We Have Popcorn, But No Jobs Economic Development Defined Down

Bob Kelly
Political Editor

Friday September 6, 2002


With new jobs as hard to come by as trauma doctors at CAMC, Appalachian warlords keep trying to delude the masses into thinking that education is economic development.

But that's not all. News releases from the West Virginia Development Office since June 1 reveal that economic development has been defined down even further.

Development Director David Satterfield's minions appear to have been thinking so far outside the box that Pluto is closer -- so far, in fact, that economic development can now be anything from a popcorn machine to a garage door.

The agency has issued 66 releases to the press in the last three months. A few deal with actual advancements on the job front, though expansions have not offset job losses.

The rest of the releases were nothing more than smiley-face notes about political grants-giving masquerading as economic development.

All 66 blurbs began with the three most important words in a government developmeister's vocabulary: "Gov. Bob Wise . . ."

As in this one from June 14: "Gov. Bob Wise today awarded a $500 Community Partnership grant to the Calhoun County Commission.

"Funds will be used to enable the Upper West Fork Volunteer Fire Department to purchase a grill, popcorn machine and other equipment for the department's bluegrass festival."

The release went on to note that the development office administers the grant program, which "supports community enrichment projects that provide a better living environment or expand economic development opportunities."

Better living environment? At this rate, West Virginians pretty soon will be funding checkerboards and liters of RC.

Another "local economic development assistance grant" for $100,000 will facilitate locker room and athletic field upgrades in Hamlin, where booster club hot dog revenue must be down.

Economic development pros-pects in Nicholas County, at least in the area served by the Hookersville Muddlety Fire Department, have brightened considerably, thanks to $18,000 that will enable members to pave the driveway and hang three garage doors at the fire hall.

Economic expansion in Boone County comes in the form of a new P.A. system, storage cart and playground equipment for the Spruce River Community Center. One cannot know how this $15,000 expenditure might bear on decisions of corporate titans scouting around for a plant site.

The Davy Volunteer Fire Department will receive $3,000 to buy three fire hose nozzles. Iaeger has been enriched to the tune of $2,000 for improvements to the Little League field. Let it be known here and now. McDowell County is open for business.

Spencer is open even wider, with a new police cruiser made possible by a $20,000 gift from Wise and the development office.

The Mon Valley Voice, described as a "community-based journalism project" in Rivesville, has received $4,000 in local "economic development" assistance. The least the Voice could do is run the development office's news releases.

Little Craigsville in Nicholas County is to be eminently more developable with $2,000 worth of new streetlights.

The Logan County Board of Education picked up $25,000 for community playground improvements, including spruced-up horseshoe pitching areas. Quality of life cannot be underestimated as a jobs magnet.

Wheeling got $20,000 for a fireworks show and fire department equipment. This is what state development specialists call synergy.

How pathetic.

Political empire-building is being billed as economic development activity in West Virginia.

The people never catch on. If their leaders didn't tax them to death, West Virginians could buy their own streetlights and fireworks and garage doors.

Instead, they passively send all their money to Charleston, and count themselves blessed when a politician returns some chump change with his name attached to the gift.

This is political development, which is among the reasons why there's hardly any economic development.

No wonder West Virginians are on the short list to star in the new Beverly Hillbillies show. Don't blame CBS. We've got it coming.

Hur Herald from Sunny Cal
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