Posted by: Barry | January 20, 2010

New Report on the Economic Challenges We Face

“Despite [the] economic benefits [of coal mining], coal-producing counties in Central Appalachia continue to have some of the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the region, and due to the dependence on coal for economic development, any changes in coal production will have significant impacts on local economies.”

That’s a line from a new report, made public yesterday by Downstream Strategies, a Morgantown, WV, consulting firm.  It caught my attention because ABLE Families exists for the purpose of working to bring down those poverty and unemployment rates (at the same time our sister agency, Christian Help, works hard to help those who are victims of them).  We’re frustrated by the poverty that is almost synonymous with the Appalachian region, despite the fact that the region has fueled a massive portion of the nation’s energy needs for over a century. 

The report’s title, “The Decline of Central Appalachian Coal and the Need for Economic Diversification,” says a lot about what you’ll learn in its 42 pages.  It’s mandatory reading for anyone interested in the issues of economic development, unemployment, and poverty in Appalachia.  Here’s the meat of the conclusion: 

Given the numerous challenges working against any substantial recovery of the region’s coal industry, and that production is projected to decline significantly in the coming decades, diversification of Central Appalachian economies is now more critical than ever. State and local leaders should support new economic development across the region, especially in the rural areas set to be the most impacted by a sharp decline in the region’s coal economy. As Senator Robert C. Byrd pointed out, “West Virginians can choose to anticipate change and adapt to it, or resist and be overrun by it. The time has arrived for the people of the Mountain State to think long and hard about which course they want to choose” (Byrd, 2009). The same is true for all of Central Appalachia.

The full report (which you can find as a .pdf file here) backs that up with plenty of statisitical data and projections. 

ABLE Families will continue to look for opportunities to play a part in finding a solution to the problems that plague the region and its families.

(Thanks to  Ken Ward, Jr., of the Charleston Gazette‘s Coal Tattoo blog for pointing out this new report in such a timely way.)



  1. Barry,
    I love your blog! It has given me so much reading material and stats to use as support in papers and presentations. Glad you are keeping me updated. Tell everyone I said hello (even though I just spoke with you and Kelli today 🙂 )


  2. Thanks, Shannon! Good to have you keeping in touch with us.

    (Shannon was a volunteer tutor in our adult education program last year. One of her students just received his GED a couple of weeks ago, thanks to her efforts.)

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