Tech Leaders Hopeful For West Virginia’s Future Economy

When you think of technology companies and revolutionary innovation, West Virginia likely isn’t the hub that pops into your mind. That could all change in the future; at least according to several optimistic West Virginia tech experts. In an article published by the State Journal, Anne Barth, TechConnect Executive Director, and Jim Estep, President and CEO of the High Technology Foundation in Fairmount, shared their thoughts on some big changes that will impact West Virginia’s role in the tech industry.

The installation of the Virgin Hyperloop Certification Center (HCC) in Grant and Tucker counties is one thing that Barth predicts will have a big impact on the Mountain State. West Virginia Governor Jim Justice and Richard Branson announced that West Virginia would be home to the HCC in early October 2020. The center will serve as a regulatory testing site and is a necessary next step to prove to regulators across the United States and the world that Hyperloop technology is safe for travelers.

In addition to the HCC, Barth talked about her excitement for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, which help with funding for start-up companies. She said this is a great opportunity to continue to diversify the economy of West Virginia and encourage small businesses to seek out the funding they need to get started or continue running. 

Estep explained that when it comes to 2021, he is more optimistic than he has been for the past several years. On top of the HCC coming to West Virginia, he is excited about the momentum created by John Chambers and Brad D. Smith, especially the opportunity to draw remote workers to the state.

In October 2020, Brad and his wife, Alys, through their Wing 2 Wing Foundation, donated $25 million to the John Chambers Business School at the University of West Virginia. The donation supports the creation of the Outdoor Economic Development, which will encourage experiential learning for students in the arts and sciences. It also sponsors a remote workers program that supports workers who relocate to West Virginia. Brad has also championed innovation at his alma mater, Marshall University, where he and Alys have donated $25 million to the college of business as well as a $10 million scholarship fund. 

Overall, the future for development in West Virginia has a great momentum that Barth and Estep both see leading to positive change for the state. Brad is excited to be part of the momentum and champion more efforts to continue growth in his home state.