Looking to resolve the downside of a booming economy

Can too much of a good thing ever be a bad thing?
Or more to the point here: Is there a downside to a booming economy?
The most recent government statistics put the unemployment rate in West Virginia at 4.7%.
That’s a full percentage point above the national average of 3.7%, but it’s still the lowest in our state since King Coal reigned in October 2008.
Whether it’s a board of education, an economic development authority or a county commission or city council meeting these days, many question how to keep pace with virtually constant growth and development.
Such issues as new schools or additions, finding enough qualified workers to fill new openings, providing affordable housing for them and obviously, infrastructure issues, all keep coming up.
That’s the other side of the coin to a low jobless rate and a diversified local economy that does not rely on one particular resource or revenue.
Let’s be clear: We would rather have these problems than unemployment lines out in the streets and more shuttered workplaces than open ones. Yet, when essentially everyone who wants a job has one, businesses can go wanting for the workers they need to expand and thrive.
That may not be the situation statewide but it increasingly looks to be the situation in Monongalia County.
From fast-food restaurants and retailers to high-tech firms and hospitals, many are struggling to fill all their positions.
Undoubtedly, lacking affordable housing in Morgantown’s expensive real estate and rental housing market can only aggravate this situation.
Not to mention the competition from the looming onrush of this area’s student population that will go from a trickle to a flood next month.
What we can say is this: Further growth will certainly require a larger workforce than we can generate locally.
That’s why local, county and state leaders should ensure that efforts to attract jobs also include efforts to house the workers needed to fill these jobs.
And also to school their children, address traffic and commuting issues and provide for public safety concerns.
Selling Monongalia or Preston counties to potential residents to work and live here does face some challenges.
But we’re biased and believe it’s not that tough to sell our region, especially with a tight labor market and where sending children to our public schools remains a good decision.
It also helps to explain though some things are a little rough around the edges here, our state can only get better with newcomers.
We cannot just wait for good things to happen. Let’s invite and accommodate them.

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