West Virginia is headed in the right direction and there is much to celebrate. Our unemployment rate is low, job growth is high, we anticipate a budget surplus for the first time in years and our workforce participation rate is improving. And this is just the beginning.

Our teachers received a historic raise. We are seeing an incredible amount of infrastructure development. Road and bridge construction is underway at an unprecedented rate and multiple interstate natural gas pipelines are being developed, which will help grow our state’s gas industry and the jobs it provides.

Gov. Jim Justice is leading the charge with President Donald Trump to assure mining and power plant jobs are retained in West Virginia. The Trump-Justice Plan will ensure the safety of America’s power grid while helping grow our economy here at home.

West Virginia is a shining example of a state that has it all. We have an economy that is increasingly diverse and we are centrally located to the major Eastern population centers. Our research universities and centers of higher learning are world class. We are known globally as a leader in energy production while at the same time equally well recognized as a tourism destination for those seeking to enjoy our wild and wonderful natural and scenic resources.

There is much to be optimistic about.

Pro-jobs, pro-growth policies put in place over the past several years by Senate President Mitch Carmichael, House Speaker Tim Armstead and the Legislature have helped lay the groundwork for much of this growth. Justice is leading the charge and is overseeing one of the greatest periods of economic expansion in our lifetime.

As we approach the 2018 general election, West Virginians can take comfort in knowing there are a host of business and industry candidates on the ballot that are qualified, competent and eager to serve.

The West Virginia Business & Industry Council held a candidate forum in early June where more than 20 candidates for state Senate and House races took the opportunity to introduce themselves to our members. These individuals come from all walks of life and backgrounds, from recent high school and college graduates to retired military veterans. The one common thread these pro-business candidates share is the desire to move West Virginia forward by continuing to build on the policies set in place by our current legislative leadership and governor.

These mostly conservative-leaning candidates highlighted a variety of issues that they hope to tackle, should they earn the opportunity to serve in the Legislature. Their policy priorities include:

Enhancing the tax base and enacting policies that facilitate job growth;

Opposing tax increases on citizens and businesses;

Improving outcomes in our education system and increasing access to technical education;

Combatting the opioid, heroin and meth epidemic in our communities;

Reforming our tax and regulatory structure;

And, creating an environment where young West Virginians want to stay in the state and build their lives here.

These are all laudable goals and we were very impressed with this group of individuals. I would encourage you to learn more about the candidates running for office in your district.

The West Virginia Business & Industry Council will be conducting business forums across the state over the next several months to discuss important public policy issues, showcase the state’s recent economic successes and highlight pro-business and industry candidates. These events will take place in Wheeling, Bluefield, Teays Valley, Huntington, Charles Town, Parkersburg, Morgantown, Bridgeport and Charleston. For more information on these events, visit www.wvbic.org.

We are an exceptional state composed of exceptional people. We are blessed to have citizens dedicated to pitching in to help move the state forward. The members of the West Virginia Business & Industry Council are optimistic about our future, and we’re just getting started.

Chris Hamilton is chairman of the West Virginia Business & Industry Council.