HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — Rebecca Randolph left West Virginia for Cleveland after college to pursue better career options, but the Mountain State was always on her mind. The reason is simple — it's home.
"I've always been interested in West Virginia's success, but I struggled myself to be successful here," Randolph said. "So, I left for a few years, and when I came back I was able to apply the things I learned in Cleveland here."
Randolph took over as president of the West Virginia Manufacturers Association in November, following successful roles at Vision Shared, Marshall University and the University of Charleston.
While it may not seem like it, it's those varied experiences, coupled with her nonprofit work in Cleveland, that has shaped her for her current position, Randolph said.
"I definitely call from past experience," Randolph said. "My diversity, in a way, mirrors that of all the different people we work with. West Virginia has such a diverse group of manufacturers. We have chemical manufacturers. We have marble manufacturers. We have it all right here."
Growing up in a coal mining family east of Charleston, Randolph is no stranger to the manufacturing side of West Virginia. Even so, she said she never really saw herself working in the field.
But while she didn't see herself where she is today, she said she always knew she would work to make West Virginia stronger.
And in just a short time, Randolph seems like the right person at the right time to help keep West Virginia going in a positive direction, said Karl Boelter, DuPont Washington Works plant manager and WVMA board chairman.
"During her short time, she's helped us make large strides in our strategic vision," Boelter said. "I think having her style of leadership is going to position West Virginia manufacturing very positively."
Boelter said Randolph's high energy and intelligence has been exceptional, and he looks forward to continuing to work with her to promote and grow West Virginia manufacturing.
Having high energy working in manufacturing is a necessity, Randolph said. She said she often travels across the state to various job sites to see in-person the great things being done in West Virginia.
"I keep steel toed work boots and a hardhat in my car because I go out to see member companies," Randolph said. "Sometimes I think it makes it difficult for my kids to understand what I do."
What she does is help shine a light on a manufacturing community that continues to become more robust, Randolph said. She said technologic advancements, such as the proposed cracker plant in Woods County, will continue to play a larger role in helping West Virginia industry grow.
"This is not the manufacturing my father or his father knew. Technology has made things safer and better for everyone," Randolph said. "If you think industry is unregulated, I would challenge you. People like to generalize, but a lot of our member companies go above and beyond and do more than is required of them to create a safe work environment."
Manufacturing is the key to creating a stronger economy, which means more jobs and more people staying in West Virginia, Randolph said. She said she wants to help create an environment where young West Virginians don't have to leave to get their start, but can live and work in the state they call home.
Information from: The Herald-Dispatch, http://www.herald-dispatch.com