Experts predict Wheeling’s economic future hangs on natural gas manufacturing, broadband

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Economists predicted West Virginia's future and warned what lies ahead

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December 25 2021 12:00 am

WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) — What is the future for West Virginia’s economy? That is what Ohio Valley leaders came to find out Wednesday at a conference held in Wheeling Island Hotel Casino Racetrack.

Economists say West Virginia lost 94,000 jobs throughout the whole state. To keep in context, West Virginia has never lost this many jobs this fast, according to John Deskins, speaking at the Wheeling Economic Outlook Conference.

The pandemic is to blame, but the state has also gained back 70,000 of those jobs.

We think it’s going to take us to the middle of next year before we fully recover from COVID. So, it’s kind of glass half full, glass half empty. I personally think that’s a relatively rapid recovery considering we lost 14 percent of our jobs over the course of 3 months.

John Deskins, Director of WVU Bureau of Business and Economic Research

In order to achieve economic prosperity, the economic expert from WVU said at the conference full of Wheeling leaders, legislators, and business owners, that it starts with addressing low-labor participation.
He says poor education, poor health and drug abuse have lowered the labor number.

Leaders say, still, Wheeling is a prime piece of property in West Virginia.

I can tell you from a development office perspective, we get more inquiries about this region than any other. The Ohio River Valley is just prime development for what’s occurring in America.

Mitch Carmichael, Secretary of Economic Development

Carmichael says West Virginia is growing and moving forward with “the worst connected internet system in America.” He says under Governor Jim Justice, the $1-Billion broadband expansion will be the thing that changes the amount of remote workers in the state.

Deskins says economic progress starts with seeing natural gas is not just exported but manufactured from start to finish in the state.

He advised leaders to fight for industry like the promised Ethane Cracker Plant.

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