By Christopher Williams
WCHS/WVAH TV News
DANVILLE, W. Va. — Times are hard in the southern part of West Virginia. All the counties have similar stories. A decline in coal, people moving away, no jobs for the people who are left behind. Now West Virginia University economists are saying six counties in the Mountain State are in a Great Depression.
“I can agree wholeheartedly seeing the way things are turning around here,” said Kevin Bailey, manager at Big Eagle Gun & Pawn in Boone County.
Boone, along with McDowell, Wyoming, Mingo, Logan, and Clay, are the six counties West Virginia University Economist John Deskins said are experiencing times similar to the Great Depression.
“I can see it in the attitude of the people,” Bailey said.
Deskins said he and economist Brian Anderson labeled these six counties in a Great Depression largely due to job loss in the coal industry. Kris Mitchell, director of Community and Economic Development for Boone County, said this information is nothing new to her office.
“We live here. We’ve seen exactly how the economy has gone down. We know what the problems are,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said she is glad to see some light being shed on the problem. She said to get Boone County and the other southern counties back on track, they need to diversify their economies.
“We have two focuses right now. The first one is tourism, which I think it can definitely be a good component,” Mitchell said.
The second is the Hobet mine site, a plan Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has been working on to develop. Regardless of the plans moving forward, it’s going to take time to bring the counties out of the so called Great Depression. Times are hard for everyone, including the pawn shop, but Bailey said people in Boone County have not lost hope.
“A lot of people are fighters. They will hang in there tooth and nail,” Bailey said.