West Virginia Forum on Technology and Innovation: Transforming West Virginia’s Traditional Industries

West Virginia Forum on Technology and Innovation: Transforming West Virginia’s Traditional Industries

By Carl Irwin

Hosted at West Virginia University National Research Center for Coal & Energy, April 23, 2001.


This report documents the second meeting of the West Virginia Forum on Technology and Innovation, held at West Virginia University on April 23, 2001. The purpose of the meeting was to promote dialog and cooperation between the traditional manufacturing industries of West Virginia and computer-based information technology (IT) industries that can potentially provide more efficient, competitive operations through digital solutions. The West Virginia Forum on Technology and Innovation is an activity of the Discover the Real West Virginia Foundation (DRWVF), an organization whose purpose is to promote investment and economic growth in the state.

The meeting was a cooperative effort between the Office of Senator Jay Rockefeller, the DRWVF, the WVU National Research Center for Coal and Energy (NRCCE), the WVU President’s Office, and the Industries of the Future – West Virginia program. A core planning committee consisting of Bonnie Morris of the WVU College of Business and Economics, Jan Berkow of Applied Industrial Solutions, LLC, and Carl Irwin of NRCCE met weekly for more than a year developing agendas, contact lists, speakers, and exhibitors for the Forum. Terri Giles of Senator Rockefeller’s Office originally proposed the theme for this second meeting of the Forum: “Transforming Traditional Industries through IT.”

The planning committee also spent many hours formulating the IT benchmarking survey of West Virginia manufacturers that was conducted prior to the Forum. The results and implications of the survey, summarized in this report, are a call to action for West Virginia’s manufacturing companies as well as for the IT service provider community.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting System (WVPBS) covered the April 23rd Forum meeting and telecast a one-hour documentary, produced by Suzanne Higgins, on May 11, 2001 as part of the WVPBS Legacy Series. Beth Voorhees hosted a one-hour interview/call-in radio show on WVPBS with Senator Rockefeller, Jan Berkow, and Carl Irwin as guests.

The Forum confirmed that West Virginia can build on all its strengths — industrial, intellectual, and entrepreneurial — to merge its traditional industries with “new economy” technologies to reduce costs and stay globally competitive. To accomplish this, the state must work very hard to remove barriers and create incentives for modernization and corporate investment in new technologies and value-added businesses.

The goal for this report is that it contributes to West Virginia leading the way among states in transforming traditional industries and creating strongholds of advanced manufacturing. The Forum’s inspiring speakers and panelists described new ways of doing business and of running traditional companies, ones that frequently require change and willingness to take chances. The most important work is yet to be done.