West Virginia Overview: Economy
Except on river-bottom lands, on a few small plateaus, and in the northern end of the rolling, fertile Valley of Virginia in the Eastern Panhandle, farming is not extensive. (The population nevertheless is predominantly rural.) Apples, peaches, hay, corn, and tobacco are the principal crops, while broiler chickens, cattle, and dairy products lead in market receipts. West Virginia has extensive natural resources; it is among the nation's leading producers of bituminous coal, although coal production has declined. Natural gas, stone, cement, salt, and oil are also important.
Utilizing these mineral resources are major glass, chemical (including synthetic textile), and high-technology industries; they are concentrated in the highly industrialized Ohio and Kanawha river valleys, with Charleston a leading center; Huntington and Parkersburg are also important. Other manufactures include primary and fabricated metals and machinery. Steel mills extend south from Pittsburgh, Pa., into the Northern Panhandle; Wheeling is a manufacturing hub there. Lumber has long been an important resource; about two thirds of the land is still forested, most of it in valuable hardwoods. Since the 1960s a number of federal offices and facilities have been built in West Virginia, and government service is a growing employment sector.
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