The rise of entrepreneurship in West Virginia is one of the top 5 trends shaping our state in 2018.
Coalfield Development Corporation is helping young West Virginians get ready for the new economy. The social enterprise is teaching entrepreneurship, and it is entrepreneurial itself - using a combination of grants and earned income to support itself.
It’s been a big year for West Virginia – what trends started in 2017 that will shape our lives in 2018?
The Front Porch podcast crew sees five big trends – listen or read below and let us know what you think!
1. Inequality grows, leading toward more oligarchy (Rick Wilson)
“The new tax bill will increase inequality,” Wilson said. “I think we’re heading toward dynasties.”
Wilson pointed out that, “Our entire delegation except for Sen. Manchin voted for this tax bill.” He believes it is a Trojan Horse that will lead to cuts in Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security that would b particularly damaging to West Virginia.
2. White nationalism continues to rise (Rick Wilson)
“This is the moment in the sun for white supremacy,” Wilson said. “Fascist-type movements feel validated by the political events of the last year,” including rallies last summer in Charlottesville, not far from our state.
West Virginians have some of the most anti-immigration attitudes in America, while having the lowest percentage of foreign-born people living here.
Wilson said there is an uneasy alliance between white nationalists and some wealthy folks, but it may not last.
“Sooner or later, the white nationalists are going to get screwed,” he said.
3. One-party rule continues (Scott Finn)
Nationally, there’s fierce competition between the parties. But in West Virginia, we quickly went from a state dominated by Democrats to one controlled almost exclusively by Republicans.
This year, a former Republican-turned-Democrat became Governor, and then switched back to the GOP during a rally with President Donald Trump this summer.
“There must be something in the water that makes people in West Virginia desire a one-party state,” said Scott Finn, CEO of WVPB and host of “The Front Porch” podcast.
Jessi Troyan of the free-market Cardinal Institute says the trend toward one-party rule shows the outsized role government plays in West Virginians’ lives.
“That strikes me as indicative of the amount of power the government is able to wield in everyday life, that the stakes are so high,” she said. Someone has to be part of the “winning” party to receive jobs, contracts and other benefits.
4. Entrepreneurship grows (Jessi Troyan)
Troyan sees hope in the West Side of Charleston, which has seen a small boom in small business, focused on services, the arts, and restaurants.
She says West Virginians need to move past looking for solutions from big government and big business.
Finn pointed out that a handful of young business leaders took a risk on the working-class West Side, with help from a state tax credit for historic renovation and the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority.
“Even in a struggling economy, if you have vision and are willing to be entrepreneurial, good things can happen,” Finn said.
5. Education (finally) becomes an issue (Jessi Troyan)
After years of receiving relatively little attention from state leaders, Troyan thinks education will become a major issue in 2018.
In the past few years, West Virginia has fallen near the bottom of rankings of teacher pay. Graduation rates are up, but an increasing number of students (31 percent) need remedial courses in college.
“There is something we can do. Granted, it involves some serious courage by policymakers," Troyan said. "West Virginia is one of only a handful of state without school choice programs.”
Even without state-funded school choice, competition from homeschooling and private schools improves public schools in West Virginia, according to a WVU study cited by Troyan.
BONUS TREND – Using colorful props at news conferences (Rick Wilson)
“What we have is nothing more than a bunch of political bull you-know-what,” Gov. Justice said in a Spring press conference, while pulling the cloche off a plate of authentic bull manure.
“This could be the year of scatology, not to mention eschatology, the end of the world as we know it,” Wilson said. “Poop and apocalypse, basically.”
Welcome to “The Front Porch,” where we tackle the tough issues facing Appalachia the same way you talk with your friends on the porch.
Hosts include WVPB Executive Director and recovering reporter Scott Finn and liberal columnist and avid goat herder Rick Wilson, who works for the American Friends Service Committee. Guest host this week is economist Jessi Troyan of the free-market Cardinal Institute.
An edited version of “The Front Porch” airs Fridays at 4:50 p.m. on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s radio network, and the full version is available at wvpublic.org and as a podcast as well.
Share your opinions with us about these issues, and let us know what you'd like us to discuss in the future. Send a tweet to @radiofinn or @wvpublicnews, or e-mail Scott at sfinn @ wvpublic.org
The Front Porch is underwritten by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Charleston Gazette-Mail. Find the latest news, traffic and weather on its CGM App. Download it in your app store, and check out its website: http://www.wvgazettemail.com/