By GOV. JOE MANCHIN

CHARLESTON -- I was pleased to learn the National Trust for Historic Preservation recently named Morgantown one of its Dozen Distinctive Destinations for 2007.

This prestigious annual designation recognizes communities in which residents have worked to preserve the historic and scenic assets of their towns. Morgantown was selected for the national honor in part because, in addition to having beautiful scenery, it boasts one of the nation's top research centers-West Virginia University.

There is a great deal of exciting research being done at the university, and the quality of life in Morgantown and the surrounding region has been markedly enhanced by these initiatives.

Although Morgantown received this most recent recognition, it is not the only area of our state benefiting from university research.

There is also an exciting buzz surrounding Huntington, where Marshall University is focusing on research and commercializing discoveries made in its labs, too.

As all of us who live here know, West Virginia offers a wonderful quality of life. What many may not realize, however, is that research being done at our universities can directly result in a brighter economic future for all West Virginians.

Successful research often leads to products that can be sold to commercial and consumer markets. In turn, startup companies are formed to manufacture these products, and studies show most of these companies stay in the state where they originated.

The jobs created by high-tech startups are not just for scientists. In fact, most of these jobs are manufacturing and technical support positions at all skill and education levels.

Clearly, we can improve the economic outlook for the entire state by building our research capacity. Regions of the country with more science, technology, engineering and mathematics jobs are proven to have more jobs, better wages and healthier citizens.

Building research infrastructure also will enable us retain the best of our own graduates. An investment in research really is smart money-for all of us.

In recognition of the important role of research in West Virginia's future, the legislature and I worked together to provide a new line item in the state's budget for next fiscal year. We set aside $10 million to help build the research programs at both WVU and Marshall.

Grants from this new fund will be linked to economic development outcomes to ensure steady progress in our efforts to reinvent West Virginia's future. The fund will be administered by the West Virginia Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), one of the main catalysts for our research renaissance.

Research is a good investment for West Virginia. It is the path we must follow to improve access to high-quality education, expand economic opportunity, create jobs and improve the quality of life of all West Virginians.

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