Big Increase, Can It Continue?

In this Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, photo, a sign attracts job-seekers during a job fair at the Marriott Hotel in Colonie, N.Y.(AP Photo/Mike Groll)
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While the Wood County business roundtable has been fielding calls from business interests, including increasingly, the high-tech and aerospace industries...much of its job growth has involved existing businesses and other types of employers expanding.

"A lot of the businesses we have are growing," says Cam Huffman, President, Wood County Development Authority: "Wincore, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. The economy's looking good here."

And then, there's the much-discussed drilling industry, which, while it hasn't had a direct presence in Wood and Washington counties, has encouraged spinoff businesses due to access to U.S. route 50 which connects to Ritchie and Doddridge counties.

"I can tell you that several companies have relocated in the downtown area," according to Charlotte Keim, President, Marietta Chamber of Commerce. "They're here for as long as the shale development continues. So we've seen an influx of oil and gas experts and consultants and companies."

That has apparently helped the Parkersburg area rise in the rankings in the Milken Institute's annual survey of best performing cities: from 115 in 2011, to 88 last year.

When we discuss business expansion in the area, thoughts often turn to larger manufacturers such as Hino Motors. But local business leaders tell us there have been a lot of smaller manufacturers coming into the area in recent years, many of which don't get the publicity the larger ones do.

"Some machine companies and machine shops have expanded their services," Keim says. "We've seen new businesses come from the former Forma Scientific, now Thermo Fisher. They've spun off new companies and new developments in the temperature control area."

Then there's the continued hope for a local cracker plant and development of a professional baseball team in Parkersburg. Hope that extends to not only maintaining, but increasing, the area's top 100 ranking.

That comes at the same time as word unemployment in Wood County climbed from November to December.

Workforce West Virginia says overall this December's numbers were better than December 2011.

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