Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 25, 2013

W.Va. should entice ‘bright minds’ back

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — Perhaps Southern West Virginia’s largest deficit when approaching economic issues has been its loss of intellectual capital over the decades. West Virginia is the only state that decreased in population during years of U.S. economic boom. The approximate 100,000 person reduction from 1980 stems mostly from the southern portion of the state as evidenced by U.S. Census data.  

There has been a real and undeniable consequence to this “brain drain” that projects all the way from Kanawha County to Mercer County. Entrenched politicians and leaders have ridden a “one trick pony” known as coal with no other thoughts of innovation. Now, the leadership structure in place does not have the ability to generate diversified economic traction for southern West Virginia. In short, leaders and politicians have not exhibited one hint of capability for at least four decades. They have certainly had their opportunity to “bring the goods.” 

Locally, we are dealt with an educational system in ruins, but many local leaders will deem it as a success. In terms of economics, the city of Bluefield continues to be victim of regionalism. The old guard would have us think that Bluefield can prosper from economic events in Virginia. Unfortunately, this notion has not generated anything for the West Virginia side of the border. Beyond 40 years of wishful thinking in Mercer County, economic developers in Charleston and their extensions in local counties have been a miserable failure. Fast food restaurants along Interstate 77 are now presented as economic glory.

There seems to be much talk in southern West Virginia without action or the ability to push anything. The capability to drive a plan forward in most parts of southern West Virginia does not exist.

Hence, I believe the state and the region need to find ways to entice young, bright minds back to the southern part of our state. Thoughtful minds like Allen Peacock and his energy plan are needed. The old guard should arise and embrace anyone with a world view and a new thought process. This would require “out of the box” thinking. Are we capable of this?

Greg Shrewsbury