economy

Roxy Todd

“I’d love to be able to stay here,” said 32-year-old West Virginian Mark Combs. “The people are great. But it’s just dying. If you want to succeed you’ve gotta leave.”

Mark is an actor and an Iraqi war veteran. He thinks there has to be a better life, or at least better economic opportunities, elsewhere. He decided to head west for Los Angeles.

“I think the job market is so much larger out there than what it is here that jobs are going to be really easy to come by,” he said before he set out.

Despite America's rapt attention on former FBI Director James Comey's testimony, the White House has been observing Infrastructure Week. Infrastructure is one of the only policy areas that could have crossover appeal, but there has been little real movement so far on getting something through Congress.

Ohio Valley ReSource

With a speech planned for Cincinnati’s Ohio River waterfront, President Donald Trump has chosen a fitting venue to talk about infrastructure improvements. The Ohio Valley is home to aging highways, bridges, and dams, poor drinking water systems, and weak internet service for many rural residents.

A report from the American Society of Civil Engineers found that Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia need billions of dollars for improvements to drinking and wastewater systems and have more than 700 dams considered “high hazards.”   


Malcolm Wilson

Nearly half of the people living in rural parts of United States don’t have access to broadband internet, the high speed connection required for common uses many of us take for granted. Government and survey data show that in 65 counties across Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia, the majority of residents don’t have access to broadband--that’s one-quarter of all the counties in the three states. 

With the internet continuing to grow in importance for school, work, and for everyday life, many disconnected rural communities see their lack of internet access as an existential threat. Some communities hope that by banding together, communities can find ways to bring fast internet to places it’s never been.

Becca Schimmel

A Kentucky economist said the state isn’t seeing the kind of employment growth it needs to make up for recession-era job losses.

 

The national unemployment rate fell one-tenth of a percentage point in May compared to April. Jason Bailey, with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, said rural parts of the commonwealth are still struggling. He cited a loss in coal mining and manufacturing jobs over several years.

Bailey said the celebration of small improvements misrepresents the reality of Kentucky’s employment picture.

GE Lighting

The General Electric glass plant in Somerset is beginning a phase-out of operations this month. The plant employs 71 people, and will close August 11.

A G.E. plant in Lexington that employs 139 people will also close on the same day. The lighting industry has seen a decline in sales for incandescent, halogen, and specialty linear fluorescent lamps. The Somerset facility makes halogen lamps, and the Commonwealth Journal reports the plant is operating at 70 percent below capacity.

Alexandra Kanik

McKenzie Cantrell is an employment lawyer affiliated with the Maxwell Street Legal Clinic, in Lexington, Kentucky, where she works with low-income refugees and immigrants to uncover instances of wage theft and income disparities. Cantrell, who is also a state representative for part of Jefferson County, Kentucky, travels and gives presentations about employment law, wage theft and what workers' options are if they have problems with compensation.

“Sometimes you can just see on someone’s face, the fact that they have lost money over the course of their career, and it really affects you as someone who doesn’t want to see working people lose money and struggle in a low-income job,” Cantrell said.

Many of Cantrell’s clients work in the service and construction sectors, and many are women and minorities.

Becca Schimmel

Temporary work is the fastest growing industry in Kentucky. Clerical work may come to mind when you think about temporary agencies, but that’s a bit of a misnomer these days. An increasing number of manufacturing positions are being filled by temporary agencies.

At Quality Personnel in Bowling Green, a marquee advertises the most recent job openings. One of those is for an automotive supplier, just what Aaron Rinehart is seeking. When he moved from Ohio to Kentucky, he said that he used the same agency to find work. Rinehart said he understands why most factories only hire through temp agencies, but he feels it still hurts the people who want full-time work.

“Not much of a choice really. It’s hard to get on anywhere full time now a days, companies don’t wanna just hire people through the door. So the only way to get on now a days is to go through a temp agency, and put your 90 days of work in, and basically just hope you get hired on after that,” Rinehart said.


Courtesy Mountain Comprehensive Care

Mike Caudill runs Mountain Comprehensive Care Corporation in five eastern Kentucky counties. Many of his 30,000 patients gained insurance through Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. No one knows if or when those folks might lose coverage. But, Caudill said, the impact could be considerable.

“I don’t want to be a Chicken Little that the sky is falling. On the other hand, neither do I want to stick my head in the sand,” he said. “A lot of it is the unknown. We don’t know what is going to happen.”

Caudill runs federally qualified health centers, providing primary and preventive care such as doctor’s visits and vaccinations. They also support community programs including a day care and a service providing fresh fruits and vegetables to 700 people who are chronically ill. If there are significant changes in his revenue because of a repeal of the ACA, Caudill said, those programs that improve the quality of life in the community would be the first to go.

International Brotherhood of Teamsters

The Ohio Valley region once helped give rise to the labor movement. Now it’s shifting toward what’s known as right to work. West Virginia and Kentucky have passed right to work laws, and Ohio is considering a similar bill. One of the big selling points for right to work proponents is that the law can attract new businesses. Opponents argue that potential comes at too high a cost to workers.  

Mike Mullis is a site selection consultant who has spent 25 years helping global corporations, such as Toyota, pick the places where they will build major projects. He said some companies – particularly in manufacturing – will perk up when they hear the words “right to work.” However, that doesn’t mean businesses will come flocking to a state.


Roxanne Scott | wfpl.org

In the fundraising world, the future is in fact, female.

About 80 percent of workers in the field are women. As philanthropy is projected to slightly increase in 2017 and 2018, women are in the foreground of the donation business.

“It’s an area of great attraction to women,” said Penelope Burk, president of Cygnus Research. “There’s a lot of relationship building and dealing directly with people, and that attracts a lot of women into the field.”

Burk conducts research on donors and philanthropy. She was in Louisville recently to present at Donor-Centered Fundraising, an event by the Center For Nonprofit Excellence.

Becca Schimmel

Tens of thousands of retired coal miners and their families in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia face another deadline on expiring healthcare benefits and pensions. A temporary extension Congress funded late last year expires in April.

 

A regional Senate Republican and Democrat have offered competing bills to address the issue. The two measures differ sharply in the support offered for miners’ benefits and in the strings that would be attached to the funding.

 

West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin has reintroduced the Miners Protection Act with bipartisan support. The bill, which would include protections for health benefits and pensions for miners, was approved by the Senate Finance Committee last year but did not get a full floor vote before the end of the session.


West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The billionaire Wilbur Ross is headed for Senate confirmation hearings as President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for secretary of the Department of Commerce. Ross made it to ultra-rich status in part by salvaging coal and steel assets in Appalachia and the Rust Belt.

His business dealings leave a mixed legacy in the Ohio Valley region, from rescued steel mills to the site of a searing workplace disaster, and raise questions about the leadership he would bring to the president’s cabinet.

Erica Peterson

Residents of Kentucky’s coal counties are holding out hope that next year will bring the passage of the RECLAIM Act — legislation meant to free a billion dollars from the federal Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund to help spur economic development in communities hurting from the downturn in the coal industry.

The original RECLAIM Act was introduced in February by Kentucky Congressman Hal Rogers and 27 other representatives. But despite its bipartisan support, the bill never moved out of committee. Now, another version has been introduced in the Senate.

Report: Kentucky Has Room To Grow In STEM Jobs

Dec 15, 2016
Becca Schimmel | Ohio Valley ReSource

Technology and innovation are buzzy terms often associated with places like Silicon Valley, Austin and the East Coast. But a report from the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation wants to break that perception.

The D.C.-based nonpartisan think tank calls the report “High-Tech Nation.” It was released last month from data compiled at the beginning of the summer of 2016. Data come from sources such as the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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