By Natalie Tennant
Take a walk down Capitol Street here in Charleston and it's clear -- small businesses are the backbone of our economy. The same is true in towns and cities across our state. But did you know that fully 97 percent of West Virginia companies are classified as small businesses?
That means two important things. First, these small businesses are a major creator of jobs here in West Virginia. Second, we must do more to ensure our small businesses have access to capital to grow and thrive.
When I first came to the Secretary of State's office, I heard from our small business owners that they were spending far too much time on paperwork and not enough time on their business.
So what did we do? We cut right through that red tape. We made it easier and more accessible for businesses to file online. We worked with state agencies and reduced the amount of time business owners had to spend on the phone, and increased the time they can spend with their customers.
Just last week, I took the Secretary of State's office on the road to Beckley to help small business owners process filings, ask questions, and get information about operating in our great state. We've done this numerous times over the past year, in counties across West Virginia. As a result of my efforts, in 2010 alone the number of online filings by our businesses nearly doubled to more than 16,000.
In short, we've helped our small businesses get back to the business of doing business.
But while we made some big strides in a short time, our work is far from over. We must -- and I will -- do more to make our small businesses competitive and thrive. Through innovation and accountability, as Governor, I will invest in Main Street.
First, I will work with the existing agencies that support our small businesses to make it easier for businesses to access the capital and resources they need to get started. To that same end, I will create a Small Business New Hire Credit to help businesses with fewer than 50 employees hire full-time West Virginia employees for at least one year at $18,000 per year.
But it's not just about capital. Our small businesses need access to mentoring services and -- most importantly -- broadband Internet, to truly grow, compete and thrive in the 21st Century economy. By building from our existing infrastructure and developing a long-term plan, we can rejuvenate, revitalize, and reinvest in Main Street.
That's what innovation and accountability is all about: making sure all West Virginians have access to jobs with a good wage, benefits and the respect you've earned. As Governor, I'll make sure that starts with our small businesses. Together, we can build a West Virginia that's stronger for generations to come.