While the coming year looks to be lean, officials believe the economy in Wyoming County will improve by the beginning of 2016.
As the coal industry declines, officials are looking to diversify the economy while continuing to provide public services with fewer tax dollars.
“It’s difficult to predict the future without looking to the past,” emphasized Wyoming County Commissioner Silas Mullins.
“Coal and other extractable resources have been the catalyst for economic growth in Wyoming County for decades and, as we go forward in 2015, coal is under severe scrutiny and its demise has been highly predicted.
“We, in county government, can no longer look to coal as our main source of revenue, but we must continually look for new sources of revenue.
“Our working citizens deserve an opportunity to find employment here at home,” Mullins said. “We will continue to explore all avenues for jobs for the future of Wyoming County.”
“Coal has always run in cycles, ‘Boom or Bust!’ I believe the leaders of the coal industry must insist on burning coal cleanly and implement clean coal technology,” added Frank Blackwell, county schools superintendent. “In doing so, coal will recover and ‘boom’ again.”
Blackwell also believes diversifying is the responsible economic move for the county.
“Our schools train many students for careers for our job market and attendance to the many institutions of higher learning.
“We stand ready to offer any kind of job training for current and new employers,” he said.
“Some moves into diversifying our economy are just being started,” noted David “Bugs” Stover, circuit clerk. “The MOC, in Mullens, and WVU Extension are looking into ‘high tunnel’ food production – which may well lead to some jobs in agriculture.
“Oceana and the Hatfield and McCoy Trail System will hookup sometime this year, or early next, and will create some jobs there.
“Twin Falls (Resort State Park) is having a good year and will continue to be a positive influence on the area’s economy,” Stover emphasized.
“2015 is a year to hold on for times which will begin to improve late in the year,” Stover said.
“We pray that the economy stabilizes and starts a comeback, but the coal industry isn’t looking like it will be making any positive changes in the near future,” noted Christy Laxton, Wyoming County Economic Development Authority director.
“What businesses have held on this long will hopefully be able to survive, but only time will tell,” Laxton said. “If those businesses survive 2015, I feel that there could be a comeback, from what we are hearing from the mining industry representatives.
“I feel that coal will have to make a comeback,” Laxton added. “It seems inevitable that coal is still a needed natural resource worldwide. It is not something that will be able to go away quickly – although we have heard from many people that have been in the coal industry for a long time that this is the worst that it has ever been.”
“As a county commissioner, we must look at the economic picture and make good economic decisions based on what we currently see,” Mullins said.
“We must prepare the county for the worst, and hope and pray for the best. A prepared county is one that can survive the tough economic times.
At the present, Wyoming County is solid financially, but we must proceed with caution to remain financially sound in the years to come,” Mullins emphasized.