WV manufacturers have many challenges, opportunities - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

WV manufacturers have many challenges, opportunities

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Numerous challenges and opportunities face West Virginia's manufacturing sector, according to businessmen engaged in the sector. 

Tom DeWitt, president of Swanson Industries, is expected to be one of the panelists on  "Challenges and Opportunities Facing West Virginia Manufacturers" at the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting and Business Summit. DeWitt said a number of challenges are facing the state's manufacturers, including a need for tort reform and more support of the sector in general. 

"The challenges that we face in West Virginia, and really in all the states where we do business, is primarily coming from the federal government," DeWitt said. "The fact is that manufacturing has a hard time competing with other countries in terms of wages, which we don't expect to match, but equally from a business climate in general."

Competition, he said is difficult at times in the U.S. because foreign competitors sometimes have the edge when it comes to cost of materials, general cost to do business and ease of regulatory compliance. 

"We need more support of manufacturing jobs in general because they are key to the growth of not just West Virginia, but our country," DeWitt said. "… We see more challenges ahead. We see more and more of our competition coming from outside of the U.S., rather than inside the U.S."

It's not that the state doesn't already try to accommodate the sector, DeWitt said, it could just do more.

"I think West Virginia, really, for the most part, does try. But if we as a state are going to grow, we need to follow the examples of some of the other states … that have done things to give companies reason to think they are wanted," DeWitt said. "I've heard other people say they love West Virginia workers, they have a great work ethic, but when you look at business climate overall and what you face, companies looking to come to West Virginia tend to locate elsewhere."

Joe Eddy, president of Eagle Manufacturing, also will speak on the panel at the Business Summit. He said he will be focusing on business outlook, over-regulation, energy, transportation, health care, work force development, chemical industry expansion and the importance of security and stability to the manufacturing economy.

"Challenge management is part of manufacturers' DNA — often driving innovation in products, processes and services-leading to quality, productivity and performance improvements," Eddy said. "Today's manufacturing challenges — while more policy related than operational — have the ability to directly impact our nation's economic recovery and stability. The manufacturing sector has historically led every economic recovery since the Great Depression."

Eddy said he anticipates discussing most of those key policy changes, include addressing the uncertainties of tax legal reform, environmental regulations and energy and health care policy. 

"2012 is a pivotal year for our nation's economy — a time when the success or failure of recovery depends on how well policymakers respond to the needs of manufacturers," he said.

Eddy said manufacturers need "certainty and stability to make long-ranging spending and budget decisions," particularly in a "tough" economy. Challenging times, however, could spark innovation.

"My experience dictates that the most challenging times provide the best opportunity for positive change," he said.

Timothy Duke, president and CEO of Steel of West Virginia, Beri Fox, president and CEO of Marble King Inc., and Robin Hildebrand, president of Blue Smoke Salsa, also will be speaking on the manufacturing panel.

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