Full Title: Examining Federal Economic Development Support for Coal Communities: Athens, Ohio Region
Author(s): Daniel Raimi, Rebecca Glaser, Gilbert Michaud
Publisher(s): Resources for the Future
Publication Date: February 1, 2021
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The federal government has a variety of policy tools available to support communities affected by the transition away from coal. This case study examines whether, and to what extent, federal economic development assistance has supported the region in and around Athens County, Ohio. This Appalachian region has a long-standing reliance on coal as an economic driver; however, recent decades have seen a large decline in regional coal mining, and several large coal-fired power plants have retired in the last several years. To assess the effectiveness of federal interventions, we reviewed data on recent discretionary grants and conducted 14 semi-structured interviews with economic development professionals representing 11 local, regional, and national organizations active in the region. Local experts report that federal grantmaking has been very important to support local economic development efforts. They emphasized that the most effective interventions are those that provide flexibility for grantees, minimize administrative burdens, and incorporate bottom-up community decisionmaking. These findings emphasize the need for future federal support for workers and communities in transition to align federal policies with local priorities by engaging deeply and consistently with local stakeholders.