A Better Vision for the Valley
In 2019, Concerned Ohio River Residents cohosted a conference to begin envisioning what a future for the Ohio Valley would look like if it were not tied to the boom/bust industries of fossil fuel extraction and associated downstream users such as petrochemical manufacturing. We know that the coal industry is dwindling in the Valley, and now workers are concerned about their benefits and pensions as some companies go bankrupt. At the same time, the fracking industry boom is turning into yet another bust as many companies have been operating off of cheap debt and higher oil prices, which may be a thing of the past. Many of the jobs in the fracking industry went to workers from out-of-state who followed the industry, like the pipelines builders and the construction jobs that went away after the projects were completed. We are willing to work hard and deserve a better future, and we are going to have to go after it ourselves.
From that first conference, efforts have continued. We have joined a region-wide initiative, Re-Imagine Appalachia, working with other states who have been at a long-time disadvantage because of the “resource curse,” that invites outside profiteers, many of them overseas multi-national investors, to eye our water, soil and workforce as a way to make profits for themselves while leaving the pollution for us. We continue to invite our local elected officials, faith leaders, community volunteers and local residents to join us to visualize solutions that we want for our future economy, not what someone else wants for their benefit that will leave us poorer and sicker in the long-run.
There are growth industries of the future such as sustainable agriculture, infrastructure improvements, energy efficiency jobs, grid modernization, broadband deployment, renewable energy, battery storage, additive manufacturing, recreation and tourism, electric vehicles, small business development and much more - things that we want to attract so our children will want to live and work in the region. We do not want to have to leave our homes and neighbors for better opportunities – we can bring those opportunities here. The 100 best jobs do not include fossil fuel extraction or petrochemicals. Even without the necessity to move in a different direction because of climate change, the future holds great promise for change.