West Virginia is almost last in the 50 states with the growth of women-owned businesses. Alaska had the worst statistic.

American Express Open, a division of the financial and travel giant that analyzes small business development, says West Virginia is keeping pace with women-owned business firms.

Since 1997, WV businesses owned by women increased 17.8 percent, from 30,232 to 35,600, according to the study.

During the same period, nationwide, businesses owned by women increased by 50 percent.

The research indicates West Virginia's low ranking coincides with the state's slow population growth.

There is a bright side.

The increasing amount of revenues generated by women-owned enterprises in West Virginia outpaced the national average.

The American Express study said the highest percentage of women-owned firms were in the health care and social services fields.

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