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The cautionary tale of Coldwater Creek

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  • Transition team must act with urgency

    Transition team must act with urgency

    Friday, December 16 2016 6:00 AM EST2016-12-16 11:00:16 GMT

    Governor-elect Jim Justice’s policy committees seem to be made up of some of the state’s best minds. Dr. Clay Marsh with West Virginia University Hospitals; Bill Ihlenfeld, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District; Richard Adams of United Bank; Dave Arnold with Adventures on the Gorge; a host of other intelligent, qualified, inventive people who understand the challenges our state faces. 

    Governor-elect Jim Justice’s policy committees seem to be made up of some of the state’s best minds. Dr. Clay Marsh with West Virginia University Hospitals; Bill Ihlenfeld, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District; Richard Adams of United Bank; Dave Arnold with Adventures on the Gorge; a host of other intelligent, qualified, inventive people who understand the challenges our state faces. 

  • Chief of staff brings needed experience to the Justice team

    Chief of staff brings needed experience to the Justice team

    Friday, December 9 2016 6:00 AM EST2016-12-09 11:00:15 GMT

    This week, Governor-elect Jim Justice announced that Nick Casey, a long-time lobbyist, former congressional candidate, former state Democratic Party chairman and a fixture in West Virginia’s political scene, will serve as the Justice administration’s chief of staff.

    This week, Governor-elect Jim Justice announced that Nick Casey, a long-time lobbyist, former congressional candidate, former state Democratic Party chairman and a fixture in West Virginia’s political scene, will serve as the Justice administration’s chief of staff.

  • Opportunity makes WV workers happy

    Opportunity makes WV workers happy

    Friday, December 2 2016 6:00 AM EST2016-12-02 11:00:19 GMT

    As you’ll read in “The Buzz” in this week’s edition, Sokanu, a company that bills itself as “a career discovery platform,” recently released a study that indicated the happiest workers live in Hawaii. Working on a tropical island that boasts breathtaking natural beauty, stunning beaches and awe-inspiring mountain vistas should not come as a surprise. 

    As you’ll read in “The Buzz” in this week’s edition, Sokanu, a company that bills itself as “a career discovery platform,” recently released a study that indicated the happiest workers live in Hawaii. Working on a tropical island that boasts breathtaking natural beauty, stunning beaches and awe-inspiring mountain vistas should not come as a surprise. 

For nearly 15 years, Idaho-based clothing retailer Coldwater Creek has operated a giant distribution center near Parkersburg. Unfortunately, the company has filed for bankruptcy and the distribution center is going to close. 

In addition to the lost jobs and lost opportunities, West Virginia and the Wood County Development Authority now have to deal with a 1 million-square foot warehouse and a host of financial issues. State leaders seem certain they will find a new tenant for the property, yet one has to wonder where we will be on the creditor list when Coldwater Creek begins the bankruptcy process. 

On a deeper level, why was the state so involved with this company in the first place? Retail is a fickle industry driven and affected by market factors that are incredibly difficult to navigate. Why did we invest so much, upwards of $13 million, over half of which is still owed to us? Was there any oversight on the state's end? 

If taxpayer money is used as investment capital, then these questions must be asked and answered. As we have said many times before, these kinds of peculiar deals are rarely a good idea. The reason behind them is pretty simple — state partnership usually eases West Virginia's restrictive tax structure on the companies involved. We see this and we have to ask, why not reform the entire system? 

In some cases one could argue the program works — Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Putnam County or Gestamp in South Charleston — but even then, would it not be more prudent to make the rules universal and give everyone a fair chance to compete? Picking winners and losers stymies true competition. Trotting out success stories makes for good headlines, but reality counter punches pretty hard when the plan goes off script. 

Economic development does not happen when state officials cook up ideas that shift the cost of doing business from a company to taxpayers. True, lasting, sustainable prosperity will take root in West Virginia only when government stops looking out for government and starts working for the people. 

That means a tax code that does not penalize reinvestment and growth, courts that prize fairness over politics and schools that adequately prepare our young people for the 21st century workplace. 

Putting taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars is rarely a good idea. Watching our investment plummet down the rabbit hole of bankruptcy court and legal fees is one more reason on a long and detailed list of why the system needs to change.

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