West Virginia Year in Review - 2019

12/31/2019

West Virginia economy reaches new heights under Gov. Justice

 

 

 

Under the leadership of Gov. Jim Justice and his administration, 2019 proved to be a historic year for jobs, income, and revenue growth in West Virginia.

 

 

 

 

MORE JOBS
Over the course of the year, West Virginia's workforce saw both its lowest unemployment rate (4.6%) and the highest employment total (763,000) since 2008.

 

INCOME INCREASES
Total personal income in West Virginia increased by approximately $3 billion from the middle of last year to the middle of this year.

 

REVENUE GROWTH
General revenue growth of $511 million for Fiscal Year 2019 marked the greatest single-year revenue growth total in West Virginia history. For perspective, the $511 million in revenue growth for FY2019 alone is more than one-and-a-half times the combined revenue growth in West Virginia for the entire decade from FY2007 to FY2017. These revenue surpluses provided millions of dollars to Medicaid and the State's Rainy Day Fund.

 

 

Highways crews complete busiest year of secondary road maintenance on record

 

 

 

2019 was also a landmark year for the West Virginia Division of Highways, as crews worked at a never-before-seen pace, paving the way for safer and smoother secondary roads all across the state. Following Gov. Justice's directive in March for the DOH to get back to its roots as a maintenance-first organization, teams completed more than 27,100 miles-worth of work on secondary roads alone, including paving, patching, ditching, road stabilization, and more.

In the fall, Gov. Justice debuted a massive addition to the State's road maintenance equipment fleet, with nearly 280 machines and vehicles being distributed to all 10 DOH Districts and in all 55 counties across West Virginia, including 10 new Gradall hydraulic excavators.

 

 

 

 

To track the progress, leaders with the DOT unveiled an all-new, interactive, web-based map in August, which shows every road project going on across the entire state. The map also provides real-time statistics on how much road work has been completed across a variety of categories, including Gov. Justice’s Secondary Roads Maintenance initiative and Roads to Prosperity program.

 

 

 

 

Gov. Justice unveils historic Jobs & Hope WV program to combat opioid epidemic

 

 

 

In October, Gov. Justice and several State leaders announced the start of an all-new, comprehensive program aimed at combating the state’s drug crisis – Jobs & Hope West Virginia – the result of the concept brought forth by Gov. Justice during his 2019 State of the State address, to remove barriers to job opportunities for those recovering from addiction. Jobs & Hope West Virginia is a beginning-to-end program that allows an individual to receive free addiction treatment while, at the same time, receiving free career technical education. Assistance is not only for those battling addiction. Any person seeking a pathway to more meaningful employment through job training, obtaining certifications, or other types of education may be eligible.

Since the program's debut, a grand total of 12 men and women have already graduated from a pair of heavy machinery courses held by the West Virginia National Guard at Camp Dawson. The program staff has also already received more than 500 referrals.

 

 

 

 

 

Gov. Justice honors veterans and the fallen with new military memorials in West Virginia

 

 

 

In October, Gov. Justice presented a $26,000 check to the City of Oceana to help fund the completion of a new Veteran Wall and War Memorial off of Route 10, across from Gilliland Park. On Veterans Day the following month, the Governor took part in a dedication ceremony opening the full display to the public.

In July, the Governor also participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for a new Gold Star Families Memorial Monument, set to be built on the grounds of the State Capitol, in honor of families who have lost a loved one in service to their state and country.

 

 

 

 

Major business growth continues across all corners of West Virginia

 

 

 

Many ribbon-cutting and groundbreaking ceremonies were held all across West Virginia in 2019, as major businesses across a variety of industries either flocked to or expanded operations in the state:

In March, 123 new jobs were announced as Toyota Motor Manufacturing expanded its plant in Buffalo.

In April, an expansion of the Northrop Grumman plant in Rocket Center was announced, retaining more than 1,100 jobs and creating up to 500 more jobs at the Mineral County location over a five year period.

Later that same month, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held celebrating an expansion of the MPLX Sherwood Gas Processing Complex in Doddridge County, which – even before expanding – was already the largest gas-processing facility in all of North America.

In July, the Italian natural gas company Pietro Fiorentini celebrated the completion of its first ever American manufacturing plant in Weirton 

In August, a new manufacturing plant for Hino Motors in Mineral Wells brought 250 new jobs and $40 million in new investment to West Virginia.

In October, technology company Infor, a global leader in business cloud software, officially opened its new offices in Charleston, providing a pathway to approximately 100 new, high-paying jobs for West Virginians.

 

 

Communities In Schools program expands to new students and new places

 

 

 

After the success of pilots for the Communities In Schools program in Berkeley, McDowell, and Wyoming counties last year, Governor and First Lady Justice expanded CIS to Cabell, Calhoun, Clay, Fayette, Hardy, Lincoln, Pendleton, and Raleigh counties. More than 26,000 students will be served through this expansion.

Communities In Schools, which is now in 59 schools across the state, aims to forge community partnerships and bring resources into schools to help remove barriers to student learning with a goal of keeping all students in school and ultimately graduating.

In September, Governor and First Lady Justice were recognized with a national award during a ceremony at the Communities In Schools Leadership Town Hall Conference in Chicago, in honor of their efforts to empower at-risk students to stay in school and on a path to a brighter future.

 

 

Major Roads To Prosperity improvement projects continue as program hits two-year anniversary

 

 

 

In addition to the massive amount of secondary roadwork that took place in 2019, the DOH also broke ground on several major Roads To Prosperity projects, including the Coalfields Expressway, the King Coal Highway, Route 10 enhancements in Wyoming County, and the next phase of Corridor H.

Contracts for several more high-profile projects were also awarded in 2019, including the I-70 Bridges Project in Wheeling, the I-64 Nitro/St. Albans Bridge, the US 35 Project, and I-64 widening work in Cabell County.

 

 

 

 

October 7 marked the two-year anniversary of the voters going to the polls and overwhelmingly deciding to support the launch of the Governor’s RTP program. In the two years since, more than 500 of these major projects have been completed, spanning more than 1,100 miles of roadways.

Just after celebrating the anniversary, the State completed its second historic road bond sale, generating more than $700 million for additional RTP program projects in the years to come.

 

 

Gov. Justice announces Governor’s Downstream Jobs Task Force to capitalize on West Virginia’s future in the petrochemical industry

 

 

 

In August, Gov. Justice signed an executive order, establishing a new task force – called the Governor’s Downstream Jobs Task Force – which will work to bring downstream manufacturing opportunities to West Virginia ahead of an anticipated expansion of the petrochemical industry in Appalachia that would bring billions of dollars in investments and more than 100,000 new jobs to the region.

Through his friendship with President Donald J. Trump, Gov. Justice encouraged top-ranking officials with the United States Department of Energy to visit West Virginia several times in 2019. Over the course of repeated visits, these DOE leaders and President Trump have identified West Virginia, with its abundant natural resources, as a prime location to host a major expansion of the petrochemical industry – with President Trump issuing his own executive order, instructing the DOE to formally look at the Appalachian region for potential locations to build petrochemical plants or other infrastructure.
 
According to the DOE, this so-called Appalachian Petrochemical Renaissance could lead to significant growth in the region; including $36 billion in capital investment, more than 100,000 steady jobs, $28 billion in economic expansion, and $2.9 billion in annual tax revenues.

 

 

West Virginia State Police celebrate 100th anniversary; graduates new cadet class

 

 

 

March marked the 100th anniversary of the creation of the West Virginia State Police. The milestone was celebrated with a ceremony at the State Culture Center, which included tributes to the families of the 41 state troopers who lost their lives in the line of duty over the past century. The event also included the unveiling of a new exhibit located in the State Theater gallery, which features 100 years of WVSP history and remained on display until October.

June was also a special month for the WVSP, with 28 new cadets graduating from the West Virginia State Police's 67th Cadet Class. The event marked the second State Police cadet class graduation since November 2018. Before that, the WVSP had not graduated any new cadet classes for nearly four full years.

 

 

West Virginia tourism industry outpaces national growth by 58 percent

 

 

 

In October, Gov. Justice announced that West Virginia’s tourism industry grew for the second consecutive year in 2018. This two-year growth trend reverses years of decline and outpaces national growth by 58 percent. The finding comes from yearly economic impact research and shows traveler spending in West Virginia grew at a rate of 6.5 percent, totaling $4.55 billion.

 

 

 

The growth was stimulated by creative tourism initiatives like "Destination Unknown" – where 33 adventurous travelers boarded a bus in Washington, D.C. for a weekend trip to a mystery location. A little more than three hours after departing, the bus came to a stop and the travelers stepped off to realize they had been transported to West Virginia's Canaan Valley – and were treated to a vacation that was truly Almost Heaven.

 

 

Gov. Justice working to help save Minor League Baseball in West Virginia

 

 

 

After learning of Major League Baseball's plans for a major realignment to their minor league system – potentially putting West Virginia's four Minor League Baseball teams at risk – Gov. Justice spoke with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who promised to stay in touch and continue to listen to West Virginia's concerns as this process moves forward.

 

 

Gov. Justice recognizes the accomplishments of young students all across West Virginia

 

 

 

This year, Gov. Justice visited numerous elementary, middle, and high schools across the entire state to celebrate the achievements of countless students, educators, and administrators. In October, the Governor held an all-student assembly at Hollywood Elementary School in Beckley to honor the school for being selected as a 2019 National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the United States Department of Education.

 

 

 

 

Also this fall, Gov. Justice visited Kenna Elementary School, Evans Elementary School, Pleasant Valley Elementary School, Paw Paw High School, and Athens Elementary School to recognize their accomplishments as some of the top-performing schools in West Virginia on the statewide Balanced Scorecard Accountability System.

 

 

Gov. Justice expands computer science education at West Virginia schools

 

 

 

In February, Gov. Justice signed a bill into law making West Virginia among the first states in the nation to require that all students have access to computer science education before graduating high school. The Governor celebrated the occasion with a ceremonial bill signing at Cranberry-Prosperity Elementary School in Beckley.

 

 

 

 

Hundreds of West Virginia National Guard soldiers and their families honored at deployment ceremonies

 

 

 

In August, the Governor attended a deployment ceremony in Charleston for 500 members of the West Virginia National Guard traveling overseas to serve in the Middle East. Speaking to the soldiers and their families Gov. Justice praised the soldiers for the bravery they have already displayed in recent years, responding to people in need in West Virginia. Then, in December, Chief of Staff Mike Hall was on hand for another deployment ceremony in Martinsburg, with 160 more soldiers headed to Cuba for the next year.

 

 

24th World Scout Jamboree held at West Virginia's Summit Bechtel Reserve

 

 

 

In July, more than 40,000 scouts from across the world were welcomed to the Summit Bechtel Reserve in Fayette and Raleigh counties for the 24th ever World Scout Jamboree. This year's event marked the first time in more than 50 years that the World Scout Jamboree was held in the United States. With the massive influx of scouts, the Summit Bechtel Reserve temporarily had a population larger than all but two West Virginia cities and larger than 42 of the state’s 55 counties. As such, several State agencies were on-hand to assist in the operation of the two-week-long event.

 

 

Gov. Justice providing better access to medical care for disabled veterans, unveils new vans for DAV volunteer transportation program

 

 

 

In August, Gov. Justice took​ part in a ceremony at the Beckley VA Medical Center to unveil and hand over the keys to 13 new vans that will be used by a group of volunteers to transport disabled or injured West Virginia veter​​ans to their appointments at VA medical facilities across the state. The program is being operated through the Volunteer Transportation Network within the national organization, Disabled American Veterans – or DAV.

 

 

Gov. Justice, state leaders join Virgin Hyperloop One officials at WVU to discuss West Virginia's role in the future of transportation technology

 

 

 

In November, Gov. Justice and several members of his administration joined leaders with West Virginia University on campus in Morgantown for an event – welcoming officials with high-tech transportation company Virgin Hyperloop One to the state and discussing the possibility of bringing a Hyperloop testing center to West Virginia. Hyperloop is an all-new, high-speed mode of transportation that involves moving people and goods in pods through a vacuum tube, using magnetic and electronic propulsion technology to reach travel speeds in excess of 600 miles per hour. The concept and technologies involved are still currently in early development and testing phases. The State is proposing that Virgin Hyperloop One build their planned Hyperloop Certification Center (HCC) in West Virginia. This testing center would aim to establish regulatory standards and to allow the company to continue its work perfecting this cutting-edge technology.

 

 

Gov. Justice announces millions of dollars for critical airport improvement projects

 

 

 

Over the course of the year, Gov. Justice and leaders with the West Virginia Aeronautics Commission announced millions of dollars-worth of significant improvement work to be used across all of the state's 24 airports.

In July, the Governor pledged $2 million from the West Virginia Infrastructure Jobs Development Council to help fund the construction of a new United States Customs building at Yeager Airport, which would allow the airport to facilitate international travel among private or cargo aircrafts. The Governor also recommended a transfer of $250,000 in ARC development funds to jump-start a project to provide public water service to the Mercer County Airport for the first time.

In August, Gov. Justice pledged $20 million needed for work to take off on a historic infrastructure project at North Central West Virginia Airport in Bridgeport; to add an all-new terminal featuring two jetways and additional parking facilities, to create approximately 50 additional acres of airport space, and to develop airport property for additional commercial and industrial use. Also that month, the Governor requested more than $1.1 million, needed to jump-start a major project to make proactive improvements to the Runway Safety Area at Huntington Tri-State Airport. The funding would be the state match required to utilize another $10 million in federal funding in order to get the first phases of the project underway.

The West Virginia Aeronautics Commission also approved more than $1.4 million in grant funding for use on various additional projects across the state’s 24 airports.

 

 

Gov. Justice stocks Babcock State Park with golden rainbow trout in celebration of WV Gold Rush; updates trout stocking method

 

 

 

In April, Gov. Justice helped stock the streams of Babcock State Park full of golden rainbow trout, as part of a ceremony celebrating the 2019 West Virginia Gold Rush. The week-long Gold Rush event featured the stocking of about 40,000 golden rainbow trout in 41 lakes and 16 streams across the state, including at 15 state parks and forests, to lure in anglers and adventure seekers from all over the world to experience the outdoors of West Virginia. Later in the month, the Governor directed the Division of Natural Resources to begin implementing an improved method for trout stocking, taking care to spread them out over longer sections of stream, rather than dumping the fish in at one point.

 

 

Online camping reservations made available for all West Virginia State Parks

 

 

 

In April, Gov. Justice and leaders with West Virginia State Parks and the Tourism Office announced that campers in West Virginia would be able to reserve campsites online before they set out for the woods, thanks to an upgraded reservation system. The Governor also announced that $3.5 million in campground upgrades was being invested at 16 state parks and forests.

 

 

Gov. Justice presents memorial bell at Bluefield High School honoring "Lil" Tony Webster

 

 

 

At the beginning of high school football season this August, Gov. Justice took the field at Bluefield High School to present a new memorial bell honoring the memory of "Lil" Tony Webster – a member of the Bluefield Beavers football team who passed away earlier this year. Players on the team rang the bell every time they scored as a tribute to their teammate.

 

 

Ceremonial groundbreaking held for Facebook's major fiber network project in West Virginia

 

 

 

In November, Gov. Justice joined representatives from Facebook, along with United States Senator Shelley Moore Capito, United States Congresswoman Carol Miller, and other State leaders at Tamarack for a ceremonial groundbreaking event, to commemorate the beginning of a major broadband development project to expand internet infrastructure throughout West Virginia. Facebook, through its subsidiary Middle Mile Infrastructure, is building a high capacity fiber optic cable network, crossing a portion of West Virginia as part of the company’s ongoing larger network infrastructure build stretching from Virginia to Ohio. The project – which Facebook representatives have titled the New River Project – was originally announced in March 2019.​

 

 

DHHR data suggests West Virginia overdose deaths appear to be declining

 

 

 

After several years of steady increases, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) released preliminary data on 2018 fatal drug overdoses in West Virginia that suggest a leveling off or slight decrease in the total number of overdose deaths. The projected decrease of overdose deaths occurring for 2018 is expected to be a 6 percent decline compared to 2017 data.

 

 

Gov. Justice presents West Virginia Purple Heart to heroes with State Police

 

 

 

In December, Gov. Justice held a ceremony to award the West Virginia State Police’s Purple Heart Medal to two troopers – Corporal Josh Ware and Trooper First Class Josh Tallman – for acts of immense courage over the past year.

 

 

Gov. Justice pledges $1 million to Bluefield State College facilities including first on-campus housing complex in 50 years

 

 

 

In August, Gov. Justice announced that he had secured $1 million in funding that will be used to make substantial improvements to campus life for students at Bluefield State College. Of that total amount, $500,000 is being put toward assisting the college in building a historic, all-new student housing complex, which is already in the works. The Governor made the surprise announcement during a groundbreaking ceremony, celebrating the start of construction for the housing facility, which will be called Heritage Village. The other $500,000 is being devoted to BSC for work on the college’s student union.

 

 

Gov. Justice announces plans to build major rail trail along Elk River and Buffalo Creek

 

 

 

In May, Gov. Justice announced that the state plans to build a major rail trail along the Elk River and Buffalo Creek, giving adventure seekers from across the country a new opportunity to enjoy West Virginia’s natural beauty. The State signed a letter of intent to purchase the land needed to complete the project, which plans to utilize 72 miles of existing rail lines in Clay and Kanawha counties and either repurpose the tracks for recreational purposes or convert them into trails for walking, hiking, biking and more. The planned trail network has the potential to become the second-longest rail trail east of the Mississippi.

 

 

Governor and First Lady Justice present $21,000 check to jumpstart Future Leaders Program at Clay County High School

 

 

 

In October, Governor and First Lady Justice joined leaders with the West Virginia National Guard and West Virginia Department of Education at Clay County High School to present a check in the amount of $21,175 to help the school implement its new Future Leaders Program. The Future Leaders Program is designed to assist high schools in providing military and leadership-based curriculum, mentorship, and guidance to high school students that aid in character and leadership development. The program is similar to the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) programs throughout the nation, but is run locally by the West Virginia National Guard and is tailored to the needs and requests of the schools in West Virginia. 

 

 

Gov. Justice delivers hundreds of Christmas presents to West Virginia children

 

 

 

To celebrate the Christmas season, Gov. Justice put on his most festive Santa suit and visited Chamberlain Elementary School in the Kanawha City area of Charleston, delivering more than 700 presents to children in need of a little extra cheer for the holiday season. The gifts were purchased by the Governor and First Lady Cathy Justice themselves and were given out to children ranging in age from toddlers to preteens.

 

 

Also this year:

 

Gov. Justice directs DHHR to eliminate waitlist for IDD waiver program

Gov. Justice celebrates tax achievements

Gov. Justice attends groundbreaking ceremony for expansion of I-79 Technology Park

West Virginia and Hungary sign formal agreement to enhance economic relationship

Gov. Justice joins EPA Administrator to announce the addition of Minden to the National Priorities List

Gov. Justice signs bill allowing military funerals in public school facilities

Gov. Justice announces agreement with Maryland to continue MARC Train service

Gov. Justice says Wheeling University “not closing on my watch”

Gov. Justice secures over $52 million for Herbert Hoover High School rebuild

Gov. Justice, U.S. Department of Justice announce $38 million grant awarded to West Virginia to reduce crime, fight the opioid crisis

Gov. Justice announces drug epidemic pilot program for Berkeley and Jefferson counties

HHOMA kicks off BRIDGE pilot program in Kanawha, Berkeley, and Jefferson counties

Gov. Justice and WVU Medicine work to save jobs and enhance healthcare in Northern Panhandle

Gov. Justice announces new sponsor of West Virginia Parkways Authority Courtesy Patrol

 

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Contact Information

Jordan Damron, jordan.l.damron@wv.gov

Contact

Office of the Governor
State Capitol, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E
Charleston, WV 25305

Office Phone:
304.558.2000 or 1.888.438.2731

Governor's Mansion:
304.558.3588

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