Economy

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.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, people are leaving West Virginia at an alarming rate. From 2016 to 2017, more than 15,000 people left the state, or about 41 people per day. This trend is putting a strain on local businesses, making it tough for employers to find skilled, educated workers. As part of our Appalachian Innovators Series, Roxy Todd has the story of one organization that is trying to tackle this problem in a new way.

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.

WVPB/ Janet Kunicki

Gwynn Guilford is a reporter for Quartz, a business news site. She specializes in writing about the economy. Guilford spent 10 months researching Appalachia’s economy for an article called “The 100-year capitalist experiment that keeps Appalachia poor, sick, and stuck on coal”. Guilford dug into the history of the region’s economic ties to the coal industry, and the long-term effects this relationship has had on the people who live and are determined to stay in Appalachia.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting reporter Roxy Todd spoke with Guilford about her report.


Procter & Gamble Headquarters in Cincinnati, OH.
Derek Jensen / wikimedia Commons / user: Tysto

Officials from Procter and Gamble have announced additional products will be manufactured at the Martinsburg plant and, as a result, more employees will be needed.

Since construction began in 2015 for West Virginia’s Procter and Gamble plant, the organization estimated a need for 700 full-time employees to be hired by 2019.

Peabody Energy, Inc.
Wikimedia Commons

At a recent conference in Lexington, Kentucky, economists and community leaders gathered to talk about the state’s current budget crunch and possible economic future. Peter Hille, president of Mountain Association for Community Economic Development, said Kentucky and other Appalachian states need to do more to build a new economy and move from dependence on a single source.

“Because coal played such a dominant role, it took the oxygen out of the room for the development of other sectors of the economy,” he said.

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.

Elk, Standing Elk
Albert Herring / Wikimedia Commons

Dozens of elk rounded up in grasslands of a northern Arizona wildlife area are waiting to be trucked to a new home in West Virginia.

Sandy Hamilton, Executive Director of the Berkeley County Development Authority.
Liz McCormick / West Virginia Legislative Photography

Berkeley County is one of the fastest growing counties in West Virginia. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 2013 and 2016, the population grew by 4,300 people. It’s also the second most-populated county in the state.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, The Legislature Today host Andrea Lannom speaks with John Deskins, the director of West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, about the state’s economy – the hits it's taken, the challenges still ahead and the investments needed to make desired returns. We have a portion of the that interview, which was taped live from the Capitol on Tuesday evening.

On The Legislature Today, host Andrea Lannom sits down with John Deskins, the Director of West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research to talk about the state’s economy, the hits it's taken, the challenges still ahead, and the investments we need to make for desired returns.

Elk
CommonsHelper2 Bot / Wikimedia Commons

West Virginia's fledgling elk herd will get another boost from a recreation area in Kentucky.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that the Tomblin Wildlife Management Area in Logan and Mingo counties will receive 17 elk from Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky.

Chuck Hampe working on his 64,872nd table base -- his last -- before he retired from Gat Creek after 31 years.
Jean Snedegar

On the campaign trail and in his first State of the State address in February 2017, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice talked about boosting furniture manufacturing in West Virginia. 

One of the most successful furniture manufacturers in the state is in Berkeley Springs.

Still from White House video

Donald Trump loves coal.

He campaigned on a promise to put miners back to work and his first year in office included numerous Ohio Valley visits to highlight coal’s importance.

“I love our coal miners and they’re coming back strong!” Trump said to a roaring crowd at an August rally in Huntington, West Virginia.

West Virginia Lawmakers to Discuss Taxes, New Court

Jan 6, 2018
Capitol
davidwilson1949 / wikimedia Commons

Lawmakers are looking forward to doing work that doesn't involve trying to dig West Virginia out of a deep financial hole, although they're not ready to declare the state's dilemma over.

House Speaker Tim Armstead and Senate President Mitch Carmichael, both Republicans, were upbeat during the annual Legislative Lookahead forum Friday about the potential progress that can be made in the coming months under Gov. Jim Justice. Justice took office last January as a Democrat. He switched to the Republican party in August.

This week on Inside Appalachia: wildlife experts agree the Eastern Mountain Lion is extinct. So why do so many people across Appalachia swear they’ve seen mountain lions? Have they? What did they really see? WMRA’s Andrew Jenner and Brent Finnegan explored the stories behind mountain lion sightings in the mountains of central Appalachia. What they found, made them question the expert opinion.

Updated at 1:26 a.m. ET Wednesday

Republicans in Congress approved a sweeping and controversial $1.5 trillion tax overhaul, with the Senate voting early Wednesday along straight party lines to move the measure forward.

Updated on Dec. 20 at 3:50 p.m. ET

The Republican tax bill, which Congress sent to President Trump on Wednesday, would give most Americans a tax cut next year, according to a new analysis. However, it would by far benefit the richest Americans the most. Meanwhile, many lower- and middle-class Americans would have higher taxes a decade from now ... unless a future Congress extends the cuts.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, coal retirees are joining forces on a bill with teamsters, iron workers and other unions in an effort to shore up ailing pension plans. Democrats want to see retirement benefits included in the omnibus spending bill needed to prevent a government shutdown.

As Becca Schimmel reports, 43,000 retired miners in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia depend on a pension plan that could be at risk without congressional action.

Lumber dries outside the Armstrong Flooring plant in Beverly, W.Va.
Jean Snedegar

In the next part of our occasional series on the timber and forest products industry – from seedlings to final products, we reach our first final product: hardwood flooring. Independent producer Jean Snedegar visited Armstrong Flooring in Beverly, Randolph County, and spoke with plant manager, Blaine Emery.

Opioids, opioid, painkillers, perscription, narcotics, doctors, narcotics
Dollar Photo Club

West Virginia University's chief economist estimates the opioid epidemic has cost the state economy nearly $1 billion from deaths, lost or underperformed jobs and public resources.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On the is West Virginia Morning, more than 1,000 Ohio Valley farmers used a complicated federal visa program to hire about 8,000 foreign workers for seasonal jobs, last year.

Farmers say the visa program is too bureaucratic, and a bill before Congress promises to cut red tape. But as Nicole Erwin of the Ohio Valley ReSource reports, labor advocates say the bill would strip guest workers of many protections in an industry where wage theft is already a problem.

Much of Appalachia’s economy has rested on the boom and bust cycles of industries like coal and manufacturing for decades. It’s true that these industries have long put bread on the Appalachian table, but as those industries have faded in recent decades, jobs have grown scarce. 

So are there industries that might one day provide more financial stability to the region? This week on Inside Appalachia, we learn more about some unexpected and unique ways Appalachians are thinking outside the box to earn money, like growing industrial hemp, installing solar panels and even growing tea.

Op-Ed: Massive Chinese Investment Pledge Could be Game Changer for W.Va. – If it Happens

Nov 20, 2017
U.S. President Donald Trump waves next to Chinese President Xi Jinping after attending a business event at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017.
Andy Wong / Associated Press

President Trump announced during a recent visit to China that state-owned China Energy would invest $83.7 billion in West Virginia over the next 20 years, but will it be good for West Virginia? Yes – if it happens, and if the state doesn’t give away an arm and a leg in subsidies and tax breaks to try to make it happen.

Unemployment Line
Matt Rourke / Associated Press

An annual Eastern Panhandle Economic Outlook conference was held in Martinsburg, showing job growth is steady in the Eastern Panhandle and is expected to grow in the coming years.

Are Black Walnuts Ready to Boom?

Nov 12, 2017
The front door of Gerlach Farm and Feed in Wheelersburg, Ohio advertises the start of the black walnut season. Hulling stations earn a commission of $0.05 per pound of black walnuts hulled, providing a good incentive for them to get the word out in their
Eileen Guo / 100 Days in Appalachia

The first car arrives over two hours before the hulling station officially opens in Jeffersonville, Kentucky. By the time that Renee Zaharie appears and starts the hulling machine, four more vehicles have pulled in and are waiting under the darkening evening sky.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, October was black walnut season in Appalachia. It’s when these green, tennis ball-sized nuts rain onto fields, roads, and sometimes, people. They can be dangerous. And their inky juice stains everything they touch.

But for some Appalachians, As Eileen Guo reports, black walnuts are proof that, sometimes, money does grow on trees.

Adobe Stock images/WVPB grpahic illustration

One of the major developments out of President Trump’s visit to Asia: A deal with China to invest $250 billion in the U.S.  The largest portion of investment comes from the world’s biggest power company, which plans to invest in West Virginia’s natural gas industry.

Charles Town, Jefferson County, Charles Washington Hall, Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit
Liz McCormick / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

During a special session of the West Virginia Legislature in October, lawmakers passed a bill that makes redeveloping historic buildings in the state more viable, financially. The bill had widespread support from both sides of the aisle, but some are concerned it doesn’t go far enough.

Tradition so Rich, so Fragile, so Sweet

Nov 7, 2017
Farmers Donnie Tenney (left) and Charlie Radabaugh inspect sorghum canes at Tenney’s farm in Tallmansville, W. Va. before harvesting and processing into sorghum syrup.
Mike Costello / 100 Days in Appalachia

Gone from most kitchen pantries, sorghum keeps connections strong in some rural communities. Just a few miles down a narrow, winding road from Buckhannon, the seat of Upshur County, West Virginia, a carved wooden sign welcomes visitors to Tallmansville. At first glance, there’s not much to the rural village of around 400 residents, but I’ve spent enough time in these hills to know what little first glance says about a place.

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