MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – When West Virginians think of the pandemic response, one of the main names that comes to mind is Jim Hoyer. But, the retired general is also heavily involved in state-level economic development efforts through the Joint InterAgency Task Force.
Hoyer describes his current work in economic development as “running interference” between corporations, heads of state and Vantage Ventures.
Vantage Ventures is part of the WVU John Chambers School of Business and Economics with the goal of turning West Virginia into a startup state. Since 2019, Vantage Ventures has nurtured the ideas and talent of potential entrepreneurs to implement concepts with economic impact.
“Sarah Biller and the folks at Vantage Ventures who aren’t just working on 24 high-tech companies right now,” Hoyer said. “We tweaked their mission a bit to work on what I call catching the big fish.”
The influx of money for pandemic relief has opened up more opportunities. Hoyer said his challenge was to work as a team to identify the best use for that one-time relief money.
“We are starting to focus now on assisting the state economic development team – Mitch Carmichael, Mike Graney, the Governor’s office and local economic development officials on asset bandwidth,” said Hoyer said.
West Virginia must compete with other states on tax structure, available labor, and geographic location for potential customers or users. But here, there is less land suitable for development. State government and federal relief money can help improve infrastructure
“We not only have to be a good place to do business, but we also have to have places ready to do business,” Hoyer said.
Following the announcement of a $2.7 billion Nucor steel plant in Mason County and a medical warehouse in the Morgantown area, Hoyer believes the state is on the rise. Hoyer based that observation on many years of work with state lawmakers and service in the West Virginia National Guard.
“I would tell you that I have never seen greater interest in operating in the state of West Virginia than in the past 12 to 18 months,” Hoyer said.
Another job announcement is expected in the spring, involving a company that may move into a 300,000 square foot facility in the Morgantown Industrial Park. The Morgantown Utility Board is upgrading water and sewer facilities there with a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce.