Cracks like this in an asphalt driveway can let water into the substructure, which could cause problems. | Courtesy of Morguefile.com

CHARLESTON – In West Virginia, location is a key selling point for manufacturing companies that want easy access to eastern markets and east coast shipping channels. Yet location means little if roads and bridges are not well maintained or modernized.

West Virginia ranks near the bottom — 46th — for its percentage of structurally deficient bridges. Infrastructure improvements must be made now so we can maintain and grow the manufacturing sector.

The opportunities for downstream manufacturing growth because of the vast amount of shale gas and its derivatives can be a game-changer for West Virginia if we develop the infrastructure necessary to attract investment to our state — investment that easily could be enticed to go elsewhere.

West Virginia manufacturers want great roads and strong bridges that are safe for our employees to drive and safe for the transportation of our goods.

Anything but a yes vote on Oct. 7 would ensure that the only roads used to capacity in West Virginia would be the ones our citizens need to find jobs elsewhere. We cannot allow that to happen.

The West Virginia Manufacturers Association urges West Virginia voters to vote yes during the upcoming Road Bond election. The time for investment in our state is long overdue and must happen now.

The 2016 IEDC Economic Development Research Partners Report, Critical Condition: Infrastructure for Economic Development, defines infrastructure as “the physical components of interrelated systems providing commodities and services essential to enable, sustain, or enhance societal living conditions.”

Economic infrastructure is defined by scholar Johan Fourie as, “infrastructure that promotes economic activity such as roads, highways, railroads, airports, sea ports, electricity, telecommunications, water supply and sanitation.”

This report and countless others have sounded alarms about the risks of a declining infrastructure in America, something with which West Virginia is all too familiar.

Economic growth in our country over the past two centuries happened at accelerated rates due in large part to early investment in high-quality infrastructure.

But according to the IEDC report, infrastructure today, “faces serious challenges that deserve urgent attention.”

The importance of sound infrastructure related to corporate investment decisions cannot be denied. KPMG’s report, Bridging the Global Infrastructure Gap, reports a mere 14 percent of senior executives believe that current infrastructure is “completely adequate,” while 90 percent say that “the quality and availability of infrastructure directly affects where they locate and expand business operations.”

We have a precious opportunity in West Virginia to take existing revenues and generate the funds necessary to transform our roads and bridges, and thereby transform our state’s economy.

Please understand this — no new taxes will be authorized in the Oct. 7 Roads to Prosperity Amendment. The revenue stream for this bond program already is in effect. Taxpayers already are paying it in the form of a few selected fee increases that the West Virginia Legislature authorized.

The West Virginia Manufacturers Association implores West Virginia voters to ignore the naysayers who seem to want nothing more than for West Virginia to remain in last place in every category.

Let’s chart a new course for West Virginia, and vote yes on Oct. 7, with early voting taking place Sept. 22 to Oct. 4.

McPhail is president of the West Virginia Manufacturers Association. Learn more at www.wvma.com. This opinion piece originally appeared in the Charleston Gazette-Mail on the Daily Mail editorial page.

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