Jan 19, 2021
This past year has been one of change and growth for the West Virginia Business Roundtable (WVRT). In January, I took on the role as President of this organization and am humbled and grateful to have been appointed to this position. I have been familiar with the Roundtable’s influence and accomplishments since its inception in 1984.
As President, I wanted to hear from our members, gain feedback and identify our goals for the upcoming year. Utilizing a survey, I was able to understand the areas our membership felt were lacking, areas where we excelled and, through the survey, was able to gather new ideas that would move this organization forward.
A main focus this year was to update our overall branding and communication efforts which was achieved by updating our website and establishing social media channels — Facebook and LinkedIn. Our revamped website now reflects our interests and vision for West Virginia, and our social presence will further promote our initiatives and activities. Additionally, we instituted our WV Business Roundtable Newsletter that includes relevant articles and updates for our members.
In terms of areas where we want to engage, WVRT had identified four ongoing initiatives: energy, education, responsible government and judicial reform — all essential to our business climate and economic growth.
The Board updated information on these issues and added our newest initiative — supporting the remote worker, outdoor economy and economic development movement in West Virginia. Due to the changing face of the American workplace in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, our companies have reset their definition of the “workplace” and employees have risen to the challenge, converting their homes into offices. Businesses are learning that a workforce can be extremely productive, even within their own living spaces.
Recognizing this shift, Brad Smith, CEO of Intuit, and his wife Alys, have funded a new, innovative program to guide the development and expansion of our world-class recreational opportunities, expand our outdoor recreation and develop a remote worker program.
Partnering with West Virginia University (WVU), Smith outlined several facts to support this initiative:
• West Virginia has the greatest density of whitewater in the country with over 2,032 miles of whitewater.
• The state also has some of the best climbing in the Eastern United States with more than 3,500 roped climbs and 500 bouldering routes in the New River Gorge area alone.
• West Virginia is blessed with thousands of miles of trails for all different types of activities including hiking, trail running, backpacking, nature watching, mountain biking, etc., making it an outdoor lovers paradise with something for everyone!
Smith’s gift of 25 million dollars to WVU will fund new, innovative programs that will spur West Virginia’s economy, develop world-class recreational infrastructure and expand outdoor and educational opportunities.
The WVRT recognized the importance of this gift, its potential impact to our state’s economic development and how our membership can serve as a resource moving forward. Because of the pandemic, we’ve seen an uptick in outdoor activities and a rise in home sales as people look to relocate to an area with an abundance of outdoor recreational potential. While COVID-19 has been a devastating blow nationwide, our state can use this increase in remote workers to encourage those who left the state seeking job opportunities to return home.
An area I also saw as a great opportunity after analyzing our survey was membership engagement. Prior to COVID, it was my intention to travel around the state and meet with WVRT members. We heard feedback that more regional member meetings are strongly encouraged, and we agree. The WVRT strives for each member to feel they are being heard, appreciated and an integral part of our organization. Of course, we could not have foreseen where this year would have taken us, moving to a virtual landscape that limited our ability to engage in person.
Utilizing e-blasts, e-newsletters and Zoom member meetings with guest speakers including Tom Barkin, President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond; Maria Ghazal, Senior Vice President of the Business Roundtable (our national association); and Charlie Burd, Executive Director Gas and Oil Association of West Virginia, we saw an increase in overall engagement and hope, and with time, we can resume our plans to host our regional meetings which will be promoted through our various communications platforms.
A focus on member recruitment was also in the forefront of WVRT’s 2020 goals. A list has been compiled of potential member companies we feel fit our recruitment criteria, will enhance our reach throughout the state and create a more diversified member base. We’ll be looking to current members who have existing relationships with these companies to partner with the WVRT in these recruitment efforts.
Another issue we tackled was revising the WVRT bylaws. Our bylaws hadn’t changed since 2001 and were in dire need of updating. With the help of Dave Ramsey, Tom Heywood and Marc Monteleone we have conformed these bylaws to comply with current statutes and guidelines. We thank Dave, Tom and Marc for their help.
We faced many tough decisions this past year in order to keep our members and the community safe. Our annual meeting — historically held each year at the Greenbrier during the Business Summit — was canceled to ensure we upheld CDC guidelines and didn’t impose a potential health risk to members.
As we head into this new year, we are hopeful for new opportunities and a safer and healthier environment for all. We look forward to the potential of in-person meetings, scheduling engaging speakers for our members and hearing from the Governor, Speaker of the House and President of the Senate on their plans for the 2021 legislative session. We also hope to have representatives from the newly announced WV Remote Worker Program at WVU.
For now, we’ll continue to provide interesting presentations and updates through the magic of Zoom meetings.
I thank you for your confidence in my abilities and for giving me the opportunity to serve the West Virginia Business Roundtable, a well-respected organization, recognized throughout the state for its leadership and vision for our state.