By Beri Fox
West Virginia is poised to make a major comeback in manufacturing jobs, and affordable, domestic energy will play a key role in that resurgence.
Our company, Marble King in Paden City, is currently one of just four glass manufacturers in the Mountain State, a place that once saw 240 companies employ more people than any other single sector. Only two marble manufacturers have survived in the entire nation, as low-priced imports have taken away much of the market.
We need to level the playing field, and continuing to provide affordable natural gas from the Marcellus Shale must be part of our long-term strategy to “reshore” our manufacturing jobs and rejuvenate our goods-producing sector. West Virginia is incredibly fortunate to be at the epicenter of this game-changing discovery, and it already is helping companies from the Northern Panhandle to the Kanawha Valley grow their business and expand their employment.
Manufacturing jobs must be a significant part of any successful economy. Conservative estimates indicate that for every manufacturing job that exists, four more are created to support it. Our state once had hundreds of thousands of these valuable jobs, but today that figure has dropped to fewer than 50,000 – not enough to fill Mountaineer Field.
Founded in 1949, Marble King has worked hard to survive in a tough environment, and today we still produce 1 million marbles every day that are found in everything from games and children’s toys to industrial uses. Our marbles were used in movies such as “Home Alone” and “Goonies,” and I’m proud to have represented our state and company on television, including “The Colbert Report,” “The Martha Stewart Show,” CNN and Fox Business News.
Marble King has received export awards from the U.S. Department of Commerce and state of West Virginia, and our business continues to compete on a global stage.
For that to continue, however, we must have a long-term supply of affordable energy such as the Marcellus Shale offers. Currently, our energy costs alone represent three-quarters of what it costs Chinese manufacturers to produce and ship marbles to the United States.
Cheap natural gas will make a significant difference in our production costs, and we encourage the federal government to pass tax credits that help offset price differences and encourage domestic purchases.
We have the opportunity to recapture those long-lost manufacturing jobs and again become the envy of a nation that is the envy of the world.
We must not let this opportunity pass us by.
Editor’s Note: Beri Fox is CEO and owner of Marble King in Paden City.