<strong>By WV Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher<\/strong>\r\n\r\nDuring this 2017 legislative session, Gov. Jim Justice has identified a bold initiative to lead West Virginia on the path to prosperity. His initiative will stimulate our economy and provide the tools necessary to support existing businesses and attract new businesses to the state.\r\n\r\nThe Governor\u2019s initiative is not a theory, it\u2019s a fact. Already in 2017, the expansion and attraction efforts of the West Virginia Department of Commerce has led to 26 new projects, representing $800 million in new capital investment, 600 new jobs and 1,300 retained jobs.\r\n\r\nWest Virginia\u2019s successes include the attraction of three new companies including: Canadian manufacturer Bidell Gas Compression is bringing 131 jobs to Weirton, WV, national wholesale distributor HT Hackney will employ 70 people in its Milton, WV facility, and Wardensville, WV is the home to 50 new jobs thanks to hi-tech transcription company ASC Services.\r\n\r\nWe\u2019ve also seen expansions at existing West Virginia companies: Markwest continues to make significant investments in gas infrastructure - spending hundreds of millions, GC Services in Huntington plans to add 150 people, and 100 new manufacturing jobs are coming to Mercer County thanks to Air Dynamics and Elgin.\r\n\r\nGov. Justice recognizes the need to think boldly, stimulate our economy with highway jobs, open our state to outside investment, and support existing businesses while also working to diversify our economy.\r\n\r\nWest Virginia is at a critical juncture. It\u2019s vital the Legislature provide funding for the Governor\u2019s SOS Fund if we want to have the necessary tools to bring good jobs to the mountain state. This, coupled with funding for the highway stimulus, will result in real, significant progress being made in West Virginia.\r\n\r\nThe Legislature is right to look for any excesses in state government that can be eliminated. However, if we really think we\u2019re going to stimulate the economy through cuts, we are misguided. Cuts without economic stimulus will only result in a further downward spiral of our economy. You can\u2019t cut your way to prosperity.\r\n\r\nWest Virginians must answer a simple question:\u00a0 Are we going to settle for last place, watching our families and communities struggling to survive on the remains of the state\u2019s once-thriving coal-based economy, or are we going to step up and do something to start building a new, more diverse economy?\r\n\r\nGov. Jim Justice has the track record and vision to lead West Virginia to a place of prosperity. We should support him. Gov. Justice is tired of being 50th, and so should everybody else in the state of West Virginia.