Extensive bituminous coal deposits cover much of West Virginia, and coal ranks as the state’s most important mineral. The major producing areas are in the southern plateau and north central regions. The state is one of the leading bituminous coal producers in the nation. Natural gas and petroleum are found in the hills in the central and west central regions and in the upper Ohio and Little Kanawha valleys. Limestone is quarried, principally in the southern and eastern regions. Sand and gravel are mined in many locations, and salt is produced along the Ohio River. Pottery clays and excellent quality sand, used in glassmaking, are generally found in the eastern part of the state, particularly in the Eastern Panhandle.
In terms of production value, the leading manufacturing sectors in West Virginia are chemical industries, which make products for other industries and agriculture; primary metal industries, which include blast furnaces and aluminum plants; firms producing fabricated metals, such as metal plates, sheet metal, and components of metal buildings; glass manufacturers; and lumber and wood products industries, including lumber mills and manufacturers of prefabricated buildings. The most important industrial concentration is in the Kanawha River valley, in and around Charleston. Charleston is the center of the state’s chemical industry and has benefited from the nearby resources of coal and natural gas and from the availability of water transport to the Ohio River. The Northern Panhandle is also highly industrialized. It contains most of the state’s primary metals production, principally of iron and steel, and a large number of establishments making pottery.
The state is known for its glassware, including plate glass, tableware, blown glass, stained glass, and structural glass. Other industrial areas center on Huntington, Parkersburg, Fairmont, and Clarksburg. Ravenswood, in the lower Ohio River valley, has a large aluminum plant. By the last decades of the 20th century, many of the once-flourishing industries of West Virginia, such as coal mining, steel production, and glass manufacturing, had either changed greatly in their nature or declined. The decline in these industries led to efforts to diversify the state’s economy. The state offered tax benefits to lure new businesses. Today, service industries overshadow the manufacturing and mining sectors of West Virginia’s economy in terms of employment and contribution to the gross state product.
An area between Morgantown and Clarksburg has become known as Software Valley, where numerous computer software companies have located at the urging of state leaders and with the assistance of the federal government. As a leading member of the United States Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Robert C. Byrd has been instrumental in moving several government operations from the Washington, D.C., area to West Virginia. Among them are the large Federal Bureau of Investigation Fingerprint Center, now a major employer at Clarksburg, and the Internal Revenue Service Computing Center, at Martinsburg, which updates and centralizes all federal taxpayer information from throughout the United States. "West Virginia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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