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West Virginia has a diagnosis

now its economy needs a plan

July 25, 2000

West Virginia has a diagnosis; now its economy needs a plan



After the release of the second bleak assessment of West Virginia's economy this summer, boosters of the state might be tempted to conclude that things aren't going to get better anytime soon.

However, we take some comfort from Mallie Combs, president of the West Virginia Economic Development Council, who said that any study that identifies problems without looking at possible solutions is worthless. Fortunately, what Combs is seeking is on the way.

It will come in the second chapter of a five-part look at the state's economy being done with private funding from Combs' group by Mac Holladay, president of Market Street Service of Atlanta.

The first part - the identification of current problems - was decidedly downbeat, saying that economically speaking, the state is stuck in the past, depending on mining and timbering when it should be putting its money and energy into developing new technology. Holladay also found an aging population, a low-per-capita income and a population that isn't educating itself rapidly enough to meet the needs of a technology-based economy.

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Holladay's study follows (and builds upon) the findings of George Hammond, a West Virginia University professor whose study of the state's economy was released earlier this month. Hammond's study also concluded the state isn't keeping pace with its neighbors, and there were expectations that Holladay wouldn't plow that ground over again and would concentrate on solutions instead.

We hope the next parts of his study do just that, because despite good marks from a national educational publication, the state's schools educate too many bright youngsters who leave after graduation for opportunities elsewhere.

Finding out where those students are going, and how the firms which take them away could be persuaded to bring their jobs to West Virginia instead should be a top priority for those concerned about the state's economic future.

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