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New panel will focus on small business

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- House of Delegates Speaker Tim Miley announced on Wednesday that he's forming a new House committee to encourage business growth and entrepreneurship.

The group will be informal until the legislative session begins in January, when it will be called the Committee on Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, said Miley, D-Harrison.

The new committee will hold discussions around the state to help promote small business development between December 2013 and December 2014.

"We will appoint people who are current business owners or former business owners. I want people in the trenches to be on that committee," Miley said.

He hopes "to hear from as many successful small businesses and entrepreneurs as possible to determine what hurdles they might have faced that we, as a legislative body, can remove to allow small businesses to flourish."

Miley wants the new committee to be bipartisan. "This is not a Democratic or a Republican issue," he said during Wednesday's news conference.

Delegate Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha, owner of Building and Remodeling Warehouse in Dunbar, will chair the new committee.

The committee's two vice chairs will be Delegates Bill Hartman, D-Randolph, a retired insurance company owner, and Jason Barrett, D-Berkeley, a restaurant owner. House Majority Leader Harry Keith White, D-Mingo, the Bank of Mingo's board chairman, will also serve on the new committee.

During meetings with small business owners around the state, Miley said, "We want to learn what impediments they have overcome. And we want to learn about impediments that have not been overcome."

The upcoming series of meetings around the state, Miley said, will be called the "Celebration of Success Listening Tour."

Miley welcomed last week's announcement that the Brazil-based Odebrecht conglomerate plans to build a new billion-dollar ethane cracker plant in Wood County, near Parkersburg. The cracker plant could spark the development of chemical plants to turn natural gas hydrocarbons into plastics and other products.

"With the development of the cracker plant, we hope new small businesses will also develop," Miley said.

Skaff said committee members "will talk to those successful men and women who have been paying people on their payroll. We need to help people who want to be successful.

"Regardless of their business size, everyone can come to these panels," Skaff said.

In a written statement, White said, "Large corporations bring needed jobs and great economic benefit to the state, but we should never overlook the importance of small business to our local communities.

"Small businesses are valuable not just to our economy, but to our educational, cultural and social well-being. Their growth is critical to West Virginia's future," White said.

Miley plans to announce the committee's other members in the next two weeks, before it begins holding meetings in December.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164. 


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