April 29, 2017

Week brought jobs, innovation, hope for city, all of West Virginia | Huntington Herald Dispatch

In just a few short days, there was so much to celebrate last week in Huntington. We connected hundreds of local job seekers with promising employment opportunities, we announced millions of dollars in federal funding for projects aimed at moving our local and state economies ahead, and we celebrated as the city of Huntington was named America's Best Community.

At a job and resource fair I was proud to co-host April 21 with Workforce West Virginia, Marshall University, the city of Huntington, the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Southwest West Virginia Region 2 Workforce Investment Board, the Huntington VA Medical Center, the Huntington Area Development Council and iHeartRadio, 160 employers set up shop in the Big Sandy Superstore Arena, where nearly 1,000 people looking for jobs visited in just three hours. This was the 17th job fair I've had the honor to host in the state - and the largest one to date.

We had companies from the private sector and state and federal agencies. We had professional resume assistance that provided attendees hands-on help with building their resumes. We had stations where attendees could drop off their resumes, which my staff is distributing to all employers in attendance. And we had a class on how to find and get federal jobs.

As I walked around the room, employers shared with me how beneficial it was to talk with so many people, identify real prospects and help individuals with application processes. And job seekers shared that while it can be tough to put yourself out there, events like this give them not just hope, but real connections that can help transform their futures.

I heard from a former nurse in Putnam County, for example, who has been out of the workforce while she cared for her mother. That's something so many of us in West Virginia can identify with - putting family above self. Now, she's ready to get back to work but didn't know where to start. She said it was overwhelming. But at the job fair, she was able to connect with a number of employers representing new opportunities she's looking forward to pursuing.

The day before the job fair, I was proud to join an announcement at the Robert C. Byrd Institute of new federal grants that are set to fund job-creating projects in the Huntington region. These POWER grant funds, coming from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, will employ West Virginians while fostering sustainable economic growth.

This funding, provided to Marshall University and RCBI, will provide workforce training opportunities to local manufacturers, support West Virginia farm businesses and streamline health care services in our southern coalfields.

With the downturn in the coal industry, we must seize every chance to give displaced workers meaningful job opportunities and put our economy on the road to recovery. And we must do everything we can to revitalize our communities - which is exactly what the city of Huntington did in its successful bid to be chosen as the winner of the America's Best Communities competition.

Mayor Steve Williams and this entire community have my deepest thanks and congratulations for their vision and hard work that went into this competition. I can't wait to see what the coming years hold, as their revitalization plan is brought to life.

All of this news, in one celebrated and productive week, can offer hope to all West Virginians - hope of a promising future here in Huntington and across the Mountain State.

Week brought jobs, innovation, hope for city, all of West Virginia, Huntington Herald Dispatch