These are uncertain times in the coalfields of West Virginia. We’re seeing neighbors lose their good paying coal jobs, which is hurting local families, which in turn is leading to a number of other social problems, not the least of which is drug-abuse and related crime.
West Virginia’s leaders are wondering, “What are we going to do? We’ve got to do something, but what?”
Traditionally, we have waited. We’ve hoped that after the painful bust another prosperous boom will return.
But something feels different this time. Sure, coal will remain in the energy “mix” for decades to come, but probably not on a scale nearly as grand as before. Waiting is not a wise strategy…
A few weeks ago I attended a meeting in Fayette County of West Virginians working on community and economic development, and officials from a number of federal economic development and energy agencies.
We came together to learn more about the federal government’s POWER Initiative, which is a coordinated program of funding opportunities rolling out over the next few years for communities impacted by the decline of the coal industry.
It is money that could be used to help our state develop new businesses and create new economic opportunities that will employ West Virginians and diversify the state’s economic base. It is money that, if we are strategic, will unlock private investment in new industries here in West Virginia.
Here’s the catch. We will be competing against at least 14 other states for a share of this money. They are not just the states that have coal mines, but also those that process and ship coal — anywhere businesses are being impacted by the decline of the coal industry.
There is a lot at stake. This is funding that will help us build new employment opportunities from the ground up, and that will support the hardworking and innovative businesses already trying to grow something great in West Virginia…
If you’re interested in joining a growing coalition of businesses, community leaders and local organizations working right now to take control of West Virginia’s future, visit wvhub.org/POWER.