Southwest VA’s Economic Transition
I have only lived in Southwest Virginia since May 2019. In that time, I have come to love this place and its people. I have also been heartbroken by the amount of poverty, lack of infrastructure, broadband access and economic opportunities for this region. It feels like we are the forgotten area of the state. I have heard concerns from parents about their children leaving the region upon graduation from high school or college due to the lack of professional opportunities. I have volunteered at local non-profits and witnessed the long lines of people who are in need of food and personal supplies due to lack of employment opportunities. I have held conversations with my sisters in my sorority for education professionals as they have talked about youth who desire to draw a check for their living, as they are products of generational poverty.
Having moved here from the Chattanooga, TN area, it is hard to understand how a region has for so long relied on only one major source of economic development. It is hard to watch how challenging it has been for people to realize the coal is on the decline, and that it will not be returning to that level. Assistance in helping our community leaders find new sources of economic growth and development is vital. Holding mine owners accountable for providing economic support to help the communities reclaim and repurpose the mines that they have raped and left abandoned is an essential part of the process that is needed. It is also critical that mine owners are held accountable for continuing to provide health care to former miners who suffered health issues as a result of working in the mines.
Working with local officials to help them develop policies and strategies that will help this region attract and retain new clean industries is another important step. Given the remote location, it is so important resources be provided to enhance the infrastructure and help address the housing needs of our communities. There are quality educational institutions that can provide education and training that new industries will require. It is time to show this region that we are not the forgotten part of the state. Thank you for the opportunity to express my thoughts.