West Virginia reaches nation's second highest export growth rate

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West Virginia reaches nation's second highest export growth rate
“Our days of being 50th in every category coming and going are over," Justice said of the announcement. (Photo: Josh Beech)

Gov. Jim Justice announced today that West Virginia had reached the second-highest export growth rate of any state in the nation in 2021. He celebrated the achievement at a press conference during which he spoke of a statewide reversal of fortune that's seen the state gain global notoriety.

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“Our days of being 50th in every category coming and going are over," Justice said.

"Nowadays, more and more often, West Virginia is ranking at the very top of the list of states, especially when it comes to how our state is growing from a business and economic standpoint.

“It’s an incredibly proud day for me and all West Virginians to see our state at No. 2 in the nation when it comes to the growth we’re seeing with our exports. It means more and more places are choosing to do business with us.

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"Not only is it great news for the manufacturers who have made a home here in West Virginia and have seen their businesses grow because of it, but it’s also wonderful to know that West Virginia products are making an impact all over the world and that everyone gets to see just how good we really are.”

West Virginia’s exports surged to $6.2 billion in 2021, a 37.6 percent increase over 2020’s total of $4.6 billion.

“The rocket ship ride that I promised couldn’t be more real. We’ve proved it over and over,” Justice said.

“Today’s announcement is just a fraction of the historic success we’ve seen already this year. We also continue to break state records with our revenue collections each month and we’ve also broken the record for the lowest unemployment rate four months in a row.

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“It’s truly the best time in history to live, work, or own a business in West Virginia.”

Trade statistics, released annually by the U.S. Census Bureau, show West Virginia also exceeded pre-pandemic export figures, reported as $5.9 billion in 2019.

Last year, West Virginia businesses traded with 147 countries; the most export markets in five years. The top countries for West Virginia’s products included Canada, China, India, Ukraine, and Brazil.

Mitch Carmichael, Secretary of the Department of Economic Development, said the report demonstrates the ability of West Virginia manufacturers to compete in the global market.

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“This report highlights the ongoing, sustained, and successful efforts in place to continue diversifying the economy in West Virginia,” Carmichael said.

“West Virginia manufacturers have proven they can deliver quality goods at a competitive price to customers located throughout the world.”

The strong performance in exports can be attributed to growth in several sectors, notably coal and plastics. Coal exports nearly doubled in 2021, from $1.4 billion to $2.7 billion, while plastics surpassed $1 billion for the first time since 2018. Other sectors showing significant growth in 2021 include machinery and automotive parts, chemicals, aerospace products, and hardwoods.

Countries throughout the world continue to offer opportunities for West Virginia’s manufactured products, raw materials, and other goods and services. Programs exist to assist small and medium-sized West Virginia businesses with exploring export opportunities worldwide.

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The West Virginia Department of Economic Development provides services to increase export sales and find reputable foreign business partners for West Virginia companies. Businesses interested in pursuing international sales for the first time or looking to expand into new markets should contact the department's international division to learn more about these services.

West Virginia continues to enjoy an unprecedented era of success and prosperity.

After inheriting a $500 million budget deficit, Justice has led the state to a string of consistent budget surpluses by using his lifelong experience as a businessman to make West Virginia a more business-friendly state and by standing behind the energy industry.

​​People are more excited than ever to be in West Virginia. From April 2010 to July 2019, more than 43,000 people moved out of the state. However, from 2020 through 2021, net migration is up in West Virginia for the first time in decades, with over 2,000 people moving into our state, making West Virginia one of the top states in the entire nation that people are moving into on a percentage basis.

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West Virginia is competing on the world stage and recruiting world-class companies to the state as shown in three recent major announcements, Justice reported.

  • Nucor Corporation announced that they selected Mason County as the location for a state-of-the-art sheet steel mill. This record investment will exceed $2.7 billion, making it the largest in West Virginia history, as well as the largest single investment Nucor has ever made.
  • GreenPower Motor Company announced an agreement with the state to manufacture zero-emission, all-electric school buses in South Charleston, bringing hundreds of new jobs and millions of dollars in economic impact to West Virginia.
  • Owens & Minor, a Fortune 500 company that provides medical supplies, is going to expand on a deal they previously had with WVU Medicine and create over 125 jobs at a healthcare products preparedness and supply center in Morgantown.
  • Omnis Building Technologies will build a $40 million, 150,000-square-foot facility in Bluefield to manufacture housing materials that will revolutionize the future of residential construction, creating 150-300 jobs in the process.
  • PepsiCo Beverages and Frito-Lay are investing a combined $32.5 million to build a pair of new, state-of-the-art warehouse and distribution facilities in West Virginia by the end of 2022, bringing dozens of additional new jobs to the state.

Additionally, the Governor’s Roads to Prosperity program is the state’s largest-ever investment in road maintenance and improvement; after 50 years of neglecting its roads, the state has committed more than $2 billion dollars to fix them.

Teachers and state employees have received their two largest pay raise ever, and a third pay raise has been proposed. The state’s Rainy Day Fund now exceeds $1 billion, and its public pension funds are better-funded than they have been in decades.

Thanks to Justice, Veterans now live in West Virginia tax-free and senior citizens do not face state taxes on social security. The Governor has also led West Virginia through a once-in-a-century pandemic, protecting the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

Additionally, increased investments in the state’s tourism efforts have visitation and intrigue in West Virginia through the roof. West Virginia was recently named a top-10 travel region in the world to visit by Lonely Planet; the only state to earn this prestigious distinction and the state was also recently selected as one of the "Best Places to Go" by Condé Nast Traveler.

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