As I scanned through our internal online archives, I found the headlines to be both alarming and depressing. I was looking for story ideas, and subsequently found myself perusing through several years of older articles.
These older articles told the story of a region fighting for survival against an administration in Washington that was causing great harm to the greater Appalachia region.
Headline after headline documented this frustrating struggle, and the outrage associated with the onslaught that was more commonly known as Washington’s War on Coal.
These articles also told a story that was largely absent from the national news media during the eight long years of the Obama administration.
To the rest of the nation, those of us living in coal country were viewed as outcasts. Folks who were stubbornly reluctant to follow the national narrative, and to openly embrace wind and solar energy at the expense of thousands of good-paying jobs here in the greater Appalachia region.
At the time many of these articles were written, hope was in short supply. It appeared at the time that Republicans across the nation had made a huge mistake in nominating a billionaire reality television star for the all-important White House race.
It seemed almost certain during those challenging days that a continuation of the Obama administration, and the anti-coal, anti-fossil fuel policies, would continue for at least another four years under yet another Democratic president.
Oh how wrong we were.
Looking back now it is almost easy to forget how difficult and frustrating things were here in the coalfields during those past eight years.
Say what you may about President Donald Trump, but his election — and his support of coal — has helped the region. We now have hope in southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. But we won’t bounce back overnight. It will take time. And a lot of patience.
Yes, we are mining coal again. Yes, more coal cars are moving through Bluefield. No — under no circumstances — can we pin all of our hope on coal again. We must instead continue to diversify our regional economy.
Projects like the Hatfield-McCoy Trail, Spearhead Trail and the Back of the Dragon are great starting points when it comes to economic diversification. But additional projects and efforts will be needed. The region’s elected leaders must be proactive.
Still at the same time, any and all new coal mining jobs that are created in the region will help our economy. It all comes down to hope. Hope is something that was in short supply during that long eight-year period of upheaval here in the coalfields. Now we do, and a positive attitude can go a long ways in helping our region.
It is worth noting that the headlines are now more encouraging. Suddenly the future looks a little brighter. The dark days chronicled in those earlier articles are over. With hope, new economic development and growth will continue in the region.
See the article here.