Economy

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, as part of our occasional series “Wild, Wondering, West Virginia,” Lana Lester, of Wyoming County, submitted this question to Inside Appalachia: “Could West Virginia Be Self-Sustaining?”

She said she, “always had the feeling that God Blessed West Virginia with all of our natural resources, and we have everything there in the state to survive.”

Grocers In Rural Towns Struggle To Stay In Business

Jan 20, 2020
Gwen Christon with the new coolers that keep her energy bills low at the Isom, KY, IGA.
Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource

There’s a picture frame on the wall next to the customer service desk in the IGA in Inez, Kentucky. Inside the frame is a scrap of beige meat-counter paper, on which a man named Derle Ousley sketched the layout for an ad announcing the opening of his very first grocery store. 

“Inez Supermarket Grand Opening,” it reads. The date: September 28, 1959. 

Miners and supporters block the railroad in Pike Co., Ky.
Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource

A group of Kentucky coal miners who blocked a railroad track for three days over unpaid wages have ended their protest, claiming victory with their paychecks.

Miners and their families began standing on the tracks leading from Quest Energy in Pike County on Monday, preventing a train loaded with coal from leaving. The miners said they hadn’t been paid since Dec. 16.

The Clorox Company

The Clorox Company says it plans to build a new manufacturing facility that would employ 100 workers in West Virginia.

Company officials told The Journal that they took the first step in the process of locating to the area by filing draft plans with the Berkeley County planning commission. Plans call for the plant to be located in the Tabler Station Business Park.

There’s a new focus on hunger at the West Virginia Legislature. We'll hear about the newly formed Hunger Caucus, and host Suzanne Higgins sits down with the Speaker of the House of Delegates, Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay.

Ohio Valley Farmers Cautiously Optimistic About U.S.-China Trade Deal

Jan 14, 2020
Liam Niemeyer / Ohio Valley ReSource

The Trump administration is set to sign a deal Wednesday, Jan. 15, with Chinese trade officials for what they call “Phase One” of a trade agreement after almost two years of false starts and costly, retaliatory tariffs. Ohio Valley farmers are cautiously optimistic the truce will be a turning point, but some are skeptical about the details about the partial deal.

More Unpaid Appalachian Miners Stage A Coal Train Blockade

Jan 14, 2020
Miners and supporters block the railroad in Pike Co., Ky.
Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource

For the second time since summer, eastern Kentucky coal miners are blockading a railroad track to protest unpaid wages. The new blockade, which was started Monday afternoon by Quest Energy miners, echoes the months-long blockade by Blackjewel coal miners over the summer and speaks to a growing discontent in Appalachian coal country.

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Thousands of customers remained without electricity in West Virginia on Sunday after severe storms swept through the state.

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West Virginia’s governor says a technology company has agreed to open a research facility in the state to look into using coal to make carbon-based products.

Gov. Jim Justice gave additional details about the agreement with Ramaco Carbon on Thursday after mentioning the research center in his State of the State speech.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, it’s been more than a year since the video game Fallout 76 was released. The game takes place entirely in a fictional, post-apocalyptic West Virginia, and players from around the world work together to reclaim the land. The game is part of a series of popular video games created by Bethesda Game Studios based in Maryland.

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A West Virginia coal miner died while working at a Murray Energy mine, Gov. Jim Justice’s office said Tuesday, Dec. 24.

Raymond Leonard Starkey Jr., 21, of New Martinsville, was fatally injured Monday while helping to repair a beltline at the Marshall County Coal Company Mine near Cameron, Justice’s office said in a news release.

Gov. Justice's Chief of Staff Mike Hall announces the agreement with Maryland to continue the MARC train service in W.Va. at a press conference in Martinsburg on Dec. 19, 2019.
W.Va. Governor's Office

 

Gov. Jim Justice has agreed to provide the remaining funding Maryland officials requested to keep the Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) in the Eastern Panhandle at its current service. The governor is also hopeful to expand the service to promote tourism in the region.

One of seven locomotives acquired by OmniTRAX after it purchased the Winchester & Western Railroad in September. Additionally, OmniTRAX acquired 470 railcars.
Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting


Colorado-based OmniTRAX, a freight-only transportation company that links several railroads from coast to coast in the U.S., purchased the Winchester & Western Railroad for $105 million in September. 

The railroad runs through part of West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, and the purchase is expected to improve West Virginia’s economy by attracting more businesses to the Eastern Panhandle.

Does West Virginia Rank Sixth In The Nation In At-Risk Youth?

Dec 16, 2019
mountains, sunset, clouds, valley
Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting file photo

Woody Thrasher, a Republican who is challenging West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice in the 2020 GOP primary, took to Twitter to call out the state’s level of at-risk youth on his opponent’s watch.

“‘West Virginia is sixth overall in the average number of at-risk youth.’ Let’s turn this around and grow our workforce by supporting post-secondary training programs. #TimeToGetToWorkWV #wvpol,” Thrasher tweeted.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, we’ll hear how the purchase of a railroad in the Eastern Panhandle may have a big impact on that region’s economy.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, earlier this fall, Bob Hansen, director of the Office of Drug Control Policy, said the state looks forward to creating new job opportunities for West Virginians in recovery from addiction. For some of these opportunities, being in recovery is actually a qualification.

The state has been certifying and paying peer recovery support specialists through its Bureau for Medical Services since July 2018. As Report for America corps member Emily Allen reports, this is just one example of the state’s recent investments in peer support.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, with coal mining on the decline and people relocating, some towns in southern West Virginia are trying to find other ways to spur their economies. In Fayetteville, that has meant leaning into tourism.

There’s a large river-rafting, mountain-biking and rock-climbing scene in the area, but much of those activities are limited to the warmer months. So, the town has started a unique tourism campaign to get people to come visit in the off-season. Folkways reporter Caitlin Tan has the story.

Kristi Reyes spends time with her grandson in her new home.
Mary Meehan / Ohio Valley ReSource

Cancer was what finally pushed Kristi Reyes into living in her car.

The mother of four had worked all her life, starting at age 7 when she helped out at her family’s furniture store. Most of her work was in retail. It was paycheck-to-paycheck but she kept her kids together and a roof over their heads.

The MARC train parked at the Martinsburg train station. The service currently offers six trains, Monday through Friday, in West Virginia, but that could be reduced to two trains if West Virginia does not pay Maryland $2.3 million by the end of November.
Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting


Local municipalities in the Eastern Panhandle have come together to provide some funding for the Maryland Area Regional Commuter, or MARC train, but it remains unclear if it will be enough to keep the service in West Virginia.

A guard tower at the United States Penitentiary, Big Sandy, stands as a sentinel along Kentucky Route 3 in Martin County.
Roger May / For Yes! Magazine

Big Sandy hides on a big hill. If you’re not looking for the federal prison, you’ll miss it easily. At first, all that can be seen above the soaring Kentucky cliffs, jagged granite dotted with green scruff, are lights. They look like the lights for a high school football field, or maybe a mall. Then the guard towers loom into view. You can’t see the razor wire from the road.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, for some, The Hatfield and McCoy Feud has become synonymous with the type of mischaracterization of Appalachians that we’d like to leave behind. Full of bloodshed and revenge, a New York Times article in 1896 referred to the Hatfields and McCoys as having an “utter disregard of human life.” The fact that the families got their income from illegal moonshining has also been used to discredit them as outlaws.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, the Hatfield and McCoy ATV trail system that runs through southern West Virginia is an example of how people are using the well-known history of the infamous feud to boost the economy.

Other businesses in the region have cropped up in recent years with the name -- most of them catering to trail riders. Inside Appalachia host Jessica Lilly met one family in Gilbert who are attracting visitors by sharing a piece of their tradition, craft, and even their story.

Murray Energy’s Bankruptcy Could Bring Collapse Of Coal Miners’ Pensions

Nov 4, 2019
Retired Kentucky miner Virgil Stanley at a UMWA rally for pension protections.
Becca Schimmel / Ohio Valley ReSource file photo

The recent bankruptcy of Ohio Valley coal giant Murray Energy has renewed fears about the already shaky financial foundations of the pension plan that tens of thousands of miners and their families depend upon.

The seismic collapse of yet another coal employer has lawmakers from the region renewing their push to fix the United Mine Workers pension fund, and has even raised broader concerns about pensions for a range of other trades.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, some communities are trying to think outside the box to help people struggling with addiction. In the Potomac Highlands of the Eastern Panhandle, law enforcement, faith-based organizations and community members want to create one robust network of support. As Liz McCormick reports, the network strives to fight the stigma associated with substance abuse disorder and offer a safety net that some say feels like a family.

Chuck Roberts/ WVPB

By branding southern West Virginia “Hatfield & McCoy” country, are we re-affirming negative stereotypes in Appalachia?

In this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll look at how some communities in southern West Virginia are hoping to jumpstart their local economies through tourism. In particular, we’ll explore a type of tourism that caters to ATV riders along the Hatfield and McCoy trail system.

But what do we gain, and what do we lose, when we market ourselves to visitors? Are people able to remain true to their real identity, and claim ownership of their own narrative? We'll discuss that and more in this week's episode.


Emily Allen / WVPB

When in the late 1990’s a group of recreational-vehicle enthusiasts began developing a network of riding trails in Southern West Virginia, it didn’t take them long to pick a title that would immediately garner name recognition for the region.


West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, Inside Appalachia takes a ride along the Hatfield and McCoy ATV trail this weekend. It’s an extensive trail system built out in a place where the job market has been hit hard by downturns in the coal industry. It’s one way the region is pumping new life into the economy, using a familiar family feud name, and ATVs, to draw people to the region. The Hatfield & McCoy ATV Trail system has been up and running in southern West Virginia since the early 2000’s. Emily Allen reports.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

This past summer, the executive director of a nonprofit called Coalfield Development was awarded a $250,000 grant from the Heinz Family Foundation. 

That director -- Brandon Dennison, who helped found Coalfield Development almost 10 years ago -- says the money will go toward a lifelong learning fund for his employees.

The group operates mostly in southern West Virginia. It has about 60 full-time workers now, all working on different enterprises meant to diversify West Virginia’s economy. Emily Allen spoke with Dennison. We hear some of their conversation.

Protesting miners block train tracks in morning fog.
Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource file photo

Coal miners who went without pay when mining company Blackjewel declared bankruptcy this June are one step closer to receiving lost wages. The checks come weeks after some of the miners ended a long-running protest, and months after the federal Department of Labor first intervened to allege the company violated labor laws in the month before it folded.

Glasses given to attendees of the Happy Retreat Wine & Jazz Festival on June 9, 2018.
Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Gov. Jim Justice said he wants to expand West Virginia's winemaking industry. On Wednesday, Justice said he is asking officials in the state's commerce and agricultural agencies to look into growing the wine business in the eastern panhandle. Having more vineyards and wineries in West Virginia will boost tourism and local economies, according to Justice. He noted that Virginia has benefited from promoting its winemaking industry where the state borders West Virginia's eastern panhandle.

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