A long list of positive economic statistics for West Virginia was touted by a state official during Wednesday's Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce quarterly meeting.
"I'm here today to talk to you about goals - where we are as a state, and where we need to be going," said Keith Burdette, secretary of the state Department of Commerce and the executive director of the state Development Office.
"In spite of an incredibly challenging economy, our budget is balanced, we're paying our bills, our debt is decreasing. ... In fact, we currently rank as the third best fiscally managed state in the union," Burdette said.
Although West Virginians may often assume the state's economic outlook is negative, Burdette said there are plenty of bright spots - and he listed many of them during his presentation.
He noted that West Virginia's gross domestic product growth is fifth best in the country, and the state is the sixth most attractive place in the world for gas and oil production and the third best state in the country for job creation potential.
"And we've got $122 million in the bank," Burdette said.
He also listed three fundamental things that are continuing to improve in West Virginia: the cost of doing business, the cost of living and the cost of energy. Burdette said state officials have worked toward these goals "systematically for the last two decades."
The Department of Commerce is using various tools to promote new jobs and new investments, Burdette said.
"Small businesses provide 92 percent of all the jobs in West Virginia," he said, defining "small" as businesses with fewer than 20 employees. "We're hiring new business coaches" to work with new small businesses, to help them avoid the pitfalls of ownership.
"We're going to market ourselves much smarter as a state," Burdette said. The state is producing TV, print, airline and airport ads "touting West Virginia as a place to do business. It's what we've got to do."
Burdette stressed that two "major projects" will have a massive impact on the state's economy. The Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, a 10,000-acre camp facility for the Boy Scouts located near Beckley and Glen Jean, is the future home of the National Scout Jamboree.
That event will bring 80,000 scouts and their families to the state each year, which will be a "huge tourism opportunity" for the entire state, he said.
He also said the Commerce Department is trying to bring major "cracker plants" to the state. They will process ethane from Marcellus natural gas to produce ethylene, which is a "basic building block of 94 percent of all consumer products in the world."
Burdette said smaller businesses will move to the state to be near these plants, and "these businesses could be built here as easily as anywhere else," he said in reference to Elkins.
Partly because of this technology and its possible offshoots, experts have said that within five years, the state could add 12,000 manufacturing jobs, Burdette said.
At the conclusion of his presentation, Burdette showed a short film, "Business at the Speed of Life," which is designed to attract business to the state.
Wednesday's meeting was held at the Randolph County Community Arts Center.