Gazette-Mail: WV’s economic future, potential solutions discussed at Tech Jobs Tour

The Tech Jobs Tour made a stop in Charleston Tuesday to help connect the booming technology sector with workers from all backgrounds. But the conversation inevitably shifted to how the Mountain State can adapt in the face of the declining coal economy.

“The hardest lift for us has been in economic development,” said Kris Mallory of Reconnecting McDowell, an organization which focuses on educational improvement in McDowell County. “The reason for that is their identity is deep-seated in coal. What they see as potential has not really changed in a quarter of a century.”

Tuesday afternoon at BridgeValley Community and Technical College, Tech Job Tour officials held forums focusing on the future of jobs in West Virginia and the rest of the country, along with mentoring sessions and a Charleston city tour.

The Tech Jobs Tour is aiming to stop in 50 cities total this year, helping local companies find the best area talent and explore ways to drive innovation in their communities.

In West Virginia, spurring innovation often means answering the million-dollar question of how the state can or should diversify its economy. First things first, the state needs widespread broadband access, according to Kara Swisher, cofounder of Recode. Swisher said companies will locate elsewhere if there isn’t easy high-speed broadband access.

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