West virginia is the second poorest. state in the nation. we’ve all heard that before we know how. a decline in coal jobs and a lack of. good jobs. and a generational sense of pride and. selfreliance. has meant that many people here in west. virginia struggle. it’s really pretty there’s really. charming little towns tucked away in the. haulers and mountain valleys all. throughout the state. while they don’t make much money a lot. of folks here don’t need much to live. either. however as it stands one in five people. here lives at or below the poverty line. today we’re going to visit the second. poorest county in west virginia. a county on the northern end of the. state that’s just south of morgantown. we’re going to drive through a place. called fairmont the biggest city in a. very poor county. as we’ll see while much of fairmont’s.
Doing just fine. a lot of this place is not and fairmont. is just one example of like. 100 other places in west virginia where. poverty and drug addiction. rules the day. at one point in fairmont there were 27. 000 people. today due to a lack of jobs and younger. generations fleeing for better. opportunities. populations plummeted to around eighteen. thousand people. here in fairmont one in four people. lives in poverty and many collect. unemployment benefits and welfare. the average person here earns about. sixteen thousand dollars a year. which is pretty much eight bucks an hour. you can imagine the types of jobs that. exist here. a quick walk around this area in the. evening showed that everyone in town was. hiring. but a lot of people in this town don’t. want to work or at least. work here of course west virginia isn’t.
Just. poor overall the state traditionally. ranks towards the bottom when it comes. to health care. obesity and education too it’s a cycle. here in west virginia. a place where despair lingers in the. damp air between rolling hills. and where people can’t just pick up and. leave as people advise. or who just object to doing so cole jobs. left this area ages ago and there’s no. sign it’s ever going to come back. many west virginians don’t have the. skills needed to transition into other. industries. or can’t pass the drug tests needed for. new employment. even so this is the worst day for jobs i. mean you can’t farm here. and it’s hard to convince any large. companies to locate here considering the. terrain and potential job pool. the poverty has been made worse by an. influx of opioids. on which tens of thousands of west.
Virginians became addicted to. these days it’s heroin and meth that. plagues these small poor communities in. the state. and sadly addicted parents can’t care. for their kids. there’s an estimated 7 000 west virginia. children. in foster care under state supervision. because of parental drug abuse and. neglect. a small part of fairmont looks pretty. nice there’s a part of town where. there’s hundreds of homes with folks who. likely drive. 20 minutes north into morgantown for. work but as soon as you cross one street. it gets really poor really fast. two and three people voted for trump. here though as a whole the state. actually became. poorer under his administration homes. here are about a hundred thousand. dollars on average but that includes the. nicer areas of town we saw earlier. well many of these people are poor many.
Take pride in providing for their. families and many people here. stress good morals and values. let’s talk to a west virginia resident. now and get his perspective. living in a small town in west virginia. it’s more of a rural setting from where. i was originally from and. it was 30 minutes almost to go anywhere. crimes kind of went up stuff like that. jobs kind of moved away. the mining industry itself just kind of. went downhill because of regulations and. just. people are switching over from fossil. fuels. and as far as stuff like that goes um. it’s a lot of people are just moving out. and either. going to different states or just uh. moving to. bigger cities and stuff like that it all. just depends on what. everyone’s preference is so drugs. how bad is it getting down there with. with drug use. opioids heroin all that stuff it depends.
On what area of the state you live in if. you’re in. more rural areas it’s it gets worse. of course it’s normal for certain areas. like that to. leave something out at night and the. next morning or a few minutes later it. might. uh it might disappear it just. uh it all depends on what community you. live in what county you live in stuff. like that. but some places are a lot better than. others. yeah i mean and they’re stealing for. drugs i’m assuming. yeah i mean it can be anything from. bicycles from children to uh. get from point a to point b or just. power tools or. whatever whatever actually they can get. their hands on easily. yeah like a dayto-day survival thing. like i got to get my fix today so i got. to get some money somehow. yeah how desperate are the people down. there. in some of these small towns and rural.
West virginia down there in these coal. mine towns. well a lot of them are just a lot of. them are just trying to scratch out a. living because. there’s no other work i mean some of. these people they’ve spent you know. 5 10 up to 30 years or more underground. and. if a mine shuts down or something like. that it’s this is literally all i know. is mine and coal i mean that’s. what a lot of them just say and if a. mine shuts down or something like that. they don’t know what to do i mean it’s. it’s actually heartbreaking because i. spent nine years in the industry myself. and. i’ve seen a lot of changes just in the. short period of time i was in there. and uh just seeing you know somebody. that’s. either at the peak of their working. career or. somebody’s getting ready to retire or. something like that hey he has to go.
Home tell his wife hey. i’m sorry but i got cut today and has to. start all over from scratch. so some people are more fortunate than. others. like how are they more fortunate well i. mean. in the coal mining industry you you. operate anything from heavy machinery. to um if you have management experience. construction related experience stuff. like that. i was fortunate enough to transition in. to the chemical industry. so where i had a little bit of a. management experience a little bit of. equipment experience and stuff like that. and working in the mines around here. if you work in the mines a lot of people. know that you’re a hard worker. that’s that’s the mindset and. what was really good for us was at the. downturn of the industry we had. companies coming in saying. hey did you work you know how long did. you work underground or are you a coal.
Miner or whatever. and uh mining experience a lot of them. would put in their job description. is a plus and that helped a lot of us. out. yeah so you also had your smaller group. that said. i’m just waiting on the market to. improve and i’m going straight back or. they might transition into a different. job and once the market picked up. then they were going out and going back. into the mines and. uh buying a new 50 to 70 thousand dollar. truck and starting all over again it was. something i scratched my head and i said. you know that’s. if i was you i’d be you know it’s none. of my business but you might want to. look at uh look at the longer term. future. yeah so what do most people do when they. lose their jobs. at a coal mine first thing they’ll do. is uh after cleaning out their lockers. and stuff they’ll file for unemployment.
And a lot of times if you’re lucky. enough you might find another place. that’s uh you might be able to find. another place that’s hired or something. like that. like another coal mine you mean yeah but. i mean that’s getting rare. anymore i mean 10 years ago if one shut. down you could literally almost go down. the road. five or ten miles another place was. hiring and there’d be flyers everywhere. and stuff. it’s picking up right now especially in. the metallurgical market. but the steam market’s pretty much. decimated. because everybody’s switching over to. natural gas and alternative energy. you know it seems like west virginia’s. biggest. industries are timely meaning they’re. gonna. be gone one day yeah what’s the state. going to do for. employing its people and to get all the. money they need to run the state. well we’ve had uh most recently we had a.
Methanol plant come in here about. five years ago it’s in the institute. area and uh. we’ve had a few other places come in. stuff like that. i’ve actually reached out myself last. year to a few politicians that’s in the. area. and some of them would actually get on. social media or come out meet up stuff. like that they would ask. you know what are we looking for as far. as. what they want us what they want to help. us with and i told them one thing we. need to do is make the state. more business friendly and hopefully we. can attract new workers and hopefully we. can attract more. companies that want to invest in the. state and that’s been our biggest. struggle because. here recently probably about a week or. so ago. we actually started losing we lose about. 18 to 20 000 people a year. but uh we actually lost a congressional.
Seed in the process here this past year. that really hurt yeah and. do you have any you know big political. superstars at the. you know dc level that can stand up for. your state and. try to fight to get you guys hooked up. with. a better future we have joe manchin but. i mean a lot of it’s just my opinion. this is just my two cents. a lot of it’s just your typical. politicians you know vote for me. and i’ll tell you whatever and you know. it all just depends on what you’re going. to get i hope i hope them. representing our state personally i hope. they would you know. they take our state into consideration. and. you know hey we need to help our state. out and stuff like that but that’s just. my opinion i. i really can’t further comment on it. because i don’t know what they do up. there. yeah what’s the outlook. among people in your state how do they.
Feel about the future of west virginia. a lot of them depends on who you ask a. lot of people they just. a lot of younger people they don’t. really see a whole lot here. my personally my wife and i we were. we were debating with ourselves a few. years back on going to somewhere like. texas. but west virginia is home to me and as. long as i’m able to uh. scratch out a living here and you know. do what i can to make a future for. myself and my family. i’m willing to stay here and stick it. out because. i love my state and i really want to see. it. grow and do what i can to you know help. it help it along but. myself i can’t do i can i’m only limited. in what i can do. hey guys so if anything i just talked. about upset you or made you sad or mad. well then do something about it call. your local leaders and demand change.