West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research said the state needs to capitalize on its existing regional industries to attract new business and development rather than try to recruit new business from the outside.
“Building on a region’s comparative advantages is typically a more effective economic development strategy compared with a strategy that ignores a region’s existing industrial structure and pursues a more generic approach,” said Eric Bowen, research assistant professor at the Chambers College of Business and Economics and leader of the study, “Identifying Industrial Clusters for Targeted Economic Development in West Virginia.”
Bowen and John Deskins, director of BBER, who also worked on the study along with the state Development Office, identified industrial clusters in West Virginia’s six metropolitan areas:
- North Central Region, which includes Monongalia, Preston, Marion and Harrison counties. Existing industries include aerospace vehicles and defense, oil and gas production, electric power generation, education and knowledge creation, information technology and biopharmaceuticals.
The highest concentration of jobs in this area were related to coal mining, 37 times higher than the national average.
- The Wheeling Metropolitan area, Ohio and Marshall counties. Here the strengths are oil and gas production; marketing, design and publishing; health services.
- The Parkersburg Metropolitan area, Wirt and Wood counties. The study said this region is known for oil and gas production, automotive, food processing and manufacturing and water transportation.
- Eastern Panhandle Region of Berkeley and Jefferson counties. These two counties are known for information technology, downstream chemical products, education and knowledge creation, food processing and manufacturing.
- Beckley Metropolitan Area comprised of Fayette and Raleigh counties. The area’s industrial strengths include food processing and manufacturing, health services, business services, hospitality and tourism.
- Advantage Valley Region is made up of Kanawha, Putnam and Cabell counties. The BBER report said the oil and gas production, upstream chemical products and automotive industries have a strong presence.
“The unifying theme of this report is that each metro area, in itself, is different,” Bowen said. “Each region has its own strengths that it can build on to bring in new companies to the region.”
An industrial cluster analysis looks at the supplier relationships of companies in a geographic region to identify gaps and opportunities related to its industrial structure that could attract new businesses, the report said.
“The most impactful clusters are going to be those that have high wages and are growing nationally, which makes it easier to bring new locations in the state,” Bowen said.