Qatar Looking to Invest in W.Va., Starts with $50k for Reconnecting McDowell

Jun 5, 2015

A country that has already invested more than $12 billion in the United States sent its ambassador to West Virginia Friday looking for possible future investments in the Mountain State.

Qatar Ambassador to the U.S. Mohammed Al-Kuwari was invited and escorted on the visit by Sen. Joe Manchin, making stops at the Advanced Technical Center at BridgeValley Community and Technical College, Dow Chemical, and meeting with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

Qatar's Ambassador to the U.S. Mohammed Al-Kuwari and Sen. Joe Manchin at the Capitol Friday.
Credit Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Al-Kuwari said his country has already made a commitment to invest more than $35 billion in the U.S. over the next several years in the energy sector as well as in technology, real estate, tourism and education, and Sen. Manchin wants at least some of those dollars to come to West Virginia.

It’s not solely about financial investment, though, according to Manchin. The Senator said the economies of the two states, so to speak, are very similarly, both heavily invested in the engery sector.

What Qatar has done though, Manchin said, is moved beyond just extraction, bringing manufacturing in to product value-added products from the natural resources they extract. That includes building ethane cracker plants, an industry investment West Virginia has been searching for for years.

Manchin hopes the country will invest in West Virginia, but also form a partnership with the state, helping to guide its economy.

“We’re not looking just for someone to write a check,” he said during a press conference at the Capitol. “We’re looking for someone to come into this marketplace and understand the value of the market and understand realistically what type of an investment it takes, the risks that are involved and the rewards that can come from it.”

An investment team from Qatar travels to the U.S. twice a year, and has for the past fifteen years Al-Kuwari estimated. The next planned trop is for September and Manchin said he’ll work with West Virginia to ensure the state has a specific proposal for those investors to look at.

In the meantime, Al-Kuwari has invited the Senator, Gov. Tomblin and members of West Virginia’s business sector to travel to Qatar to meet some of these potential investors and tour the country.

Al-Kuwari also announced Friday the country has donated $50,000 to Reconnecting McDowell, a partnership between the state Department of Education, private businesses, unions and education organizations focused on bringing higher quality education to McDowell County.

Sen. Manchin’s wife, state Board of Education President Gayle Manchin, heads that initiative.