A few days ago I wrote a piece about the future of coal in WV and mentioned the community of Welch, WV, the county seat of McDowell County. I know just a little about Welch because of once having some amateur radio friends in the area and by selling the local school system a bunch of computers back in the early 1990s.
The assistant superintendent of schools told me that Welch was one of the most economically depressed areas of WV and a large percentage of the residents were on some sort of welfare or relief. There was so much welfare money coming into the county that K-Mart built a brand new store on the edge of town to keep the money from going to Walmart in neighboring Bluefield and Princeton.
On one of my journeys south in the later 90s I stopped at that store to make a purchase. If poverty has a face it could be seen among the employees and customers at K-Mart.
After seeing the CBS program on McDowell County I got to wondering about the K-Mart store. A few minutes on Google told me the store no longer exists and the nearest one is now several miles away in Princeton. Matter of fact, back around 2005 Walmart came to Welch and opened a new store., which I’m guessing spelled doom for K-Mart.
In the last ten years Welch has seen thirteen mines shut down and hundreds of mining jobs disappear. As of February, 2016 it has also seen Walmart shutter its windows, exit stage right, and cost the community another one hundred and forty jobs.
I don’t have an answer for places like Welch but I’m pretty sure coal is never coming back. I can also understand why so many people are desperate enough to hang their futures on someone like Donald Trump.