Last month, the Appalachian Regional Commission released a study by researchers at the University of Tennessee called "Strategies for Economic Improvement in Appalachia's Distressed Rural Counties." While quite long (over 200 pages!), the report provides some very interesting case studies of eight Appalachian counties and how they're surviving – or not – economically. In Central Appalachia, the report looks at Morgan County, OH; Pendelton and Calhoun Counties, WV; Pike and Bell Counties, KY; Avery County, NC; and Johnson County, TN. (Download the report here; be warned, it can take awhile!)
The Knoxville News Sentinel recently ran an editorial about the report, noting that:
The study's authors found some counties participated in and benefitted from regional development efforts. Location and education levels, not surprisingly, were strong influences on economic performance.The authors warned that a reliance on the coal industry, particularly is Central Appalachia, "conflicts with the need for long-term economic diversification and sustainability."