Adam Wells, Economic Diversification Campaign Coordinator, 276-679-1691, adam -at- appvoices.org
Cat McCue, Communications Director, 434-293-6373, cat -at- appvoices.org
Wise, Va. — The Wise County Board of Supervisors joined a growing number of Appalachian communities voicing support for the White House’s POWER+ Plan last night in a unanimous vote supporting the federal proposal, which would steer billions of dollars for economic development and diversification to Appalachia’s coal-impacted communities, including those in Southwest Virginia.
Citing the “dramatic economic transition [from] the decline in the coal industry,” the resolution passed by the board notes that the POWER+ Plan could “reactivate idle equipment and put laid-off miners and other local residents to work reclaiming abandoned mine lands.”
The resolution is the latest in a rising tide of support from local communities calling on Congress to advance the POWER+ Plan during the federal budget process. In Kentucky, the City Council of Benham, in Harlan County, also passed a supporting resolution last night. On July 23, the Norton, Va., City Council became the first in the nation to pass a resolution in favor of the plan. The City of Whitesburg, Ky., passed a similar resolution on August 11, as did the Cumberland Plateau Planning District Commission, in Virginia, on July 30.
The POWER+ Plan creates new funding and bolsters existing federal programs designed to diversify the economy in areas that have relied heavily on coal and are experiencing job losses as a result of contractions in the coal economy in recent years.
Citizen groups across Appalachia are promoting the plan, which is currently the most comprehensive proposal to support much-needed economic development in the region.
“It’s heartening to see the growing number of localities taking a positive stance on the very urgent issue of economic diversification in Central Appalachia,” said Adam Wells of Appalachian Voices, who worked with Wise County officials on the resolution.
“By passing this resolution, the Wise County Board of Supervisors is sending a clear message that the time for economic diversification is now and that federal assistance is key for a just and sustainable transition in the wake of the declining coal economy,” he said.
Several residents of Wise County were at the meeting and spoke in support of the resolution. One person cited family members who have recently been laid off from mining jobs who would benefit from the passage of the POWER+ Plan. Others expressed their hopes of developing more of a tourism-based economy in the region through the funding that would go to the Appalachian Regional Commission. And one speaker underscored the need to support retired miners through a POWER+ Plan provision to ensure the solvency of the United Mine Workers’ health and pension plans.
“We’re behind you 100 percent on this,” board member Ron Shortt said in response to comments from local residents. “We realize how important it is to Southwest Virginia and Wise County.”