Economy

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Hemp growers in the region hope a recent change in federal law means they can finally profit from a plant that had been in legal limbo.

The latest Farm Bill legalized hemp, which can be used for products ranging from clothing to soap and herbal remedies. Now it’s up to states to decide how to handle hemp. But as the Ohio Valley ReSource's Liam Niemeyer reports, not all states in the region are ready to cash in on the hemp heyday.

It's never been harder to hire long-haul truck drivers, even though companies are making the job more lucrative, less aggravating and more inclusive.

The driver shortage stretches back a quarter century, and lately a run-up in freight demand, staggeringly high turnover rates and waves of baby boomer retirements are compounding the problem.

Jeff Young / Ohio Valley ReSource

While a three-week reprieve to the 35-day government shutdown is easing some of the pain, the month-long spat between President Trump and Democrats in Congress threatened the livelihoods of people receiving government assistance all over the country. Local economies are still feeling the ripple effects, and many fear the new negotiations could lead to another damaging impasse. 

Shelley Moore Capito Mostly Right about Recent GDP Growth, Unemployment

Feb 5, 2019
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., checks out the stage before the opening session of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Monday, July 18, 2016.
Carolyn Kaster / AP file photo

In a recent op-ed, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., wrote that the economic environment in West Virginia -- and the United States as a whole -- is the healthiest it’s been in years.

In the op-ed, published Jan. 3 in the Daily Mail WV, Capito wrote that "the American economy had quite a year. In fact, our economy is growing at its fastest pace in nearly four years. Unemployment is at an all-time low."

Has Unemployment Not Fallen under Gov. Jim Justice?

Feb 5, 2019
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice
Jesse Wright / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Unemployment has fallen across the country in recent years. But the West Virginia Democratic Party said in a recent tweet that it hasn’t fallen on Republican Gov. Jim Justice’s watch.

In a Jan. 9 tweet, the state party wrote, "FACT: Unemployment rate has not decreased since @WVGovernor took office. #wvpol #WVSOTS19"

Smoke billows from the Ziegenfelder Frozen Treat Co. plant Jan. 31, 2019, in Wheeling, W.Va..
Chuck Kleine / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A West Virginia factory that makes frozen treats has been evacuated after a fire broke out.

News outlets report no one was injured in the fire Thursday, Jan. 31, at the Ziegenfelder Frozen Treat Co. plant in Wheeling.

Food Aid A Concern As Government Shutdown Affects SNAP Payments

Jan 24, 2019
Mary Meehan / Ohio Valley ReSource

The partial shutdown of the federal government is affecting families depending on the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program program, or SNAP. Benefits for February have come early as a temporary fix to avoid anticipated disruptions should the shutdown drag into another month.

But the leader of God’s Pantry Food Bank in Lexington, Kentucky, said the threat of hunger remains. 

John Deskins, Director of the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research, joins host Suzanne Higgins for a discussion on the state’s economy, areas of growth, labor force participation, and the employment growth forecast in West Virginia. We also have stories from reporters Randy Yohe and Danite Belay.

Courtesy White House Video

As President Donald Trump addressed farmers at a national conference Monday Ohio Valley agriculture leaders said they are standing by his effort to renegotiate trade deals. But some leaders cautioned that costly tariffs on farm products need to end soon.

President Trump doubled down on his fight for better trade deals during his speech to American Farm Bureau Federation members at their convention in New Orleans.

Fact-check: Did West Virginia Rank 50th in Household Income in 2017?

Jan 2, 2019
David Goldman / AP Photo

In a Nov. 8 op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Mike Romano, a Democratic West Virginia state senator, said West Virginia’s median household income was nearly $17,000 below the national average.

“In 2017, West Virginia’s $43,469 median household income was $16,867 below the national average, ranking 50th, according to the U.S. Census Bureau,” Romano wrote.

U.S. Coal Consumption Drops To Lowest Level Since 1979

Dec 4, 2018
Superintendent Jackie Ratliff, a coal miner, holds coal running through a processing plant in Welch, W.Va.
AP file photo

Americans are consuming less coal in 2018 than at any time since Jimmy Carter’s presidency, a federal report said Tuesday, as cheap natural gas and other rival sources of energy frustrate the Trump administration’s pledges to revive the U.S. coal industry.

Is Food the Key to This Small Pennsylvania Town’s Economic Revival?

Nov 28, 2018
David Smith / 100 Days in Appalachia

Lincoln Avenue slices Bellevue down its belly, the only break in the borough’s neat rows of Queen Annes, Colonial Revivals and Craftsmans.

The town climbs a hillside along the Ohio River, just six miles north of Pittsburgh. During a 90-year stretch, beginning with the streetcar boom of the 1890s and ending with the decline of steel in the 1980s, the avenue offered residents every shop and service they could ever need in a tightly packed, half-mile stretch. Markets and movie theaters. Bakeries and dress boutiques. Isaly’s and ice cream.

Unemployment Line
Matt Rourke / Associated Press

Unemployment rates rose in 39 of West Virginia's 55 counties in October.

WorkForce West Virginia says unemployment rates dropped in Clay and Pendleton counties and was unchanged in 14 other counties.

Farmington No. 9: The West Virginia Disaster that Changed Coal Mining Forever

Nov 20, 2018
Jesse Wright / WVPB

In 1969, the world’s attention turned upward to the Moon, as Neil Armstrong took humankind’s first momentous step off Earth onto another world.

But that year also saw momentous federal legislation spurred by a disaster that riveted the nation’s attention downward, hundreds of feet below the Earth and the hills of West Virginia.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, seven of the nation’s leading causes of death are found at higher rates here in Appalachia compared to the rest of the country. But there is some diversity in these statistics.

When researchers analyzed all 420 counties in Appalachia, they found 42 outperformed the statistical odds. A team of researchers has been studying why these communities are outliers. As Roxy Todd reports, in all of the communities that researchers studied, they found a culture of sharing and volunteering. She visited one such community in West Virginia.

How Kentucky Is Failing Its Workers

Nov 14, 2018
Michelle Hanks

While most of the Meade County public works crew finished their lunches, Pius “Gene” Hobbs was raking along the edge of the road, oblivious to the dump truck backing quickly towards him. 

Unbeknownst to the driver, Hobbs was knocked to the ground and crushed under the truck’s weight. When the truck accelerated forward, Hobbs’ coworker ran him over a second time. He was killed on impact. 

The only eyewitness to the December 2016 incident, a bystander named Greg Turner, said that he didn’t hear a backup beeper on the truck as it reversed. Maybe Hobbs hadn’t either. 

Lodge in Cacapon Resort State Park, Morgan County, W.Va., May 2008
Brian M. Powell / Wikimedia Commons

Gov. Jim Justice’s office made two announcements Friday all related to infrastructure in the Eastern Panhandle.

A South Carolina town that has reinvented itself with art is seeking artists in West Virginia to participate in its annual nine-day exhibition. Event organizers toured West Virginia to spread the word about the event and also the economic effects art has had in their town.

Pensions At The Polls: Will Concern Over Shaky Plans Show Up On Election Day?

Oct 22, 2018
Aaron Payne

Thousands of union coal miners and their families gathered this summer in Columbus, Ohio, wielding signs and wearing camouflage United Mine Workers of America shirts.

UMWA President Cecil Roberts led the crowd in a call-and-response chant.

“I want you to send a loud, clear signal that we are one! We are one!”

Kara Lofton/ West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Jeannette Walls grew up poor in America. She wrote about it in her memoir "The Glass Castle," which has remained on the New York Times bestsellers list for more than eight years. She spent most of her childhood west of the Mississippi River, but her father, who was originally from West Virginia, eventually brought her family back to McDowell County, where she lived for four years. In this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll listen back to an interview Jessica Lilly did with Walls in 2017, just before the movie inspired by her book was released in theaters. 


Roxy Todd/ West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Can apples grow on an abandoned mine site? That’s a question the West Virginia National Guard is spending more than $5 million to find out.

West Virginia was given $30 million in 2016 to invest in economic development projects across the state. The money came from the 2015 omnibus federal spending bill passed by Congress. There was a catch, though—groups would have to build their projects on former Abandoned Mine Land sites. 


West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, hundreds of miners have been laid off, effective Thursday, Oct. 18, following a mine closure in Wyoming County. As Molly Born reports, the news is a blow to the region -- and some miners are now considering getting out of the industry altogether.

Join West Virginia Public Broadcasting and Blue Ridge Community and Technical College in Martinsburg as we co-host a FREE panel discussion with regional experts exploring the future of job opportunities in the Eastern Panhandle – and how to get there.

On this West Virginia Morning, agriculture -- even on a small scale -- could have a big impact in West Virginia’s economy. We’ll hear about one program trying to spur that growth.

The Exclusive Industry That’s Supplying Pennsylvania’s Medical Cannabis

Oct 15, 2018
Provided

Laura Jean Kahl owns Rabbit Hollow Farm in Washington County, Pennsylvania. A fairly rural county of just over 200,000 people, it sits south of Pittsburgh bordering West Virginia.

The 50 acres of land has been in Kahl’s family since the Great Depression. Her great grandfather purchased the farm by means of employment through the United States Postal Service, and over the years, his sons were able to build their own homes and raise their families on the land. After Kahl’s grandmother passed away in 2015, she made the decision to take over the farm with her husband.

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? 


Miners Urge Congressional Action On Pensions, Black Lung Fund

Sep 26, 2018
Office of Sen. Brown

Retired coal miners and coal community activists are on Capitol Hill this week urging action on two important issues for miners: pensions and black lung benefits. Advocates say funds supporting both pensions for retired miners and the federal benefits for those sickened by black lung disease are at risk if Congress does not act.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, across the nation, more women are becoming farmers compared with  previous generations. That’s even more true in some Appalachian states, including West Virginia. The West Virginia Department of Agriculture’s Chris Williams introduces us to several women who are part of this trend.

Hemp seeds
Kristen Wyatt / Associated Press

A U.S. attorney is suing a West Virginia hemp farm and others, saying they violating the federal Controlled Substances Act.

U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart has sued Matthew Mallory of CAMO Hemp WV, and Gary Kale of Grassy Run Farms. Grassy Run Farms owns the land, The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported Saturday.

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