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WalletHub: Ranking shows need to diversify economy

While studies such as those regularly produced by WalletHub are not, by themselves anything on which to take immediate action, sometimes their vast oversimplification can bring the big picture into focus. Recently, WalletHub announced West Virginia has one of the five worst economies in the country. The rankings were Alaska (worst), Louisiana, Mississippi, Hawaii (surprise!) and West Virginia.

It gives some idea as to the nature of the study to know that the best state economies were Washington, Utah, Massachusetts, California and Colorado.

Nevertheless, there is value in looking at the criteria used. The Mountain State, despite a couple of years now of grandiose promises out of Charleston, ranks 51st in percent of jobs in high tech industries and in startup activity. It is 50th in unemployment. Traditional jobs are (still) going away. New ones are not materializing.

To its credit, West Virginia ranks 18th in government surplus/deficit per capita. A lot of hard work has gone into turning around that ship; and great care must be taken not to let it slip back.

Our state is 19th in GDP growth, measuring economic activity by calculating the value of goods and services produced in the state — in fact it has been improving since 2010.

Such a disparity indicates what plenty of West Virginians already understand: refusal to shift away from the industry staples that simply will not continue to sustain West Virginia — refusal to diversify, or even make things a little easier on those who want to do things differently — means the same thing now it has meant for generations of residents. Someone else is pouring in enough money to keep the politicians and bureaucrats happy … and someone else is reaping all the rewards. Very little of it is reaching ordinary West Virginians — at least not without a lot of strings attached, anyway.

Again, studies like this one should not be an impetus for any kind of decision-making. But perhaps they can help lawmakers and other officials consider what hanging on to West Virginia’s century-long “business as usual” strategy is doing to its people.

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