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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.

BRETT DUNLAP FOR THE INTELLIGENCER

CHARLESTON — Some of the state’s outdated laws and regulations need to be updated to allow the natural gas industry to grow and prosper in the Mountain State, said two industry officials.

Anne Blankenship, executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association and Brett Loflin, vice president, regulatory affairs for Northeast Natural Energy and Independent Oil and Gas Association Board of Directors, spoke to the West Virginia Press Association’s Legislative Breakfast about the state of the natural gas industry in West Virginia on Thursday.

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