West Virginia

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!



My Novels, West Virginia

The End of a Series

Readers who loved May Rose’s story will be happy to discover her new adventures in the final story of the Mountain Women Series. It’s Midwinter Sun: A Love Story. The characters are older (and wiser, a condition which always happens, we hope). They’ve returned to Winkler, West Virginia, where everything has changed.Midwinter-Sun.300x450

I’ll put a sample chapter on this site soon. The print version should be available later next week.

Meanwhile, you should be able to sample chapters on Amazon.

Thanks for taking a look. 🙂

Charles Dickens, Government Regulations, Jobs and the environment, Natural Resources, The Girl on the Mountain, West Virginia

When all the trees were taken

In The Girl in the Mountain, an old settler complains that creation is being destroyed to make toothpicks and clothespins. Another character says of the pollution from the local tannery, “we all need shoe leather, don’t we?” Meanwhile the manager of the story’s lumber company takes pride in the jobs created and families supported by his industry.

Some of the world’s greatest dilemmas are created by people’s need to survive versus the corruption of natural resources. These problems are not always appreciated by those who have never worried about basic needs. It’s also true that industries prefer to conduct their business without government regulation.

In the linked video, you see the deforestation of West Virginia in the early 19th century, setting of The Girl on the Mountain. At the time of the story, there was little protection for workers or the environment. There was no compensation for injured workers, and only charity for the families of those who were killed.

Unlike some natural resources, the forest is renewable, though for years the effects of over-logging were devastating.

A hundred years later, West Virginia is green and its forest a well-managed resource. I read and hear complaints about too much government, too many regulations. Individuals as well as corporations talk like they should not be hindered in any way.

I want protection for workers in dangerous occupations. I want food safety, air quality standards, water protection. I don’t want the land to be destroyed. I also want sustainable employment for people all over the world. All these wants aren’t always compatible. If air quality standards destroy the coal industry, the damage to coal states could last as long as the effects of deforestation.

The news media is quick to report mistakes of government agencies, but seldom the everyday good things they do to protect our safety and our environment. Our state and federal governments aren’t perfect, but I’m glad we have them. I suspect our congressional representatives have good intentions, though sometimes I wonder how smart they are. But they’re only human. They’re all much wealthier than most of us, so don’t expect them to understand the problems of the average guy. I’ll bet even they wonder at times if they work in the “Office of Circumlocution” (that wonderful invention of Charles Dickens in Little Dorrit).

The logging industry is not a villain in The Girl on the Mountain. Its practices must have seemed acceptable or unavoidable at the time.

If you have a gut feeling that a generally-accepted practice is wrong, it well may be.

Do click the link above and look at the video from the WV Department of Culture and History. (I’m not referring to the ad below. :))