Appalachian Innovators

Appalachia is no stranger to innovation -- people in this region are resourceful, often having to find new ways of doing things with few resources. The Appalachian Innovators series shines a spotlight on people, programs and policies that use novel ways to make a difference in citizens' lives.

The Appalachian Innovators series begins with five stories, but will continue as more programs and people are added. This series is made possible with support from The Benedum Foundation and the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Touchstone Research Lab

Brian Joseph from Ohio County, West Virginia, has dedicated his professional life to innovation, reimagining and retooling old materials in the region with new technologies. 

John Nakashima/ WVPB

On a recent weekday, in a renovated building in downtown Huntington, 22-year-old Jacob Howell was among 20 people working at a laptop in a sunlit office. Senior web developers sat shoulder-to-shoulder with new employees at long tables. There wasn’t a cubicle in sight.


 

Howell, a Hurricane native, wasn’t sure where he might end up after graduating last year from Marshall University.

Pa. Trail Initiative Could Provide Roadmap for Some Struggling W.Va. Towns

Feb 7, 2018
The West Newton, Pa., rail trail.
Photo courtesy of The Trail Town Program

There’s a national storyline that’s told about parts of West Virginia and Pennsylvania. It goes something like this: As the steel and coal industries fade, small towns are dying out. Young people move away because there’s a lack of jobs.

But for the past 20 years, some entrepreneurs have quietly been working on a different narrative -- one that harnesses the region’s natural beauty to build the economy. Their slow climb is starting to bear real fruit.

Janet Kunicki/ WVPB

When you picture the Appalachian Coalfields, you might think of those scenic photographs of mist rising from the mountains. But there are the less picturesque landscapes too -- views of mountaintops that have been stripped away from coal mining. Imagine if these barren landscapes were covered with purple fields of lavender.

Larry Dowling / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Throughout coal mining country of the Eastern U.S. you will find streams that run a peculiar rusty orange. It’s the result of pollution called acid mine drainage, or AMD. It’s estimated that about 10,000 miles of streams are polluted by AMD in Pennsylvania and West Virginia alone. In fact, researchers have calculated that every second, coal mines throughout the region are pumping out about 3,000 cubic feet of AMD. That’s roughly equal to an average May day’s flow of water in the Monongahela River as it winds through the region.