Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Entrepreneurship is key to revitalizing Central Appalachian coalfield, say some leaders

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Some residents in coal-depleted counties in Eastern Kentucky say the key to boosting the local economy is entrepreneurship, Jim Zarroli reports for NPR. Eastern Kentucky has fewer than 4,000 coal mining jobs, down from nearly 14,000 in 2011, according to the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.

While some hope that coal makes a comeback, economists say that's unlikely. Many locals believe enticing manufacturing jobs to the region is the way to keep large masses of people from moving away to find work elsewhere, Zarroli reports. Not Joel Brashear, community outreach officer at Hyden Citizens Bank in remote Leslie County. He says the answer to the area's troubles is "to encourage entrepreneurialism, by showing people how to start businesses that will be more likely to stay in the area." Brashear told Zarroli, "I don't know for sure if coal will ever come back. Everybody hopes that it does. But we have to find other opportunities and other places for employment, and if we don't we're going to have some serious issues."

Steps already have been made to teach former coal miners new careers. There's been an effort to teach displaced coal miners computer coding. Other ideas include farming and the growing teleworks field. Also, many young people have begun returning home to start small businesses. Also, local colleges and employment agencies have made efforts to create programs designed for former coal miners looking for new careers. A state plan, Kentucky Wired, is focusing on bringing broadband to underserved areas, with a concentrated effort on Eastern Kentucky.

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