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Mountain state woos manufacturers

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What's it take to lure in a manufacturer?

A little bit of everything, and that bodes well for West Virginia.

The West Virginia Development Office stays busy helping businesses within the state expand, but it also puts a lot of effort into attracting new businesses and marketing the state at about 25 different trade shows each year.

And bringing manufacturers to the state can be a delicate dance.

Mark Julian, director of business and industrial development with the WVDO, said the emerging industries in West Virginia include biometrics and biomedical technology, advanced energy and distribution, automotive, aerospace, business services, chemicals, plastics, information technology, printing, tourism, fabricated metals and value-added wood products.

Julian said building economic strength in all those sectors builds diversity in the economy.

West Virginia Manufacturers Association President Karen Price agreed that the attributes that keep the state a steady ship on tumultuous economic waters make the Mountain State attractive to manufacturers.

Things such as the balanced budget, a full rainy day fund and the fact that the state did not have to borrow money from the federal government for unemployment compensation are touted when courting manufacturers.

"All of these things are things companies look at, and we're in pretty good shape," Price said.

And part of bringing manufacturing to the Mountain State is looking far and wide.

Stephen Spence, director of the WVDO's international division, said the division markets West Virginia in Japan and Europe, focusing on key manufacturing sectors such as automotive, chemicals, polymers, aerospace and metalworking.

Spence said it's also important to continue to work with existing international manufacturers to encourage their growth. He said five Japanese manufacturers operating in West Virginia — Toyota, Nippon Thermostat, Wheeling-Nisshin, Hino Motors and NGK Spark Plugs — all announced expansion projects in 2012.

Julian said a big draw for businesses is the West Virginia work force.

"West Virginia's workers have earned a reputation for a strong work ethic, high productivity and low turnover," Julian said in a prepared statement.

Price also cited the state's privatization of workers' compensation and its abundant natural resources as good draws for manufacturers.

"And this Marcellus Shale natural gas discovery is huge," she said. 

"I can't tell you how big it is. You are going to have manufacturers looking for locations in this state because of the downstream manufacturing opportunities that come with the Marcellus Shale."

Price said the development office does the heavy lifting of recruiting manufacturers, but the WVMA steps in if the office requests someone to talk with a business one-on-one or anything else the group could lend to negotiations.