“We have a patient laying there and blood is shooting to the ceiling. All in the world we can do is trim the toenails. Blood is shooting to the ceiling. We’ve got to do something.”
Governor Jim Justice
If the metaphors Governor Jim Justice unleashes on his political detractors were supposed to turn and come yapping and snapping back at him like an Ohio County poodle, this classic by West Virginia’s Metaphorist In Chief would be perfect. West Virginia is depicted as a hemorrhaging patient whose doctors (Justice’s detractors) prepare the soon-to-be corpse for burial instead of stopping the bleeding and saving the patient’s life. This metaphor would be very effective not for the fact that its creator, Jim Justice, is offering only cosmetic improvements – better roads - instead of suturing the wound.
West Virginia is not hemorrhaging jobs and population because our roads are bad. West Virginia is losing jobs and people because the “outside investment” that would infuse our state with life-saving jobs and tax revenue will not come here until we have the STEM-educated, 21st century workforce they need. This is a fact. How do I know? I know it is a fact because governors and legislators have said so on talk radio shows for years yet all of them are acting more like morticians than doctors.
Governor Justice, we all enjoy your vivid metaphors about raccoons and poodles and patients whose blood is spurting to the ceiling, but the next time you send one of your metaphors out to bite your political opponents, make sure the metaphor can tell the difference between you and your intended targets.
Governor Justice, I sent you a plan that gives “outside investment” the STEM-educated workforce that will attract that outside investment. If you haven’t read it, here it is again:
1. Make the Promise Scholarship a STEM scholarship. Companies won’t come here for our English majors, political science majors and communications majors, but they will come here to gain access to our mathematicians, software engineers, chemists and other STEM grads if we produce them in large numbers.
2. Require Promise Scholarship recipients to sign a contract with West Virginia obligating them to stay in West Virginia for, say, 5 years after graduation. Too many of West Virginia’s college grads are leaving with their degrees and making some other state’s workforce magnetic to outside investment. If they give us five years, they’ll marry, have children, build houses, and make friends. Most will never leave. Maybe along the way they’ll invent things and, who knows, maybe some of them will start the next Apple or the next Google.
3. Expand the Promise Scholarship to fund tens of thousands of students’ annually instead of the current 3,000 to 3,500 annually. At its current size, the Promise Scholarship is the right medicine in a dosage insufficient to heal the West Virginia economy.
4. Double the per-student annual scholarship award from its current $4,750 to around $9,000 or $10,000 so students can carry full loads and finish in 4 years.
5. Pay the college debt of STEM grads who want to come to West Virginia and are willing to sign a contract requiring them to become part of West Virginia’s workforce for at least five years.
6. Pay for the above with a severance tax, an excise tax or the proceeds from the state lottery or some combination of the aforementioned. For example, the Tennessee Promise program provides 2 years of free technical or community college to Tennessee high school grads at a cost of about $35 million annually and is paid for by the state lottery.
7. Finally, remove The Promise Scholarship from the Education department and put it under Commerce where an economic development/workforce development tool belongs.
Higginbotham At Large neither reads nor publishes comments from pseudonymous or anonymous commenters. No Ring of Gyges for you. I’ll be happy to publish opposing views from clearly-identified submitters.
About Joseph Higginbotham:
Joseph Higginbotham is a former member of the West Virginia Region III Workforce Development Board, a former executive and technical search consultant, a former general manager and a former columnist and writer for newspapers, magazines and journals such as Business Lexington, Rx HomeCare, Leadership, Drug Store News, Campus Career Counselor, Home Health Care Dealer and more. Higginbotham has spoken professionally at over 40 venues, served as an “expert panelist” at jobseeker workshops and a guest on numerous talk radio shows.
Mitch Carmichael, Tim Armstead, Senator Mike Hall, Corey Palumbo, Hoppy Kercheval, Mayor Danny Jones, Tom Roten, Jake Jarvis, Ashton Marra, Scott Finn, #StruggleToStay, Butch Antolini, Grant Herring, Nick Casey, Dave Hardy, Booth Goodwin, Ryan Ferns, Mike Hall