Friday, September 22, 2023

INTERIM REPORT: Joint Committee on Energy and Manufacturing

The Committee on Energy and Manufacturing met this evening and heard about manufacturing growth in the state.

Manufacturing is growing in West Virginia. Chemical manufacturing is the largest sector, however, hardwoods, mechanical, and other manufacturing are growing as well. There have been 4,300 manufacturing jobs added in the state thus far and more are to come. The average compensation for manufacturing jobs is $78,000 a year.

The West Virginia Manufacturers Association surveyed its members for feedback about manufacturing in the state. Results included that barriers in the state include taxes on tangible property and equipment, workforce development, infrastructure, public education, energy stability and security, antiquated regulations, and balancing environmental protections with economic development. The legislature can create laws to help with these barriers.

WV could model policies from other states related to increasing second-chance hiring, public education on the need for manufacturing, decreasing taxation, and retaining jobs while building new ones.

The greatest concerns companies have about operations in West Virginia include federal regulations, workforce ability and talent pipeline, wage inflation, worker mentality for remote work, misconception about larger businesses, national bias against coal, and a growing disconnect between legislature and businesses.

Positive news provided during the presentation is that 74 percent of companies surveyed believe WV is headed in the right direction.

The committee heard about new investments and expansion of manufacturing in West Virginia. Nucor Steel is in Mason County. The company has over 100 employees, 30 of whom are local to the area and at least 10 who worked in various states but wanted to move home to WV. Nucor’s VP has spoken and will continue to speak to schools in the area to teach them about manufacturing so they can see it as something they can do and be proud to do. The company has a strong relationship with BridgeValley and other CTEs. Nucor is working to encourage more women to choose steelmaking as a career while removing barriers such as childcare needs.

The next company the committee heard from was Chemours Washington Works, which has two locations: one in Belle, WV, and one outside of Parkersburg, WV. Chemours is a global chemical manufacturer with 6,600 employees worldwide. Currently, there are 730 jobs in WV at the two plants. It is the largest chemical manufacturer in the state but wants to grow and create an additional 200 jobs. The company has partnered with local high schools and is looking to hire locally to train individuals to work for them. There are three markets Chemours wants to grow in: (1) CYMA conductors which use PFA and are used in chip manufacturing, (2) Electric Vehicles which use PTFE and are used to make EV batteries, and (3) Clean Hydrogen which uses the monomer to make Nafion membrane.

The committee then heard from Niterra, formerly NGK. Niterra is a Japanese company, but their North American manufacturing facility is located in Kanawha County, just off the Pocatalica exit. The company rebranded as it is producing more than NGK sparkplugs now. Niterra is a “made-up” word taking the Latin words nitor (shining) and terra (earth) to create a new word with the meaning of shining earth. Niterra has three pillars: mobility, energy, and medical, which are the sectors the company is creating products. The site expansion in Kanawha County will add 20 new high-quality jobs. The company is working with Workforce WV and BridgeValley for hiring.

The final company the committee heard from was Form Energy. Form Energy employs over 500 people: 200 in CA, 250 in MA, and more in Eighty Four, PA. The individuals working in Eighty Four (the test pilot facility) will be relocated to Weirton, WV as soon as the construction is complete. The company broke ground on the Weirton facility in May and is looking to begin production in 2024. Form Energy creates large-scale batteries that can be used to back up the grid. These batteries can be used by utility companies to provide more reliable and affordable utilities to consumers. The Weirton facility will employ over 750 people. New Form has already hired local individuals for construction in Weirton and has hired others from Weirton to work in Eighty Four to train to work in the Weirton factory. The company has already sold out its first two years of production and is working on selling its third year.

West Virginia has done a great job at enticing manufacturers to the state, but it needs to focus on retaining these companies. West Virginia is an energy state. It is the fourth-largest producer of energy and the fifth-largest exporter of energy.

Related Articles

Latest Articles