The intersection of past and present:

West Virginia ghost towns: what to do when the company leaves the company town

I liked the article linked below because I live in a rural West Virginia county that has seen every economic indicator go down with the decline of coal operations.

As writer Shay Maunz points out, we can’t attract shiny new businesses to these sparsely populated, remote areas. Maunz says, “The answer, then, might just be to invest in local entrepreneurs and small businesses.” Like this is a new idea. Every county in the state has an economic development office with ties to the state office, and all have been trying to do that for ages.

Success here requires more than someone with an idea and ambition. It requires more than studies and plans. I think it requires something like a franchise–a spin-off from an established manufacturer, for example.

It might not be a crazy idea. Surely there are companies that could survive without shipping all their work offshore, companies that could earn tax credits or other benefits by locating and mentoring an offshoot (say a shop of 10-20 employees) for specialized work in a depressed rural area. It could happen, but probably not voluntarily. That means it would need an incentive, a requirement or reward.

Companies that know their product and are good competitors could help the economy of rural areas (and their own companies in the process) by fostering small versions of themselves in rural areas. Call them farm teams or franchises, but furnish them with orders and start-up help.

Our economic developers are always on the lookout for businesses that want to expand in a new area. My idea is smaller, and it may not be new. It would enable the business (with some kind of tax relief or other compensation) to foster and mentor small expansions in these regions. I mean, if companies send their dollars off shore to avoid taxes, maybe they could achieve the same effect by investing in their own country. Sounds like sharing to me. Could that happen?

What do you think?

See Shay Maunz’s article, if for nothing else, the photos!


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