Burdette: aspects of West Virginia workforce part of obstacle in business recruitment

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Burdette: aspects of West Virginia workforce part of obstacle in business recruitment
By Jeff Jenkins, WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette says what the state needs most is more educated, trained workers.

Burdette appeared before the special legislative committee on tax reform Monday and told members taxes are down in West Virginia and the cost of doing business is a selling point as he tries to recruit new business but there are some things he can’t promote.

“We can’t sell our college-going rate. It’s bad. We can’t sell our infrastructure,” Burdette said Tuesday on MetroNews ‘Talkline’, urging lawmakers to concentrate their efforts on some of the difficult issues.

The loyalty and dependability of West Virginia workers is often not questioned, Burdette said, but other issues are by potential businesses.

“It’s not hard for me to say they are dedicated and loyal, they are. But the participation rate is low, lowest in the country and our education levels are the lowest in the country and it’s affecting our ability to be attractive to business,” according to Burdette.

Other factors influence recruitment including a very low percentage of flat land in West Virginia, which is more difficult to change. Burdette said if he could have one thing it would be a more highly-educated, trained workforce.

“I want to be able to say ‘We have the best-educated, most-skilled workforce in the country and we’ll put them up against anybody,’ I can put them up against anybody for their loyalty, dedication and showing up to work. I can’t do that in the other categories,” Burdette said.

The workforce situation also impacts existing businesses and their plans to expand.

“I hear it every day from companies, ‘Keith, we love our team. We love the people who work for us. They are hard-working, dedicated and show up for work. All the good things. But we aren’t convinced you have a deep enough bench,” Burdette said.

The select committee on tax reform expects to have a final report ready for the full legislature to consider later this year.