New development director to focus on diversifying economy

West Virginia native Kris Hopkins was living and working in the research triangle area in North Carolina where he noticed numerous opportunities for work and heard stories of people moving to take jobs in the area.

“I was thinking, if they can do this sort of thing why can’t we?” Hopkins said.

In 2005, he returned to the Mountain State after two years working in the private sector to start a career at the West Virginia Development Office, focused on bringing business opportunities home.

Now Hopkins will have a greater role in seeing those potential business opportunities to fruition as Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has appointed him to serve as the head of Business and Industrial Development section of the West Virginia Development Office.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work with Kris on several major natural gas projects, including the recruitment of the Wood County ethane cracker,” Tomblin said in a news release. “He is an extremely talented young man, and I’m confident he will be a tremendous asset as we continue our efforts to recruit world-class companies to the Mountain State.”

For the last three years, Hopkins worked on the development office’s efforts attracting manufacturing projects stemming from the state’s shale gas boom. He started his state career as manager of national accounts before being promoted to senior manager of national accounts in 2008.

Hopkins replaces longtime director, Mark Julian, who recently became a development director for the Community and Technical College System of West Virginia.

“We are thrilled that Kris has accepted this position,” said Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette in a news release. “Kris has a great vision for expanding our marketing efforts. He is a smart, forward-thinking leader and has been an indispensable part of our recruitment efforts. We are fortunate to have him lead our team, and I very much look forward to working with him in this new role.”

Hopkins grew up in Chesapeake and holds an economics degree from Harvard University and a master’s in business administration from the University of Charleston.

“I’m a West Virginia kid and I’ve been blessed with a lot of opportunities and this particular opportunity is special to me because it’s an opportunity to make an impact on our state,” Hopkins said.

He expects his team to carry out the mission of diversifying the state’s economy with urgency.

“Our economy is largely tied to energy and extraction resources,” Hopkins said. “That’s clear and it has been an important part of our heritage but we need to find ways to be able to bring additional sources of opportunities to the state.”

He said his office will continue to focus on the potential opportunities associated with the state’s natural gas boom.

“It goes beyond just drilling,” he said. “It’s about creating value-added petrochemical developments, plastics and other high-tech engineering services that can feed into all that.”

When talking about diversifying the state’s economy, Hopkins said it’s important to note how diverse the state is.

“We are going to build on our strengths,” he said. “Each part of the state has different ones.”

He said the state’s biggest challenge is topography. Hopkins believe a predictable business climate has been cultivated and the state is seeing some success stories from those policy changes made years ago.

“Companies are responding,” Hopkins said of West Virginia competing for more and more projects. “There is a purpose behind what we are doing that is much bigger than me, much bigger than what our office is doing.”

Reach Caitlin Cook


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