How to Save Coal Country

Dwyer Gunn: “…while the surprising outcome of the election may extend the lifespan of the coal industry by a few more years, many in the region are now convinced that the future of Appalachia doesn’t lie in the coal fields, which are facing economic challenges that have nothing to do with the current occupant of the White House, or in the factories, which these days rely more on machines than people. Instead, policy experts and community leaders are fashioning a new economic development strategy for their communities—one that borrows more from liberal theories of urban revitalization than from Trump’s pledges to bring back lost manufacturing and mining jobs.”

“In Southwest Virginia, for example, community leaders have been working since 2004 on a plan to rebrand the region as a cultural destination, complete with a booming tourism industry, and a cyber-security hub, offering the kinds of jobs more often associated with Silicon Valley than rural Appalachia. ‘We do not want to get into the same situation where we have an economy that’s dependent on one dominant industry,’ says Shannon Blevins, associate vice chancellor at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, who leads the school’s economic outreach efforts. ‘We want to make sure we have a diversified economy.'”

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