On March 7, India Amos published an opinion piece in the Washington Post entitled "I want to return to my home state. But West Virginia doesn’t want me." She explained that, with a liberal arts degree, there was no place for her skills or passions in West Virginia, so she moved away. We wanted to respond to Ms. Amos's piece by providing insight into our initiatives to create well-paying professional jobs in the Mountain State. Below is our invitation to her to join our efforts.
West Virginia does want you. In fact, now more than ever, West Virginia wants vibrant young people such as yourself to build its next generation economy. How would I know this? I’m from Alabama, not West Virginia (but oh, there are parallels). I may not be a native, but I am a business owner creating jobs in West Virginia for people just like you.
West Virginia has incredible natural resources. There are those everyone automatically thinks of, such as coal and rivers and natural gas. But there are other resources that may not come as readily to mind. In my world, there are two WV natural resources that matter more than anything.
The first is humble and hard-working spirit. In our Huntington office, 16 of the hungriest, grittiest, and most dedicated software developers I’ve met are creating the next-generation applications for nationally recognized financial technology companies. Some of them are natives, and some of them come from places like New York and Ohio and Kentucky. The ones who stay do so because of the tremendous sense of place they feel. The ones who come from outside do so because they can see the opportunity on the horizon. What keeps both is a good paying job that challenges their intellect and scaffolds them up the career ladder.
That opportunity is the innovation economy, and it is already present in WV. However, it has tremendous potential to grow. The ingredients are there: top-quality programs at Marshall, WVU, and smaller schools like Alderson Broaddus University in computer science, engineering, and entrepreneurship; Community and Technical Colleges with state of the art facilities and dedicated staff; affordable cost of living where recent graduates with good jobs can buy a home; a burgeoning scene of restaurants and cultural events that appeal to young people.
The second natural resource I’ve noticed in WV is neighborliness. It might sound a little hokey, but there’s an incredibly strong sense of community and willingness to help each other out that simply can’t be discounted. West Virginians truly want to make things better. My company works with a non-profit called Generation WV to hire Impact fellows. We hired 2 this year and plan to expand that to 5 next year. The fellowship attracts young people to the state under the premise that they will go where they can find good jobs and give back to their community.
You might not think you have a future as a software developer, but you just might be surprised. Even if that’s not for you, there are plenty of opportunities to make a difference, if you’re willing to look for them.
India, there are so many reasons that the Mountain State isn’t done yet. Far from it. We’re just getting started.
Won’t you join us?