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WVU BOOK OFFERS RECOMMENDATIONS TO EASE STATE'S ECONOMIC WOES

 /ADVANCE/ MORGANTOWN, W.Va., March 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Reversing the economic condition of the nation -- and specifically West Virginia -- has been the focus of both President Bill Clinton's and Gov. Gaston Caperton's political platforms as presented in speeches they have delivered in recent months.
 And just as concerned government officials look at ways to put people back to work and improve the economic climate of the state and nation, leading scholars at West Virginia University's (WVU) Institute for Public Affairs and Center for Economic Research also have economic recommendations to offer to improve the lives of West Virginians.
 Their collected works are presented in "West Virginia in the 1990s: Opportunities for Economic Progress," edited by Dr. Robert Dilger, director of the WVU Institute for Public Affairs, and Dr. Tom Witt, director of the WVU Center for Economic Research, and published by the WVU Press.
 The book, an example of the university's land-grant mission of teaching, research and public service, was written for state policy-makers and those interested in West Virginia's economic future. The publication contains 13 chapters, divided into three parts.
 Part one, "West Virginia's Economy: Its Past, Present, and Future," includes an overview of the state's economy; an in-depth analysis of the state's economic conditions and trends; an analysis of the economic conditions in specific regions of the state; an examination of the state's recent demographic changes and its implications for the state's future economic growth; and a review of the state's small business concerns.
 Part two, "West Virginia's Environmental and Physical Infrastructure," includes chapters that examine the likely impacts of the Clean Air Act on the state's economy; the condition of the state's water supply and its implications for economic growth; the role landfills play in economic development; and the current condition of the state's transportation systems.
 Part three, "Opportunities for Economic Progress," includes chapters that examine the state's agriculture, travel/tourism and timber industries and includes an analysis of West Virginia's local government's fiscal conditions.
 Dilger and Witt stressed, "Before developing a successful strategy for improving the economy, policy-makers must first reach a general consensus and understanding of the state's economic strengths, weaknesses and operational dynamics. Those dynamics are rooted in the state's economic history."
 The editors cite seven factors that help to explain why West Virginia's economy has lagged behind others: inadequate physical infrastructure; low educational achievement; outdated job skills; a rugged topography; low-population density; lack of major airport and port facilities; and an insular view of the state's economy.
 To address these problems, they call for the implementation of an economic development strategy that focuses on improving the state's physical and human infrastructure, and argue for targeted tax increases to fund programs that will create jobs and enhance the prospects for economic growth.
 Some of the key policy recommendations presented in the book include:
 -- Breaking the cycle of low education, low skill levels and low incomes by investing in education and training of the state's displaced workers and its children;
 -- Taking into account the significant economic differences that exist among the various regions in the state when establishing economic development plans;
 -- Expanding programs which provide the state's entrepreneurs and small business owners with capital for business startups and speeding up the state's payments to vendors;
 -- Developing a comprehensive state energy plan that takes into account the Clean Air Act and its impact;
 -- Providing additional financial support for the development of synthetic, coal-based fuels and coal gasification technologies;
 -- Providing at least as much financial support for wastewater treatment facilities, adjusted on a per capita basis, as surrounding states; and increasing contributions to the state's revolving loan fund beyond the 20 percent mandated by the federal government;
 -- Expanding markets for recyclable goods by requiring state agencies to buy recycled goods and by entering into an interstate compact to create a regional market for recycled goods;
 -- Increasing funding for all transportation modes and putting into place a comprehensive statewide transportation plan, emphasizing intermodal traffic solutions;
 -- Targeting additional resources for transportation projects that reduce the cost of shipping feed, seed and other agricultural inputs to West Virginia's farmers, thus reducing the cost of transporting its agricultural products to market;
 -- Aggressively marketing natural, cultural and historic resources to encourage tourists to visit West Virginia;
 -- Taking a more aggressive approach to controlling gypsy moth infestation of the state's timber supply; and
 -- If West Virginia's current property tax reappraisal process does not alleviate local government fiscal stress, then the state should provide localities with flexibility to generate additional revenue through various taxing mechanisms, such as a local income or sales tax.
 "Most economic indexes show West Virginia ranked 49th out of the 50 states," Witt noted. "We have to invest in West Virginia's water and sewer systems, highways and other transportation infrastructure as much as bordering states invest in their own states because they are our main economic competitors."
 Dilger and Witt said they are optimistic about the state's economic futures. They argue that the state can assist in the revitalization of West Virginia's economy by refocusing its resources.
 "Historically, West Virginia has focused its resources on social services such as welfare and health care to ameliorate human suffering," Dilger said.
 "Although these expenditures are justified, if we continue to neglect our physical and human infrastructures, we will never break the seemingly endless cycle of poverty and government dependence that affects so many of our people," he added.
 The book can be purchased from the West Virginia University Press. For information contact: Dr. Ruth Jackson, West Virginia University Press, WVU, P.O. Box 6069, Morgantown, W.Va. 25606-6069, or phone: 304-293-4040.
 -0- 3/25/93/1000
 /CONTACT: Robert Dilger, 304-293-5432, or Tom Witt, 304-293-5837, both of West Virginia University/


CO: West Virginia University ST: West Virginia IN: SU: ECO

KC-CD -- PG001 -- 9438 03/25/93 09:32 EST
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