Solar power installation? Commercial hemp? Are these among West Virginia's future diversified industries?
With the ups and downs of our global economy, and climate concerns on the rise, long-term prospects for coal and natural gas are looking shaky. It’s time for West Virginia to diversify its economy so that state families can thrive.
That was the message in a talk by the director of West Virginia University's Bureau of Business and Economic Research, who also stressed the importance of encouraging small business entrepreneurs.
One effort West Virginia has been forging ahead on is development of industrial hemp. In 2017, the state Legislature expanded a pilot project to allow cultivation of industrial hemp for commercial purposes. Now farmers can grow hemp like any other cash crop, transport it across state lines and use the plant in the processing of numerous products.
The WVDA has seen a 300 percent increase in applications for commercial hemp operations in the 2019 growing season. This is just one example of creating an environment that's supportive and conducive to small business start-up and growth.
West Virginia “is too reliant on energy,” says John Deskins, referring to coal and gas. But what if the legislature also made it easier for entrepreneurs in the solar and energy efficiency businesses? Diversifying the energy industry is another way to diversify our economy legislators should consider.