Gov. Joe Manchin

By Gov. Joe Manchin

CHARLESTON -- Last week, I had the opportunity to visit Germany and Italy on my first economic development trade mission to Europe.

The European market has experienced tremendous growth during the past decade and there are a number of emerging trade opportunities for West Virginia -- on both an export and investment level.

We started our visit in Germany, where I had the opportunity to meet with business and government leaders to discuss the current economic climate and how we could better work together as economic development partners.

Our state is in a great position to capture European economic trade opportunities in Germany and in the surrounding region by continuing to utilize the state's current, and conveniently located, Munich trade office.

As we take our international development efforts to the next level, we want to make sure we're targeting European markets and companies that are a good fit for our state. The automotive, chemical and technology sectors are the central focus of our current efforts in Europe.

While in Germany, we met with officials at Bavarian Motor Works (BMW) and toured its main assembly plant. BMW has a major United States assembly plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and officials with the automaker said that they are always looking to find suppliers located in the United States that can provide quality resources to their Spartanburg plant.

I believe that West Virginia would make a good home for those suppliers, especially if they are re-locating from Europe. Given our location and our workforce as well as the new automotive industry niche that we have been able to create in West Virginia, it just makes sense to target these types of companies.

We also met with global leaders Siemens and Bayer to personally thank the companies for their business in West Virginia and to discuss their future plans for growth in the U.S. market.

First Lady Gayle Manchin joined West Virginia Tourism Commissioner Betty Carver and International Marketing Representative Betty Cutlip in helping to spread the word of West Virginia's tourism opportunities during our visit, meeting with members of the tourism media and tourism trade representatives during stops in Germany, England and Italy.

With our delegation's arrival in Italy on April 26, our focus turned toward the chemical and manufacturing sectors as we met with three companies that have announced recent investment projects in the state.

Sogefi Group, Esseco Group, and New Finishing Line LLP have truly demonstrated a strong commitment to West Virginia, opening many doors for our state into the European business community. These companies are working very effectively with the West Virginia Development Office and my office to facilitate additional contacts with business leads throughout Italy and southern Europe, and the result has been a very busy and productive week of meetings with hundreds of business leads and prospects.

Overall, the many business leaders that I met with were very receptive to our message. We've made some very good contacts and everyone we've met with in Europe knows that West Virginia is "Open for Business."

My message to the European business community was clear: "Wherever you decide in the world to do business, government is going to be your partner. You'll never find another place in the world that wants to do business with you and will be a better partner than West Virginia."

I am confident that the seeds we have planted during the past week will result in several exciting developments during the months to come.

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