Development

Timber industry is important to W.Va.

Making West Virginia’s forests pay — while avoiding the environmental devastation that accompanied the timbering industry more than a century ago — is not a new idea. It is so obvious, in fact, that it has been a staple of economic development wish-lists during recent years.

Gov. Jim Justice made timber part of his election campaign last fall, calling it a “sustainable job source.” He has a detailed plan for that.

Through no fault of his own, Justice is off to a less-than-flying start in that campaign. Last week, Mohawk Industries revealed it is closing a wood flooring plant at Holden, in Logan County. The action will eliminate 111 jobs.

Mohawk officials said operations formerly handled at Holden will be moved to a facility in Melbourne, Ark.

Consumers are buying less solid wood flooring, Mohawk said in explaining the closure.

State officials can do nothing about the laws of supply and demand, of course. But they can make doing business in West Virginia more attractive than manufacturing elsewhere.

Clearly, access to the hardwoods used in manufacturing flooring, furniture and other wood products is important. Figuratively speaking, plants beside the forest are a good thing.

Apparently they are not a decisive advantage, however. Mohawk’s Holden plant is not the first wood products facility to close in recent years.

Some of the points in Justice’s plan would make West Virginia more attractive to companies such as Mohawk. He advocates action such as reducing workers’ compensation premiums for logging companies and helping wood products companies market their goods.

One key feature of the governor’s proposal is completing Corridor H, which would link West Virginia’s hardwood forest region with the Eastern Seaboard. Members of the state’s congressional delegation should step up their ongoing effort to obtain federal funding for that project.

Perhaps most important is the campaign by legislators to reduce the regulatory burden on business in West Virginia. It has been termed one of the worst in the nation. Making our state a more welcoming environment for business is an absolute necessity.

Last week’s news from Mohawk was a setback. It also was a reminder that we in West Virginia are not doing enough to benefit from one of our state’s most valuable resources.

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