Gov. Joe Manchin says he wants to make West Virginia a destination for business, and we don't doubt his will or his sincerity.
But as this state closes one of the uglier chapters in its job-attracting history, watching Applied Card Systems shut down its Huntington facility and put 300 West Virginians out of work, we're reminded of the major obstacles in the governor's way.
Applied Card itself once employed 1,100 people in our state. But that didn't stop Deputy State Attorney General Fran Hughes from dubbing it a "renegade company," then siccing a pack of local plaintiff's lawyers on the call center.
What followed was a mess of all-consuming litigation between the state and Applied Card that resulted in the company forking up $1.5 million for Attorney General Darrell McGraw's "slush fund" last June. The money was supposed to be used for "consumer education, credit or bankruptcy counseling and education, and conflict resolution programs." Sound familiar?
The only "education" that cash served to offer came in the form of a word of warning to employers. By all means, if you have a company in the Mountain State, don't let A.G. McGraw find out about it. Stay under the radar and do everything you can to keep a target off your back.
Hughes and others will be quick to argue today that they aren't to blame for Applied Card's departure. They'll say that the company was going to leave before the lawsuit or that it was suffering notwithstanding the attorney general attacks.
Don't believe it for a second.
We don't expect the public payroll lawyers among us to get this nuance, but the nature of business is to constantly seek fertile ground on which to grow tomorrow. In the private sector, the adage is that if you're not growing, you're dying.
A state-sponsored frivolous lawsuit isn't so easy to shrug off, financially or otherwise. Once bitten, here's guessing that Applied Card's executives weren't too thrilled at the prospect of expanding operations in the back yard of one of America's most notorious attack dog state attorneys general.
Open West Virginia for business? Manchin might start by building a cage.