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SB Wednesday: how are small businesses doing at this point in the pandemic?

BLUEFIELD, W.Va (WVVA) - WVVA is helping to answer your questions about small business loans, unemployment, taxes, businesses reopening, and more.

The Executive Director of the Mercer County Economic Development Authority John O'Neal is helping answer questions.

WVVA: Small business is the backbone of our economy both locally and nationwide. How are our small businesses faring at this point in the recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic?

O'Neal: That is a great question, and one that I get a lot. It is true that small business is the backbone of our economy. The vast majority of people in West Virginia work in a small business, and it was small business that was hit the hardest by COVID-19.

Recent reports indicate that West Virginia small business is making a strong comeback. Consumer spending, which accounts for 70% of economic growth, rose again last month, and has now exceeded pre-pandemic levels.

Home sales had another very strong month, and employment numbers continue to improve. The state unemployment rate declined another full point to 8.9%. Nearly 60,000 West Virginians have gone back to work in the last few months. This is the most significant improvement in a four month period ever.

WVVA: What about the underlying economy? How does West Virginia stand coming out of COVID?

This week West Virginia Secretary of Commerce Ed Gaunch gave some encouraging words to West Virginia economic development professionals at their annual meeting.

He mentioned that policy changes adopted by the legislature in the past few years have made it easier for a small business to succeed, and easier to attract new business to the state. Specifically, he mentioned tax reductions, elimination of the business franchise tax, legal reform, regulatory reform, and right to work. Citing several independent national ratings, he stated that our state has improved considerably in some national rankings.

The Tax Foundation says that West Virginia is now the sixth best in the nation in cost of doing business, and better than all of our surrounding states. West Virginia is fourth best in the nation in workers compensation insurance rates. Our cost of living is 22% below the national average. West Virginia is second in the nation in home ownership rate.

West Virginia Commerce Secretary Gaunch believes that our economy is rebounding well, and is in a strong position as we emerge from the COVID lockdow

Melinda Zosh

Evening Anchor and Producer

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