Jobs, opportunities the drive behind European trip

PARKERSBURG – Local development officials are going to Europe and hope to return with new companies and more jobs.

The governor last week announced a trade mission to Europe. The governor and an entourage that includes Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette will be overseas until Oct. 22.

The International Trade Fair No. 1 for Plastics and Rubber, called the K Trade Fair, runs from Wednesday to Oct. 23 in Dusseldorf, Germany, and is the largest polymers trade show in the world.

Cam Huffman, executive director of the Wood County Development Authority, will participate in the plastics trade show and part of the 13-day European investment mission. Two days of the governor’s trade mission will be at the trade show, Huffman said.

The Polymer Alliance Zone, which markets plastics industries in Wood, Jackson and Mason counties, with the state Development Office, will be at the trade show.

“Companies and jobs,” Karen Facemyer, executive director of the Polymer Alliance, said she hopes to bring back to West Virginia.

The Polymer Alliance attends the trade show every time it is held, Facemyer said. It is held every three years.

Huffman said he will promote the Wood County area and meet representatives of a company studying the location of a multi-billion-dollar ethane cracker plant. Such efforts could mean the difference between being chosen and being an also-ran.

“It’s that extra attention these companies receive from West Virginia that they don’t receive from other states,” Huffman said.

The governor’s mission will take in the trade show, five countries, two seminars in Italy and Switzerland and more than 20 private meetings.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will attend the first two days of the show, Facemyer said. Meetings with the governor and other high-ranking state officers, like Burdette, who will attend the trade mission, impresses companies, she said.

Huffman is participating through an Innovative Marketing Grant from the state. Mark Whitley, executive director of the Jackson County Development Authority, will participate with the Polymer Alliance and in meetings set up by the trade mission.

Facemyer said she will focus on the ethane cracker and the companies which utilize the products from the plant. It will be a while before it’s known whether the efforts will be successful, she said.

“The only frustrating thing about economic development is it takes a long time,” Facemyer said.

Huffman said he will concentrate on companies already doing business here, then those looking to locate in West Virginia and then companies interested in locating in the United States, but haven’t considered West Virginia.

The European initiative is Tomblin’s second trade mission. A mission to Japan in June 2012 resulted in more than $100 million of investments in the state.

Tomblin last week said a third of West Virginia’s $11.3 billion exports went to Europe and more than 80 European companies have invested in the state, employing more than 10,000 residents.