Charleston West Virginia Economic Development

Discussions on Economic and Community Development in West Virginia and the Charleston MSA as well as issues of the Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

It's a Big World

By Matt Ballard, president and CEO, Charleston Area Alliance
& Jack Rossi, chairman

Chamber of Commerce presidents from around the country, including those from Lexington, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, St. Paul, Green Bay, Albany, Milwaukee, Dayton, Oklahoma City, and our very own Charleston, West Virginia, recently returned from a trade mission to China.

Here is some of what we learned about the importance of a China strategy for businesses that are serious about having a a global presence:

• The Chinese economy: The Chinese economy is the third largest in the world after the United States and Japan. Its economy has, and is, growing rapidly, and the annual income of the Chinese people is increasing year after year. The Chinese economy is more market-driven than ever and the results are palpable.
• China’s workforce – it’s a "Value Meal, Super Sized": China offers potential employees at a low price. That workforce is not without risk, but the low costs of the workforce in China are one big reason the United States has a trade deficit with this nation.
• Population: China’s rapidly growing population continues to expand its potential workforce. With that growth comes a vast increase in consumers. Many businesses have only thought of China to access its workforce to supply the rest of the world, but they also should think about establishing operations in China to supply the Chinese people.

For the last several years, the Charleston Area Alliance has focused on international economic and business development as one of its target areas for job growth. The result has been good for West Virginia and the Charleston region.

Did you know there are now more than 20 Japanese companies in West Virginia? Did you know the Alliance has been instrumental in attracting many European businesses to expand into the Mountain State? Did you know that the Alliance and its partner, the U.S. Department of Commerce Export Office, provide one-on-one consulting for businesses who want to export their products from West Virginia, generating new revenues and creating new jobs?

Last year, West Virginia exports grew 41 percent while the average export growth of the 50 U.S. states was only 12 percent. These positive outcomes for our state did not and cannot happen within a vacuum. There are few borders left in this "flat world." We, as a state and people, must embrace the global economy.

As an economic development organization, the Alliance is now exploring leading an international trade mission. The goal would be to establish an affordable itinerary that would allow community leaders, government officials, business leaders and interested parties to learn about China’s business climate and economy, identify Chinese businesses that may be exploring expansion into the U.S. market (and West Virginia) and begin to foster relationships that will help West Virginia businesses compete on the global economic scene.

As always, we are working to create a more vibrant community and prosperous economy. There is no better time to invest your talents and resources in the Alliance. Together, we can and will pursue opportunity wherever it leads ... down the street or around the world.


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