Coal is in retreat in the United States, with nearly 30% of mining jobs vanishing in the past five years alone. But some coal communities are taking command of their futures through determined innovation.

In southwestern Wyoming, a partnership of Sweetwater County and the cities of Green River and Rock Springs are creating an Industrial Development Plan for 15,000 acres near the Rock Springs airport. The plan will identify potential target industries and the infrastructure needed to support the industries.

The proactive approach of attracting new businesses is giving the area confidence it can diversify its economy.

Straight south of Sweetwater County, in western Colorado, closures have cost Delta County more than 90% of its mining jobs since 2010.

Still, Delta County has a reason for optimism. The area offers a picturesque quality of life that attracts residents as well as tourists; indeed the county foresees tourism, along with health care, manufacturing and agriculture as drivers of its future.

The county is forging ahead with three opportunity zones. A two-phase marketing strategy will result in a prospectus with investment-grade projects that can serve as the foundation for long-term deal flow. Implementation can be promoted through public-private partnerships aligned with the opportunity zone development incentives.

Foresight is abundant elsewhere in the nation. In eastern Kentucky, the city of Morehead is growing in spite of the coal decline—and it’s planning aggressively.

Morehead is fortunate to be a regional hub with a namesake state university and the St. Claire HealthCare system. Also, AppHarvest, a sustainable greenhouse company looking to revolutionize the produce market, is investing in the area.

Morehead nevertheless refuses to rest on its laurels. The city and Rowan County have embarked on a sweeping strategic planning effort to connect economic development, education, workforce development, health and wellness, infrastructure, livability, recreation, and sustainability. The 15-year Community and Economic Development Strategy will make the most of local partners, diverse public participation and in-depth research.

Thomas P. Miller & Associates is pleased to be playing pivotal roles in all three projects. Communities that thrive in the face of towering challenges plan and then act. They accept that change is inevitable and find new ways to stabilize and grow.

Do you want to chart a new way forward? We can help your community transition to its next chapter. Contact TPMA to Find out How!