By GOV. JOE MANCHIN

CHARLESTON -- Last week, I delivered my fourth State of the State address to West Virginians. I was pleased to share our significant progress and highlight the accomplishments we have made together.

A good example of our success is job creation and employment. The state's average unemployment rate last year was 4.6 percent, the lowest unemployment average in the state's history. Coupled with the fact that an average of nearly 780,000 West Virginians worked last year -- the highest number during a year ever recorded -– we have good reason to be optimistic about our future.

But let me make it clear, I also know that our work is far from over because there are still West Virginia families out there struggling to make ends meet. However, we are witnessing a great deal of positive change in this state. Changes in policy and changes in attitudes. It is important to let others know that with every new day, West Virginia becomes a better place in which to work, to live and to raise a family.

Our best resource has always been our people –- and not just those who are here today living and working in West Virginia, but our sons and daughters who were born or raised in the Mountain State but no longer live here. Unfortunately, we are all guilty of teaching an entire generation that they couldn't find a good job in West Virginia, so don't even bother trying. Our challenge today is to reverse these thoughts and show those who have left that this is the perfect time to come home.

We are making progress and giving people reason to expect more good news. As I said on Wednesday night, I never imagined we would experience a time when companies couldn't find enough skilled workers in our state, but that's exactly what's happening.

We've raised our own expectations and the statistics will back us up on our optimism. Given our new positive changes and equally positive attitudes, we can help to change others' mindsets and, I hope bring fellow West Virginians back home. We need individuals from an array of backgrounds and fields for us to truly change the dynamics of our state.

To help encourage others to move back, the West Virginia Department of Commerce is starting a "Come Home to West Virginia" campaign aimed at bringing former West Virginia residents back home to work in West Virginia's growing industries or to expand in West Virginia the businesses they have started in other places.

The only requirement is a special place in your heart for West Virginia.

It is time to bring our state's native sons and daughters home to join us here, because a new day is dawning and our future looks bright.

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