Growing local economies

According to a new report from the Economic Innovation Group, more than one third of West Virginians live in distressed communities.

After onerous regulations targeted West Virginia for nearly a decade, it’s no surprise that many are out of work and our local communities are struggling.

Between 2011 and 2015, these communities lost jobs and businesses shuttered while growth expanded elsewhere across the nation. This disconnect has left many West Virginians behind.

As our state looks to grow economically, a key partner will be the Economic Development Administration or EDA. This federal agency makes targeted investments in local communities, including economically distressed areas.

EDA’s mission is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting innovation and competitiveness, preparing American regions for economic growth and success in the worldwide economy.

For several years, I have educated EDA about our state’s specific needs. That’s because local governments and leaders are in the best position to impact their local economy.

EDA coordinates with regional development organizations to support projects that address some of the most pressing issues facing rural America. I have made a strong case that investing in West Virginia is a good bet, and we are starting to see results from EDA’s renewed focus on our state.

Since 2015, EDA has invested over $21 million in West Virginia. They have funded infrastructure improvements, workforce training programs, manufacturing expansions, and efforts that support entrepreneurs.

Today’s announcement at Armstrong Flooring is the latest bit of good news.

Armstrong Flooring is the largest manufacturing employer in Randolph County, with more than 600 employees. Its business lines contribute millions of dollars annually to West Virginia suppliers and vendors. Today, we will announce a significant new investment from EDA that will help Armstrong Flooring expand its distribution capabilities at the Beverly plant.

Not only is this good news for West Virginians looking for work, this will lead to significant private investment that benefits the region’s economy over the long term.

Armstrong Flooring exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit and ingenuity we need to be supporting. In order to boost the local economy and create more opportunities for success in West Virginia, we must ensure that our public and private sectors are working together.

Going forward, we should continue to look for new ways to encourage investment and create a roadmap to diversify and strengthen the regional economy.

At the same time, we must promote polices like tax reform and expanding high-speed internet access that will boost economic development, support small businesses, and equip West Virginians with skills for jobs in today’s economy.

We must ensure that our communities are no longer left behind. West Virginians are some of the hardest working people in the nation, and we can compete with anyone as long as we have the right tools to succeed.

U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) represents West Virginia in the United States Senate.