ARC

New Economic Data Show Appalachia’s Struggles Amid Coal’s Decline

Jun 26, 2019

An annual report from the Appalachian Regional Commission shows that while Appalachia is seeing some economic improvement, the heart of the region and its coal-producing communities are still struggling. Several counties in the Ohio Valley are moving in a negative direction in this year’s report.


Valerius Tygart / Wikimedia Commons

The Appalachian Regional Commission Monday began accepting applications for a new leadership and economic training program.

Sprouting farms
Brittany Patterson / WVPB

This story is part of an episode of Inside Appalachia about projects aimed at spurring job growth in Appalachia.

On a recent Monday morning, as the rising sun burns off the low-hanging fog and fishermen haul in their morning catches from the Greenbrier River, at Sprouting Farms, the day is well underway.

Produce has been harvested and safely stored in a giant refrigerator. Employees are packaging cherry tomatoes into plastic clamshells, activities you might find at any of the farms that dot the Greenbrier Valley.

But while the daily tasks are handled at this production-scale vegetable farm, the crux of Sprouting Farms’ mission goes beyond the fields at hand.  

Janet Kunicki/ WVPB

Since the War on Poverty in the 1960s, federal funds to help revitalize coal country have poured in from Washington, D.C. And in recent years, a new federal push has brought millions of dollars worth of funding to projects that are intended to create jobs and retrain people in coal country for work in other fields. There are also a number of state initiatives to help generate job growth. But have these projects worked? 


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The Appalachian Regional Commission has just awarded more than 1.3 million dollars to support economic development projects throughout West Virginia.

Valerius Tygart / Wikimedia Commons

President Donald Trump intends to nominate a member of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's staff as the new federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission.

The White House said Thursday in a news release that the president intends to nominate Tim Thomas to oversee the ARC. Thomas works as a McConnell staff member in Kentucky. He previously worked in former Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration.

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A U.S. House subcommittee focused on the opioid epidemic in Appalachia during a hearing this morning on Capitol Hill. 

The Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management focused on economics - specifically the impact of the opioid crisis on efforts in Appalachia to spur economic development and growth in distressed communities.

Witnesses included representatives from the economic development agency the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Roxy Todd

What does a Cornbread Festival in Tennessee, a Paw Paw festival in Ohio and the Hatfield McCoy Moonshine Distillery in West Virginia all have in common? They’re among hundreds of destinations featured on a map called Bon Appétit Appalachia. The map features Appalachian restaurants, wineries, and festivals serving locally sourced food has just been updated with more listings by The Appalachian Regional Commission. The map has 62 regional food destinations in West Virginia.