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Study: WV unprepared for 'new economy'

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By JAMES E. CASTO

For The State Journal

A new national study characterizes West Virginia as unprepared for a global economy that's increasingly dependent on knowledge and innovation for growth — often called the "New Economy."

The study by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, ranks the 50 states with the states judged most prepared for the New Economy at the top of the list and those deemed least prepared at the bottom. The study lists West Virginia in 49th place and Mississippi in 50th. Both states occupied the same slots in a similar study done by ITIF in 2010.

Massachusetts is cited as the state that's most prepared for the New Economy. The study points to the state's "concentration of software, hardware and biotech firms, supported by world-class universities such as MIT and Harvard."

ITIF President Robert Atkinson said the top-tier New Economy states have more in common than just high-tech firms.

"They also tend to have a high concentration of managers, professionals and college-educated residents working in ‘knowledge jobs' (jobs that require at least a two-year degree). … Almost all are at the forefront of the IT revolution, with a large share of their institutions and residents embracing the digital economy."

Other states near the top of the study's list are Delaware, Washington, California, Maryland and Virginia.

Atkinson said "the two states whose economies have lagged the most in making the transition to the New Economy are Mississippi and West Virginia." If those states at or near the bottom of the list are to improve their rankings, he said, they most do a better job of embracing technology and adopt "innovation strategies" that foster long-term economic growth.

Founded in 2006, ITIF is a non-profit, non-partisan organization with a mission of providing "pragmatic ideas for improving technology-driven productivity, boosting competitiveness and meeting today's global challenges through innovation." Its 2012 State New Economy Index can be downloaded at www.itif.org.

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