Manchin sets sights on W.Va. business

LOCAL NEWS OCT 4, 2016         FOCUS ON BUSINESS — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., right, speaks with Pat Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle, after a seminar Monday morning to instruct local small businesses on the opportunities they have on the Internet to attract customers. — Joselyn King WHEELING — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin says there’s no reason businesses in West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle and surrounding areas can’t compete in a world connected by Internet if they have “the right tools.” Manchin, D-W.Va., spoke Monday at the “Let’s Put Our Cities On The Map” seminar convened at Oglebay Park’s Wilson Lodge and hosted by Google and the Discover the Real West Virginia Foundation. The event was aimed toward getting more Northern Panhandle companies online so they can do business in a world economy. “You’ve got to keep the competitive spirit,” Manchin told those present. “The market is what the market is. You didn’t create it, but you have to decide whether you want to compete in it or not. If you find an unfairness in the market — as we are finding in rural America — how do you balance that out? “In West Virginia, we can compete with anybody. I’m not afraid to compete with anybody in the world. I just don’t want to do it with disadvantages, and think that I can succeed.” After speaking at the seminar, Manchin stressed how important it is that Northern Panhandle businesses “learn new skill sets” and take advantage of the Internet opportunities available to them. “We can’t make it unless we’re connected to the world,” Manchin said. “But if we are connected, we can compete at any place, any level in West Virginia. But they have to learn to use the technology that’s available to them today — it’s what the rest of the country and the rest of the world already is using.” Manchin worked with Google to bring the seminar to the Northern Panhandle, said Patrick Lenihan, global communications and public affairs specialist with Google. It was geared toward small and medium-sized businesses, and about 80 people signed up to attend. Among them were Louis and Janet Hart, owners of a watercolor and picture framing business in Wheeling. “It would be good to have more than 50 percent of our business come from outside the area,” Louis Hart said. “If nothing else, it makes it more fun. It’s nice to brag that someone in the Netherlands has one of our paintings — our first sale overseas. … “(The business) locally is specialized, and it would be nice to expand our horizons.” Pat Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle, agreed the Internet is an important and necessary business tool. “What is interesting about our Northern Panhandle, we probably have the smallest counties in the Tri-State Area,” he said. “So one of our biggest challenges is to get our names, our cities, our brands to a national and international audience… “This is a great opportunity for us to equip ourselves with a mechanism to get our names out there as a great place to do business.”