Southern Research will use a $60,202 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to develop a strategic plan to foster job creation and entrepreneurial activity in 19 Alabama counties hurt by the decline of the coal industry.
This downturn has struck a blow to portions of northwest and central Alabama, wiping out thousands of jobs and creating economic hardships, said Corey Tyree, Ph.D., Southern Research’s director of Energy & Environment – Alabama, who is leading the project.
Tyree said employment in Alabama coal fields decreased 43 percent between 1990 and 2014 as the number of mines fell by half. Over this time frame, more than 21,000 coal-related jobs disappeared in these 19 counties, costing their economies more than $1.8 billion in lost wages.
“Looking at the coal mining industry from a long-term perspective, with production at a low point and no clear economic drivers to reverse the negative trends, it’s difficult to see how coal will be a source of job creation in this region of Alabama,” Tyree said.
Southern Research’s strategic plan will examine ways the Alabama coal region can create jobs that help spur an economic revival.
On the project, Southern Research will team with the University of Alabama at Birmingham to identify business sectors ripe for new entrepreneurial activity, given a higher level of investment. The organizations are frequent collaborators and have forged partnerships for drug discovery and medical device development.