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About Us

West Virginia Forward.

Uncovering the best solutions for one, united West Virginia.


A blueprint with a host of recommendations and ideas to advance the state's economic future, West Virginia Forward began as an unprecedented collaboration among West Virginia University, the West Virginia Department of Commerce and Marshall University. Over time, this partnership has developed into a larger, statewide effort to identify West Virginia's unique assets and pair them with economic trends that will leverage growth and development opportunities to strengthen and diversify all regions of the state.

With a sharp focus on short-term and long-term objectives, and a refined vision, the principal partners are working alongside key stakeholders and experts across West Virginia and beyond. So far, innovative solutions and opportunities include advancing West Virginia’s workforce, business climate, educational opportunities, community development, sector growth, cybersecurity, entrepreneurship and infrastructure.

Steering Committee
Members

In addition to the collaborative efforts between West Virginia University, the Department of Commerce and Marshall University, West Virginia Forward's Steering Committee is tasked with setting overall direction, prioritizing initiatives and directing stakeholder outreach.

The Steering Committee is comprised of five members. Three members were nominated by each partner organization, while two members were jointly-appointed at large, as they were engaged early in the process and dedicated time and resources to West Virginia’s economic development. The Steering Committee members were chosen for their range of experience, their passion and their insights into West Virginia, the economy and innovative ways to help move West Virginia Forward. They will help guide and support ongoing work as working groups pivot toward implementing solutions.

  • Marty Becker

    BOARD OF DIRECTORS, BRICKSTREET INSURANCE; CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD, QBE INSURANCE GROUP

    Charleston, WV

    W. Marston (Marty) Becker is the Chairman of the Board of QBE Insurance Group, which is headquartered in Sydney, Australia. He is a seasoned insurance executive with a career that spans 35 years in leadership roles principally as Chairman and/or CEO for publicly traded and private insurance, reinsurance and insurance brokerage organizations. Most recently he was CEO of Alterra Capital in Bermuda.

    Read Marty Becker's Full Bio

  • Patrick Farrell

    Board of Directors, Marshall University; Founder and President, Savage Grant; President, Service Pump and Supply

    Huntington, WV

    Patrick Farrell is the founder and president of Savage Grant, a company investing in Appalachia through the energy, infrastructure, and technology industries. As part of this strategy, Mr. Farrell co-founded Mountain Point, a cloud technology consulting fi rm based in Charlotte, North Carolina, and CentralApp, an insourcing software development company with workers located throughout Central Appalachia. Mr. Farrell also owns and serves as the president of Service Pump and Supply, an industrial products and services company working within the mining, municipal, and oil and gas industries.

    Read Patrick Farrell's Full Bio

  • Pat Getty

    Regional Facilitator, Emeritus Member of the Board of Trustees, Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation; Board of Directors, Vision Shared

    Pittsburgh, PA

    William P. (Pat) Getty is the long-time former president of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, which serves West Virginia, southwestern Pennsylvania, and the multi-state economic region centered on Pittsburgh. He is now the Foundation's Regional Facilitator and an emeritus member of the Board of Trustees. Getty serves on the implementation committee of the Tri-State Shale Coalition, a collaboration initiated by the Governors of West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania seeking to optimize downstream economic development pertaining to shale gas, especially modern manufacturing. Since 2006, he has been a leader of Power of 32, a 32-county, four-state visioning and development project in the Pittsburgh economic region.

    Read Pat Getty's Full Bio

  • Jennifer Giovannitti

    PRESIDENT, CLAUDE WORTHINGTON BENEDUM FOUNDATION

    Richmond, VA

    Jennifer Giovannitti is the new president of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, succeeding William P. “Pat” Getty. She was named the first women president in August 2018 and officially has been at the helm of the foundation since mid-October 2018. Prior to her current role, Giovannitti was the regional community development manager for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, whose mission it is to support economic stability and mobility for low-and moderate-income communities. She was the team’s specialist in workforce development, community finance and issues facing rural communities. Her position had a regional focus, working with national experts and community-oriented investors, as well as other Reserve Banks on policy and data-oriented projects.

    Read Jennifer Giovannitti's Full Bio

  • Jim Pennington

    President and CEO, The Health Plan

    Wheeling, WV

    A West Virginia native, James M. Pennington has over 35 years of experience in the health insurance industry. He received his Bachelor of Science in journalism and master’s degree in safety management from West Virginia University. Jim’s career in the health insurance industry began at McDonough Caperton Insurance Group. He became president and CEO of its Benefits Services Division, which evolved into Acordia National and ultimately Wells Fargo TPA. He previously held the role of president and CEO with USI Administrators, ppoNEXT, and HealthSmart.

    Read Jim Pennington's Full Bio

WV Forward Research Scholars and Project Management Team

Meet WV Forward's research scholars and management team, who serve as the backbone of this initiative. Tackling this immense and complex undertaking head on, each scholar manages the collaboration, research, and working tracts of several WV Forward efforts. Not only do they conduct valuable research and compile data to help build on the blueprint's recommendations, they also engage experts and stakeholders in their respective fields. The research scholars help run basic operations, identify experts and collaborators, benchmark short-term and long-term objectives and work with collaborators to design smart ways to measure success. They also recalibrate strategy and goals when necessary. Their work and their expertise is invaluable to the WV Forward process and lasting success.


Priscila Santos

PRISCILA SANTOS

Priscila Santos was born and raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She has been living in WV since 2014. Priscila holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Shawnee State University, and a master’s degree in Political Science from Marshall University. She has previously worked for the West Virginia Senate. Priscila looks forward to contributing research to the Electricity, Tangible Personal Property, Site Readiness, and Tourism issue areas.

Josh Cook

JOSH COOK

Josh Cook is a Wheeling, WV native and a Linsly School graduate. He completed his BS at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and his MS at the London School of Economics. Josh is an experienced entrepreneur and business consultant on capital access projects including cryptocurrencies. He has worked in the alternative education field and recently taught in WVU’s College of Business & Economics. He looks forward to contributing research to the Innovation, Cybersecurity, and Petrochemical issue areas.

Sarah Surber

SARAH SURBER

Sarah Surber grew up and went to college in WV. She is a graduate of both Marshall University (undergraduate and master of science degrees) and West Virginia University (law and doctoral degrees). She practiced environmental law in both Virginia and West Virginia before completing her PhD in occupational and environmental health sciences. Sarah looks forward to contributing research to the P-20/STEM, workforce participation, and substance abuse issue areas.

Jeanne Anderson

JEANNE ANDERSON

Jeanne Anderson moved to WV from Philadelphia and has lived in Morgantown for the past 10 years. She has a Biochemistry degree from Edinboro University of PA and previously worked at Mylan Pharmaceuticals. Jeanne looks forward to supporting our working groups grow organizational capacity to move WV Forward.

West Virginia Forward's Importance

West Virginia continues to face a challenging economy with regional struggles. We need to find new career opportunities where jobs have disappeared while retaining the talent we have. Many of the best and brightest are leaving the state they love to pursue better opportunities - we need to embrace every advantage West Virginia has to offer. And we need to believe in ourselves and in our ability to create a new path forward. 

It is not about rising from the bottom of a poll or stat. It's about optimizing success by building on the assets we already have, identifying new sectors for growth, finding disruptive trends, considering our regional impact and finding quick wins. It's about elevating our shared vision of what's possible. It's about moving West Virginia Forward.

Cost to Taxpayers

Nothing. The research and report were funded through the support of private donors and foundations.

Guiding principles

West Virginia Forward is guided by these goals:

Building on existing assets.

What can we enhance to compete more effectively? This includes addressing human capital, infrastructure, innovation and West Virginia’s business climate.

Growing and diversifying into new sectors.

How can we grow our state more rapidly, and what industries have projected growth?

Discovering disruptive trends.

We are looking for trends that, according to Forbes, “Displace an existing market, industry, or technology and produce something new and more efficient and worthwhile.” Where can we find market-changing innovations?

Finding quick wins.

What can we do now to produce the greatest gains within the next year?

Considering our regional impact.

What priorities will have the greatest influence on our region?

Be part of something bigger.

We want to hear from you. Share your ideas. Stay informed. Help us move West Virginia Forward.

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