater Washington Initiative. If the West Virginians are targeting Washingtonians that explicitly, he said, it would be unusual.

"Economic development is very competitive, and I think there is a widespread appreciation that different communities and regions in the country are going to be recruiting from other parts of the country," he said. But you don't see areas being targeted that directly often.

So was the creation of the Western Potomac Economic Partnership aimed that explicitly? The West Virginia governor's office sent over a copy of the executive order, pasted below, and the only mention of Washington dealt with how the four counties' proximity to the capital is a selling point. State Sen. Herb Snyder, who was involved in the effort, said no targeting was intended. What's speical about the counties, he said, is their proximity to Washington. Hampshire County is also 100 miles away from downtown D.C., which puts it outside a potential blast zone, he said. The West-PEP is designed to "look at what's unique about the Eastern Panhandle."

Twenty-one federal agencies have offices in those four counties in West Virginia, and real estate is cheaper than in Washington. The area could also appeal to companies that want to be away from the hustle and bustle of the city and its suburbs, Snyder said.

"We are trying to take advantage of our proximity and that growth in that area," he said of Washington.

Regardless of whether the Western Potomac Economic Partnership is targeting Washington businesses or now, one thing is clear: As the economy struggles and unemployment increases, the competition for jobs and investment will only heat up.

The executive order:

WHEREAS, job creation and economic development are vitally important to the State of West Virginia; and

WHEREAS, this administration has accepted job creation and economic development as its continuing mission and has sought, at every available opportunity, to encourage the location and expansion of businesses in West Virginia, including technology-based businesses; and

WHEREAS, in recent years, the Eastern Panhandle region of West Virginia has been a leading region for growth in various business sectors of the economy, which has led, directly or indirectly, to the creation of approximately 6,100 new jobs in the region since 2002; and

WHEREAS, the economic success of the Eastern Panhandle is due, at least in part, to its close proximity to the metropolitan areas of Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland; and

WHEREAS, in addition to offering a strategic economic location, the Eastern Panhandle offers certain amenities and opportunities that make it attractive to businesses and persons looking to settle or relocate along the eastern seaboard; and

WHEREAS, enhancing current economic development efforts in the region may pay dividends towards future job creation and community enhancement; and

WHEREAS, the county commissions of Berkeley County, Hampshire County, Jefferson County, and Morgan County have expressed the desire to form a partnership and establish, in cooperation with the Region 9 Regional Planning and Development Council, a non-profit entity to market the qualities of the Eastern Panhandle to businesses and persons in the Washington-Baltimore area and beyond; and

WHEREAS, this administration supports the efforts of these counties to further improve and enhance the economic development capabilities of the region and is willing to pledge the full faith and support of the State of West Virginia to assist the creation and success of their partnership.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOE MANCHIN III, pursuant to the authority vested in me as the Governor of West Virginia, do hereby officially recognize that the counties of Berkeley, Hampshire, Jefferson and Morgan be known as the "Western Potomac Economic Partnership" (West-PEP) and hereby ORDER that:
1. The West Virginia Development Office shall provide assistance to promote, develop, and coordinate the success of West-PEP so as to benefit the citizens of West Virginia by encouraging businesses to expand or relocate within West-PEP.
2. The West Virginia Development Office shall package current incentives effectively and evaluate prospective development tools that may be needed to assist West-PEP.
3. State economic development entities located within the region shall collaborate with West-PEP to assist it in accomplishing its goals.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of West Virginia to be affixed.

DONE at the Capitol, in the City of Charleston, State of West Virginia, this eleventh day of March, in the year of our Lord, Two Thousand Nine, and in the One Hundred Forty-Sixth year of the State.

By Terri Rupar  |  March 20, 2009; 3:33 PM ET  | Category:  Economy , Economy Watch
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