Area officials speak about upcoming session
ELKINS — Four area politicians spoke Thursday during an event anticipating the beginning of the spring session of the West Virginia Legislature.
During the 2019 Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce Legislative Update event Thursday, guests heard from 43rd District House of Delegates members Bill Hartman and Cody Thompson, as well as 11th Senatorial District representatives Greg Boso and Bill Hamilton.
Topics discussed included economic growth, and strategies to keep and increase population in the state.
Boso said he believes economic growth would benefit from local communities teaching students about industries that benefit the areas where they live.
“Education has to be a big driver. Why? Because we have to have a competent work force. One of the things that I’ve seen in the last few weeks that is bothering me is when we look at the performance of our education system,” Boso said. “One of the things I think we need to hone in on is driving education to the local community so that the local communities can tailor education for what they do and what they do well.”
Hamilton said he agrees with Boso, but also believes vocational education is important and needs emphasis.
“I think the Legislature needs to get out of the way and let business work and develop jobs in various counties,” he said. “I think with education we need to place a little stronger emphasis on vocational ed programs in our counties.”
Hartman added he believes tourism and the “wood industry” to be two keys for the 43rd District.
“I’m going to pursue an idea that may be controversial but we have argued for 10 years about putting forestry and moving forestry from commerce to agriculture. I believe that forestry should be a free-standing agency in government, not a step-child of somebody else’s that they can maneuver for their own advantage,” Hartman said. “I think if you look at what wood products are doing for West Virginia right now — other than oil and gas — you take wood products out of the 43rd District and you are going to see a tremendous decline in the economy.”
Thompson said his hope for the area is to diversify the economy, adding that he, like all four panelists, believe broadband internet upgrades are necessary.
“One thing I ran on in my campaign is diversifying our economy. It is something I am passionate about because so many West Virginians have left throughout the other 50 or 60 years because they can’t find a job. I’m definitely in favor of preserving our current industries — we need to work to retain those — but we need to diversify our economy and bring in new industry,” Thompson said. “One thing I talked about was bringing in new 21st century jobs and making that available to new people in these new industries and one thing we have to do for that is provide high speed internet access.”
Chamber of Commerce Vice President Jonathan Kyle, of Mountaineer Insurance, served as moderator and the event was sponsored by Dominion Energy. Chamber Executive Director Lisa Wood welcomed those in attendance.
A post-legislative session luncheon is set for April 11.