Connecting Coal-Impacted Communities

I’ve been an economic development consultant for many years, and over the course of my career, some of the most important, interesting and impactful projects I’ve supported have been with coal-impacted regions seeking to diversify their economies after the closing of local mines or power plants.  Thus, I’m extremely excited and honored to be supporting the Building Resilient Economies in Coal Communities (BRECC) Initiative.  This effort, funded by the US Economic Development Administration, is led the National Association of Counties, with additional support from Community Builders and the West Virginia Community Development Hub.  

Last week, BRECC made several major announcements.  We unveiled the BRECC Commitment Coalition, a group of 20 coal region leaders from around the US.  This peer network is designed to help them share ideas and learn from each other and other global experts.  In addition, we also announced 8 new members of the BRECC Action Challenge. These regions, listed below, will also participate in peer learning/networking, and also receive extensive technical assistance from the BRECC team and other experts.  The Challenge Communities are: 

  • Cumberland Plateau Planning District Commission, Va.: In southwestern Virginia, the Cumberland Plateau Planning District Commission is a regional Economic Development District serving the counties of Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell and Tazewell. With a regional approach, this team seeks to grow economic resilience through entrepreneurship and business development strategies.
  • City of Richwood, Nicolas County, W.Va.: In central West Virginia, the City of Richwood is experiencing population loss tied to the decline of the local coal industry. Building on natural assets, this team looks to expand its outdoor recreation economy with a special focus on a local trail network.
  • Counties of Apache, Coconino and Navajo, Ariz.: In Northern Arizona, the counties of Apache, Coconino and Navajo face the closure and decommissioning of several coal-fired power plants. Collaborating across county borders, this team will coordinate planning to create a complimentary, shared strategy for economic diversification.
  • Floyd County, Ky.: In eastern Kentucky, Floyd County has seen a decline in coal production over the past three decades and recent flooding has exacerbated economic hardships. Led by a newly created long-term recovery group, this team will pursue opportunities in outdoor and cultural tourism as well as residential attraction.
  • Pike County, Ind.: In southwestern Indiana, Pike County’s employment and tax base are closely tied to a coal-fired power plant slated to be decommissioned. This team will create a local strategy around business attraction and workforce retention goals.
  • Perry County, Ohio: Perry County is facing the impact of its last two mines closing. This team will advance planning for placemaking economic development strategies.
  • Northwest Colorado Development Council, Colo.: In Northwest Colorado, the Northwest Colorado Development Council serves the counties of Rio Blanco, Moffat and Routt, which face the impending closure of two coal-fired power plants. In partnership with a regional community college, this team will expand on strategies for advancing clean energy initiatives.
  • San Juan County, N.M.: In northwest New Mexico, San Juan County is experiencing the closure of one coal-fired power plant and faces the impending closure of another. In partnership with Four Corners Economic Development, this team will advance strategies for workforce redevelopment and business expansion.

The BRECC project will continue for two years and will include a second cohort of challenge communities next year.  We’re excited to get started with our new partners.  Watch this space for future updates.