Compete-- for jobs

by The West Virginia Record |
Mar. 17, 2006, 4:18am

Back in January, West Virginia's football Mountaineers won a prestigious BCS bowl game. And its basketball edition just held its own in the nation's toughest conference, earning yet another bid to the NCAA Tournament on the heels of last year's glorious Elite Eight run.

In sports, the Mountain State has become known for excellence as of late -- outworking, outrecruiting, outstrategizing, and outshining its richer and larger neighbors. Even more impressive is a recent Wall Street Journal report showed that WVU is doing more athletically with less. Of the 64 teams in this year's NCAAs, its basketball program ranked 42nd in spending, with expenses one-third less than Ohio State and just half of those at the University of Kentucky.

So we're good, and we're proud. But why this competitive spirit hasn't transferred from the realm of baskets and touchdowns to other, arguably more pressing components of our West Virginia lives leaves us boggled to say the least.

If we're determined enough to beat Maryland or Virginia on the gridiron, why then are we so passive on the economic battlefield? In the race between our states for jobs and economic development, where's the same can-do drive?

We suppose that's a question for our state legislature, which adjourned this month without so much as pondering the subject of West Virginia's economy.

Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy and a lightning rod because he seems to genuinely care, made this point in an interview with The Record's Chris Dickerson last week.

Blankenship, whose company is one of West Virginia's largest employers, stated that he was disappointed that the Legislature didn't cut taxes or pass tort reforms this year -- measures he believes would help our state better attract investments in the jobs of tomorrow.

Now Blankenship runs the biggest company around and as a businessmen is, naturally, pro-business. Disagree with him, if you will, on what is best for West Virginia's economic future, but don't be so sure that his suggested tonic is self-serving. Making West Virginia more attractive to business wouldn't necessarily benefit Massey Energy, which would face more competition for employees, driving up his labor costs.

Then consider the alternative. Should West Virginia's economic game plan be higher taxes? Creating a more favorable climate for plaintiff's lawyers, not investors and entrepreneurs?

In Charleston, we haven't heard the argument made explicitly. But inaction provides tacit support to the status quo, which by our measure is holding back West Virginia.

Or to coin a sports cliche -- the prevent defense prevents you from winning.

Anyone else ready to draft John Beilein or Rich Rodriguez for public office?

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