Make This Region's Changing Dependency on Coal Thrive Even More
Ever since the decline in coal production beginning in the 1950s, Southern West Virginia has struggled to revitalize its economy to provide comparably high-wage jobs. As a result, the poverty rate has increased to over 19.1 percent, making West Virginia one of the poorest states in the United States. Jobs in low-wage industries have increased by 15% since 2001 while high-wage jobs have declined. Family generations are afflicted by rising unemployment, opioid addiction, and dwindling population.
Appalachia's economy has no reason to give up(!) thanks to local innovative organizations like Coalfield Development. Coalfield Development created a different social enterprise approach to break this cycle of intergenerational poverty in southern West Virginia. Starting in Wayne County in 2009, they introduced their "33-6-3 model"—which delivers 33 hours of paid labor, 6 hours of higher education class time, and 3 hours of life skills mentorship to unemployed and underemployed people—a proven model for community revitalization. Coalfield offers positions in a diversified economy including the industries of real estate development, construction, mine-land reclamation, woodworking, agriculture, and artisan trades.
Coalfield Development's progress is substantial. The organization created seven social enterprises and 26 new businesses, provided over 110 new jobs, and facilitated 350+ professional certifications for formerly unemployed people.
A solid 83 percent of participants complete the program, which involves doing paid work such as revitalizing over 175,000 square feet of abandoned property and going on to gain full-time employment.
Finally, Coalfield Development has attracted $12,000,000+ of fresh investment to rebuild southern West Virginia's local economy for today's families and tomorrow's children.