CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin highlighted business investments, tax changes and fiscal responsibility in his State of the State address Wednesday night to propel the state's business environment forward.Kenny Perdue, president of the state's AFL-CIO, thought the governor's speech was "very upbeat.""It's a positive message for the citizens of West Virginia that good things are happening," Purdue said.Steve Roberts with the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce was especially pleased the governor continued to emphasize job creation, economic development and education."The governor also proposes holding the line on taxes and his deep insight into the state budget makes him highly competent to find the right level of funding for state programs, employees and initiatives," Roberts said. Tomblin championed his administration's success in attracting foreign investment opportunities to the Mountain State."I will go anywhere and meet with anyone to bring good paying jobs to West Virginia," the governor said. He touted exports increasing from $9 billion in 2011 to more than $11 billion in last.The Italian auto manufacturer Sogefi announced a $20 million expansion at its Prichard plant, adding 250 jobs, after the governor's European investment trip in October.
Tomblin said Brazilian-based Odebrecht believes Wood County is the best location for the potential development of an ethane cracker and three polyethylene plants. The governor called it a "game changer" and a "defining moment for economic development" in West Virginia - even though the announcement in November only said Odebrecht would explore building a cracker plant in West Virginia.Tomblin said the construction phase of this project alone would create about 10,000 jobs, although it was not immediately clear how he arrived at that number. Purdue echoed Tomblin's sentiments, and his exact phrase, calling the cracker plant a "game changer for the state of West Virginia."Texas-based Carbonyx will build a new plant in Jackson County that converts coal into a coke alternative. The project is anticipated to create 60 jobs in the construction phase, the governor said.Matt Ballard, president of the Charleston Area Alliance, said he loved the speech's focus on educating future workforces."I think the business community wants to see consistency and he will bring that," Ballard said. "Tomblin is not going to take us into fiscally troubled waters."
Ballard said we're in the middle of the pack for business climate in the country. When the budget allows it, he would like to see more business taxes, like the inventory, tax be re-evaluated.On the business franchise being phased out next year and the corporate tax being lowered to 0.1 percent, Perdue said, "It's one of those situations where you hope [businesses] will come. It appears this is starting to work."Reach Caitlin Cook at email@example.com or 304-348-5113.