Legislative leadership is proposing a dramatic reduction for funding to important economic development programs in West Virginia, at the very time that this efforts are most important to the future of the state.
Annually, the West Virginia State Legislature has appropriated funds for the Local Economic Development Grant (LED) Program administered by the Development Office of the Department of Commerce. This program assists county and regional economic development efforts through a matching grant program.
Without these LED grants, many local economic development agencies would not be able to operate at a sufficient level to continue and support economic development efforts in their local communities.
The FY 2015 allocation to the LED program was reduced to $1,650,000, resulting in a maximum allocation of $30,000 per county. Legislative leadership has indicated that they may propose an additional 6.5 percent cut to all state agency budgets for the next budget year ( excluding lottery accounts and any state funds with matching federal funds.)
Unfortunately, this would mean a 10.5 percent cut to LED funds, (4 percent by the Governor’s proposed budget, and 6.5 percent by the legislature). Cutting the current LED grant by 10.5 percent would reduce the maximum LED grants available to local economic development agencies from $30,000 to $26,850.
Funding for the LED grant program has not been this low since the mid-1990s. At its highest point, the maximum LED grant was $34,000.
We believe that successful economic development requires a coordinated, cooperative effort of many individuals and organizations from both the public and private sectors.
Local development agencies already operate on razor thin budgets, so any negative impact to current funding levels will negatively impact operations and local economic development initiatives.
West Virginia’s local economic development entities, both public and nonprofit, are on the front line of day-to-day efforts and activities, along with the West Virginia Development Office, to help existing businesses grow and bring new businesses and jobs to all regions of the state.
These are the men and women on the ground helping to create jobs and increase municipal, county and state tax revenues. Without proper funding, these professional economic development officials will not be able to maintain their existing programs and efforts at current levels, adversely affecting the West Virginia business community.