|By Bob Weaver (Part two)|
The economy will be driven by external jobs 50-75 miles from the
county, and high energy prices will become insult to injury
where workers must drive long distances. The welfare-to-work program
will fail locally- no jobs. Despite Calhoun exporting its
treasured natural gas to America for a century, many will be unable to
pay their natural gas bills. The "welfare" worker will be
forced to move to urban areas. Infrastructure, unless there is a
definitive government program toward rural development, will
be lacking spurring economic development. Calhoun will continue to
become a bedroom and retirement community.
The promise of high-tech infrastructure ("Location of computer
technology jobs works just a well in rural areas.") will lag
behind the rest of America, not unlike access roads. If the feds
decide to seriously focus on underdeveloped areas like
Appalachia, the construction of the L-K Parkway is not likely in the
next twenty-five years, although sections of Route 5 and
Route 16 could be straightened and widened.
The competition for local job opportunities will remain severe. Nearly
half of West Virginia's counties are still sliding and are
near the statistical basement in income. West Virginia government
continues to deny the critical nature of the problem.
However, it is likely Calhoun could get lucky with a few small job
producing businesses locating in the area. New oil and gas
development will improve the tax base and provide some temporary local
jobs and locally produced "home craft" businesses
will proliferate. There will be some efforts on using local timber to
build furniture, which could create some jobs.
The collision course of health care in America, costs continuing to
rise 15% in non inflation years, will cause local services to be
less available. The un-insured, with its cost shifting mechanism, will
be a major problem causing rural health services to become
triage outposts. Calhoun's severely aging population will be a
challenge to the delivery of services. Rural America will have to
fight to maintain local services.
The national health system, driven by insurance companies which deny
(manage) care, could collapse and be replaced after
continued public outrage. Individuals, companies and small businesses
will no longer be able to help pay insurance premiums
creating 60 million people without coverage (currently 45 million).
The basic issue: Is health care a right or a privilege?
One-third of Calhoun's children are living in poverty and the county
continues to have among the highest unemployment figures
(un-insured) in America. Without intervention, they will have limited
access to broad based health care.
A private, independent study of West Virginia's economic picture
funded by the West Virginia Community and Economic
Development Council says the state's economic structure is not
improving, despite political claims. West Virginia is deeply
rooted in an old economic structure which makes it difficult to
attract quality economic development from prosperous
neighboring states. Government has focused on "protecting" the energy
industries that are expendable and fading. Government
taxation and regulations discourage private enterprise.
The privately funded study showed not one county had a per capita
income above the national average, but the gap is
widening, particularly in 26 of the counties. The new study also
looked at old studies going back 30 years. "There are a lots of
people with limited expectations," said Mac Holladay, president of
Market Street Services. When it comes to change, West
Virginians are their own worst enemy, particularly in holding their
state government accountable.
Holladay said "The proof will be if the prescriptions are acted upon
by the West Virginia Legislature and the Charleston
administration. Unless there is action taken from it (private study),
it will be just another document sitting on the shelf." The
government bureaucrats have often been unable to go beyond their own
jobs and maintaining political control. Government
control has been maintained by low voter turnout and politicians
handing out cookies and making pipe dream promises. While
this is generally true of government, in West Virginia the movement
away from this "old system" is slow and stagnating.
Other quality of life issues will still attract people from urban
areas to country life in Calhoun County. Those of us still holding
close to the sod will treasure the hills of our origin - a sense of
place. A cultural diversity will bring more people together to
form community and maintain rural lifestyles. The skills, talents,
knowledge and concerns of people living in Calhoun will
continue to improve. The community will become more assertive in
protecting the lifestyle and Sunny Cal, despite its economic
situation, will continue to be a desirous place to live - "almost
heaven," if you can make a living. - Bob Weaver, Editor of The
Hur Herald 2001