Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Enterprise Zones: The Sequel

Job Aid Zones Face a New Test in Coal Country. (The New York Times, 1/27/2014)

Trying to reverse decades of declineNobody doubts that this hilly and remote stretch of Appalachia could use the help. The local unemployment rate is 12.8 percent. Drug abuse is rampant. The poverty rate is nearly 26 percent.

But experts are broadly skeptical that any federal initiative would be enough to combat either the immediate economic upheaval caused by the loss of coal jobs or the long-term economic torpor that is a product of remoteness, poor infrastructure and an undereducated work force.

From "A Brief History" (of Hazard and Perry County, Kentucky).  In these heydays hundreds of coal mines were opened and work was abundant. Men were paid salaries never heard of in the mountains prior to the arrival of the railroad. Also for the first time people in the mountains were being exposed to other cultures as foreign nationals came into this prosperous area to work and start businesses. Prior to this time virtually the entire population was made up of descendants of pioneers who came over the mountains from Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina to scratch out a lonely existence in the wilderness.

After the stock market crashed and the depression set in, however, the glory days ended. Some coal miners were paid as low as $2.00 a day for 14 hours of work. The local economy was at its lowest level since before the railroad came. Coal was being sold in some cases for as little as 73 cents a ton. During this grim period mine and business failures were at an all-time high

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