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By Rusty Marks
State Journal

Several hundred oil and gas industry executives, workers and supporters met in Charleston on Tuesday, March 21, for a rally on the steps of the state Capitol.

“The work that you do should be celebrated,” said Maribeth Anderson, president of the West Virginia Oil & Natural Gas Association. Anderson said the myth that most of the people who work in the state’s oil and gas industry don’t live in the state is just not true, and members in the crowd shouted out their home counties to prove it.

Both state Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, and House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, addressed the crowd, telling those in attendance the Legislature was doing what it could to help the industry.

“You’re benefiting the people of the world,” Carmichael said. “We need to do more to help you do your job (in employing West Virginians and helping the state economy). We stand with you to make the changes in the policy and the law to help the industry.”

It’s no secret what condition the state of West Virginia is in. State government faces a shortfall of nearly $500 million for next fiscal year.

West Virginia is the only state in the union that has a smaller population now than it did in 1950, while the number of residents continues to drop.

The unemployment rate for January 2017 was fifth highest in the United States.

The workforce participation rate — that is the number of working-age adults who are working or looking for work — is the lowest in the United States.

There’s no denying that West Virginia continues to face big challenges.

The Associated Press reported recently that unemployment rates rose in all 55 of West Virginia’s counties last month. Making ends meet is getting tougher for West Virginia families and communities.

In Charleston, the Legislature is focused on a number of these challenges, including our budget shortfalls and policies related to job growth — and West Virginia families are watching these efforts closely.

The good news is that we have real opportunities for positive and sustained growth, which can lift up every West Virginia family and community.

Recognizing when and how to make positive changes to regulations and laws that govern our activities is critical to the economic success of any state.

We need teamwork among individuals, businesses and government to ensure a fair and balanced environment in which we can all work. Like so many businesses throughout our state, we are constantly evolving to address the needs of our customers, neighbors and devoted teams of skilled local employees.


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