By: Chris Hamilton President & CEO West Virginia Coal Association
In a recent column by MetroNews Talkline Host Hoppy Kercheval, he quotes Mitch Carmichael, Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Commerce, as saying, “From 2017 to 2021…West Virginia generated $6.2 billion in private capital investment…The state generated $6.2 billion in 2022 alone. In one year, we did more than the previous years”.
Secretary Carmichael and the Department of Economic Development staff are to be commended for their tireless efforts to attract business to the state and their recent successes. It is our hope that all these economic development announcements come to fruition and create thousands of jobs for West Virginians throughout every corner of the state.
However, many, if not most, of the new business announcements are tied to federal subsidies incentivizing various forms of green energy development. While the State is pursuing these new investments, we ask that our economic development professionals provide equal attention to our existing, foundational sectors, like the coal industry.
Remarkably, there’s been over $8 billion dollars in new investments in West Virginia mining operations over the past several years, including approximately $2 billion in 2022-2023. These investment dollars may not be of much value to those chasing shiny objects or, like President Biden, forcing a questionable transition away from fossil energy, but to 50,000-plus West Virginians who show up at a mine every day it is extremely important, and will serve to keep our states coal industry a vital part of West Virginia’s economy for decades to come.
The impact the production of met coal alone has on West Virginia is significant, generating approximately $9.6 billion in total economic activity, supporting about 30,500 jobs, contributing nearly $554 million in tax revenue for US state and local governments, and producing about $2.5 billion in labor income in 2019. West Virginia is the leading producer of met coal nationally and we supplied nearly 63 percent of all the met coal distributed to U.S. coke plants.
The coal industry also provides jobs in predominantly more rural areas of the state; allowing employees who choose to work in the sector the opportunity to stay in their communities.
Governor Justice recognizes the incredible importance of coal to reliable power generation, steelmaking, and the economic impact these industries have on West Virginia. The coal industry can do even more with additional focus and attention by our state’s leading economic development agency.