CHARLESTON — West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, along with members of the Department of Commerce, recently took a business investment and outreach trip to the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The goals of the Oct. 14-22 trip were to meet with international companies currently doing business in West Virginia in order to stay connected and look for growth opportunities, interact with potential prospects and do broad general outreach such as getting Gov. Tomblin in front of local media outlets.
“The trip was a success,” Cabinet Secretary of Department of Commerce Keith Burdette told The West Virginia Record. “We’re optimistic we’ll have good news to share soon.”
The team traveled to London, Dublin and Belfast, meeting with existing partnerships such as Randox, William Lea Tag and Christopher Peacock.
Although Burdette could not share what potential companies the team met with, he did say they were looking in all industries.
“We tried to be aggressive about meeting with companies,” Burdette said. “We never turn anybody down.”
International business drives a large portion of West Virginia’s economy. The state has seen more than $13 billion in new investments from more 130 international companies, 17 of which are from London, Belfast and Dublin. International industries provide about 30,000 jobs.
West Virginia is an ideal place for international companies looking to come to the United States. Burdette said the state is strategically located, making it a great distribution point, has a low energy cost, a low cost of business, low cost of living, high employment with a low turnover rate and one of the cheapest workers' compensation rates in the country.
Part of the goal for these international missions is to tell this story of the state.
“Nobody is gong to find out about us if we are sitting in our office,” Burdette said.
The governor and his development team try to take one to two international outreach trips a year. They’ve previously visited Japan, Europe and Brazil.
Not only does the team look for businesses to come to West Virginia, they also look for potential export opportunities for West Virginian companies.
“We spend a huge amount of time each year going all over the world finding new markets for West Virginia companies to sell their products,” Burdette said.
Although the trip was packed full of business, the team also found time to enjoy the countries. They were able to see the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace and see the Irish countryside.
The business itself was also enjoyable for the team.
“We learned a lot while we were on the trip,” Burdette said. “We realized the impressive portfolio of companies we have. It was educational and productive.”
Tomblin and the Department of Commerce will continue to do international outreach missions.
"The importance of building relationships with business leaders from companies around the world cannot be overstated," Gov. Tomblin said in a statement. "Nothing compares to a face-to-face meeting, and it is in these types of settings where long-term partnerships are developed and maintained — and where job opportunities are created."