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IndustryNet Blog

Could West Virginia manufacturing be poised for a turnaround?

Posted by IndustryNet on Monday, October 23, 2017

100000127WestVirginiaManufacturingWorkerAccording to new data reported this week by IndustryNet, West Virginia's manufacturing workforce shrank for yet another year, though the rate at which the state is losing jobs appears to be slowing.

Policy shifts crafted by the new administration could have a major impact on West Virginia manufacturing, and steady improvements in the state's business climate may also serve to boost industrial production in the years to come.

This post will explore major trends in West Virginia manufacturing, delving into city, county, and regional data. We'll also examine some of the major announcements over the past several years, and assess the state's outlook in light of new Trump Administration policies-- particularly in the ailing coal industry.

The year in review

West Virginia manfuacturers shed 2,311 jobs between August 2016 and August 2017, representing a 3.2% loss in the state’s industrial workforce. This was not as bad as the 4.3% loss West Virginia posted over the 2015-2016 survey period, which was reported as the state’s worst industrial job loss since the recession, according to IndustryNet.

Job losses over the past year were once again led by the state’s coal industry, but again declines were not as sharp in coal as they were in the previous survey year. Coal jobs dropped by about 8% between August 2016 and August 2017, a hefty loss, but not as bad as the 21% drop reported over 2015-2016.

West Virginia’s oil/gas extraction, which had served to offset declines in the post-recession era, shed jobs for a second year in a row, falling 6.4% to 3,334 jobs.

Other losses were reported in printing/publishing; fabricated metals; electronics; primary metals; stone/clay/glass; and lumber.

Regionally, employment losses were mainly felt in the state’s Western region, down 8% over the year. The South of the state didn’t do much better, down 6.8%. These losses were offset by a 1% gain in jobs posted in the North.

Overall, West Virginia has lost 17,500 jobs since the start of the recession. This amounts to a 20% drop, adding to an decline that had already began to accelerate at the turn of the new millennium.

Next, we’ll take a look at some of the major developments, both positive and negative, in West Virginia’s industrial sector following the recession.

A look backGRANDMA

As of August 2008, West Virginia was home to 2,148 industrial companies and 85,067 workers, a far cry from today’s 1,632 companies and 69,781 workers. In the 12-month period West Virginia lost 1,191 industrial jobs that year.

Spencer Veneer closed its wood processing facility; Fenton Art Glass Co. closed its Williamstown factory; and Benson International shuttered their Mineral Wells truck and trailer manufacturing plant.

By the recession’s end West Virginia had lost 4,766 jobs, or about 5%. Between 2010 and 2011, losses had leveled out, with the state shedding about 700 jobs.

We saw layoffs at International Coal Group and at ArcelorMittal’s location in Weirton. Flowers Baking Co. closed their Bluefield factory, Georgia Pacific shuttered a plant in Mount Hope and Emivest Aerospace closed their Martinsburg location.

Yet, we also saw bright spots emerge, including Toyota’s plans to expand production at their Buffalo plant. Today, that location was coined as the “little engine plant that could” producing 650,000 engines and 740,000 transmissions per year. It is now home to 1,600 workers.

In addition, Alcon Inc. announced plans to open a location in Lesage, and TransGas Development Systems’ expected opening of a coal to gas plant in Mingo County.


West Virginia lost 2,663 jobs this year, and it was an especially bad year for Morgantown, which shed 15.3% of its factory jobs after Shaft Drillers International moved its headquarters to Pennsylvania.

But we also saw Nippon Thermostat’s plans to expand its plant in Putnam County and Hino Motors’ planned expansion of its facility in Williamstown. Today Hino Motors is a thriving truck manufacturing operation, occupying 245,000 square feet, and recently achieved the milestone of producing its 50,000th vehicle.

Spanish auto parts supplier Gestamp announced a new location in South Charleston and Rubberlite expanded its factory in Huntington.


Over this survey period, employment in oil and gas extraction continued to rise, increasing by 5.6%. A few new projects for the industry were announced, including Italian manufacturer Pietro Fiorentini’s plans for a new shale oil treatment components plant. At the same time, coal jobs dropped by 7%.

The state’s primary metal industry suffered the largest decline that year, dropping 13.4%, after the closure of historic steel company Wheeling Corrugating, which had supplied steel for the Hoover Dam and the new World Trade Center, but was shut down after parent company RG Steel filed for bankruptcy.


In this year, a 4% decline in coal mining was offset by a 15% gain in the oil and gas extraction sector. Italian manufacturer Sogefi announced an expansion of its auto parts plant in Wayne County and cabinet maker American Woodmark announced an expansion at its Moorefield facility. However, Parkersburg Bedding closed its plant in Wood County and Ruskin Manufacturing shuttered its Fairmont location.


The decline in coal continued to accelerate, with jobs falling another 4%, and massive layoffs were announced by Patriot Coal, among others. Growth in the oil/gas sector also stalled, as depressed oil prices put a dent in demand. Green Spring lost a significant number of jobs when Kopper Inc. shuttered its railroad tie plant.

Yet, this was the year Procter & Gamble announced their new site in Berkley County – a massive $500 million plant slated to eventually employ 700.


This was the worst year for industrial job losses in West Virginia since the recession. The state shed 3,243 jobs, or 4.3% over this survey period.

Jobs in coal declined 21% and with the sector falling from its top spot as the state’s largest industrial employer.

At 7,184 jobs, coal mining dropped to the state’s third-largest sector by employment, overtaken by chemical manufacturing at 7,475 jobs and industrial machinery at 7,251 jobs.

Oil/gas extraction fell 5.6%, while petroleum products plummeted 24%.

Notable losses included the slew of mine closures and job losses related to the bankruptcies of Patriot Coal and Alpha Natural Resources.

Still, some new projects were announced in the state, most notably Ranger Scientific, which announced it would build an ammunition plant in Kanawha County.


Over this past year, losses continued, though at a slower rate than over the 2015-2016 period. In addition to continued stoppages in coal mining operations, West Virginia was also jolted by the sudden closure of a Ball Corp. location in Weirton, affecting 300 employees. In addition, safety equipment maker Mustang Survival closed its Spencer facility, moving production to Florida, and Mohawk Industries closed its flooring plant in Holden.

Yet, this was also a big year for some major announcements like Italian manufacturer TeMa’s plans to build its first North American manufacturing site, a $10M insulation and drainage systems plant in Kearneysville.

In addition, Toyota announced a $400 million investment in its engine plant; Hino Motors announced it would invest $100 million in its West Virginia plant, and hire an additional 250 employees; and Canadian company Shaw Almex opened a plant in Wayne County.

TrumpCoalLooking ahead

With a notable slowing in industrial job losses, could West Virginia finally be poised for a turnaround? It remains to be seen if the Trump administration’s dedication to reviving the nation’s coal industry will have an impact on that sector going forward. Industry experts have noted the recent decline in coal has more to do with competition from natural gas production than tighter regulations.

We’ve seen a resurgence in the production of metallurgical coal or coke coal, however. Alpha Natural Resources recently announced it would open a new underground metallurgical coal mine in Pettusm and Ramaco announced plans it too would open up a new mine in the state.

That, paired with Corsa Coal Corp. announcing its new metallurgical coal plant in Pennsylvania suggests things might be looking up for the nation’s coal industry, and for West Virginia. Metallurgical coal, as opposed to thermal coal, is used to make coke, a main component in steelmaking.

The new administration’s proposal to exact tariffs on steel imports to circumvent “steel dumping” from China and elsewhere might further help the nation’s steelmaking operations, and ultimately benefit metallurgical coal operations in states like West Virginia.

Further, the $1 trillion infrastructure plan is of major importance to a state like West Virginia, where highway projects have sat idle for years, and where large swaths of the state suffer from lack of transportation routes, further dragging down the state’s industrial sector. Investment in West Virginia’s infrastructure would have a major impact on its manufacturing sector, putting more people to work and making it easier for industrial companies to set up shop in the state.

Why West Virginia might be the best worst state for business

West Virginia was recently ranked the worst state for business in 2017 by CNBC. The score was based on numerous factors, including infrastructure issues; a workforce lacking in the skills and education needed for today’s more advanced manufacturing; a depressed economy, and more.

But the state’s Commerce Department tells a different story, suggesting West Virginia has a lot of qualities that would appeal to many manufacturers, and certainly has drawn a lot of foreign investment to the state. For one, the state is ideally located, with overnight access to the Mid-Atantic and mid-south. One study shows manufacturers in West Virginia can truck their products overnight and reach half the U.S. population.

And although industrial companies in West Virginia struggle to find skilled workers, its workforce is could be described as the most dedicated. According to the West Virginia Department of Commerce, West Virginia boasts the lowest employee turnover rate in manufacturing – 31% lower than the national average.

WorkForce West Virginia continues to make great strides in helping to advance the skills in the state’s labor pool, including on-the-job training programs and workforce training for specific skills like the Governor’s Guaranteed Work Force Program. Generous workforce tax credits include the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. 

Discussions of West Virginia’s industrial sector seem to center around the coal industry, yet the state is home to a spectrum of different industries, with sectors as diverse as chemicals, lumber and biotech. West Virginia is home to some major chemical manufacturers, for instance, and agencies like the Chemical Alliance Zone, are focused entirely on bringing more investment to the state’s chemical and related industries.

Next, we’ll show you the bigger picture of how industry breaks down in West Virginia, including its top sectors, regions and companies.

West Virginia at a glance

West Virginia 1,632 industrial companies employ 69,781 workers.

Leading West Virginia Industries by Employment:

12% Chemicals and allied products
12% Industrial machinery and equipment
10% Lumber and wood products
9% Fabricated metal products
9% Printing and publishing

Largest West Virginia Manufacturers by Employees:

Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc., Div. Of Mylan (Morgantown) - 2,600
Pilgrim's Corp. (Moorefield) - 2,000
Toyota Motor Mfg., West Virginia, Inc. (Buffalo) - 1,500
Quad/Graphics, Inc. (Martinsburg) - 1,200
Alliant Techsystems Operations, LLC (Rocket Center) - 1,200

West Virginia Counties with the most industrial jobs:

Kanawha - 8,674
Cabell - 7,190
Monongalia - 4,921
Hancock - 4,432
Wood - 3,861

West Virginia Cities with the most industrial jobs:

Huntington - 5,944
Morgantown - 4,691
Charleston - 3,509
Moorefield - 3,400
Wheeling - 2,715

For more information on West Virginia industrial companies

MNI’s extensive manufacturing data powers IndustryNet, an industrial marketplace that connects buyers with suppliers. IndustryNet allows users to search and source more than ten thousand types of products, parts, supplies, and services for free. IndustryNet® lists every U.S. manufacturer plus thousands of wholesalers & distributors and industrial service providers. To connect with industrial suppliers in West Virginia and across the U.S. start your free search on IndustryNet. Or, to access detailed profiles of West Virginia’s 1,600 manufacturers and their 5,700 executives, learn more about MNI’s EZ Select database subscription.












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