Appalachia has long experienced economic distress, but significant progress has been made since the establishment of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) in the 1960s. However, many counties in central Appalachia continue to experience persistent economic distress despite several advantages that are normally conducive to progress. This study examines Rowan County, Kentucky in comparison to four other rural Kentucky counties with varying degrees of economic progress. Quantitative comparisons were made on the basis of out-migration, educational attainment, and industrial diversity. Qualitative data was then gathered till·ough interviews to understand decisive events that affected progress as well as long-term causes of change over time. Findings indicate that rural counties that experience persistent economic distress are comparatively fragile. Single events, such as a general economic downturn or departure of a company, can be devastating and long lasting. At the same time, interviews showed that political and community leadership can be decisive. This includes deliberate long-term planning; communication and cooperation between local governments, business, and community leaders; enthusiastic fostering of small business and local entrepreneurship; and a willingness to revise local policies and regulations (e.g., zoning, alcohol sales, and property taxes) in order to attract business and improve quality of life.
Emrich, Christine E.; Lange, Stephen; Bedingfield, Blake; Fraley, Bonita; May, Justin; and Yarawsky, Kyle
"The Fragility of Persistently Economically Distressed Counties in Central Appalachia and the Promise of Public Leadership,"
Commonwealth Review of Political Science: Vol. 2:
1, Article 2.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.murraystate.edu/crps/vol2/iss1/2