Fort Jackson Building, Mezzanine
49 South Washington Street, Waynesburg, PA 15370
Phone: 724-852-5300 / Fax: 724-852-2944
Office Hours: 8:30 a.m.4:30 p.m., MondayFriday
"Looking beyond coal: Greene County seeks to diversify its workforce" (September 2015)
Pictured above: Robbie Matesic, Greene County’s Director of Economic Development, is working on a strategy to diversify the county’s workforce for job opportunities beyond coal.
Katlyn Allison poses with her father, Todd Allison, near Waynesburg last week. Her father’s job loss in a coal-related field is inspiring her reign as 2015 Bituminous Coal Queen.
Clemmy Allen, fourth from the left, Executive Director of the UMWA Career Centers, Inc., talks with staffers regarding job and career opportunities for displaced miners. From left are job developers Delas Stuzen and Matthew Pagac, Lisa Adams, Deputy Executive Director, Allen, and Alison Hall, social Media Director.
(Source: Economic Development, Sep 8, 2015)
'We do COAL Here':
The Pennsylvania Coal Alliance representing the coal industry and its supply chain, reports there are 7,350 men and women in Greene and Washington counties who are employed by the coal industry, with an average annual salary of $79,127, far above the average per capita income of $49,399 in Washington County and $41,820 in Greene. The alliance’s statistics show that the coal industry’s total economic impact to the two counties is $1.94 billion annually.
The Greene County PA CareerLink office in Waynesburg reports Barbara Cole, Office Manager, that the majority of the region's coal industry employees cited by PA Coal Alliance work in mining in Greene County or are Greene County residents employed by mines in northern West Virginia and its panhandle. Barb says "We do coal here". The most recent statistics from the state Department of Labor and Industry’s Center for Workforce Information and Analysis bears that out. According to CWIA’s June employment profile for Greene County – the most recent available – four of the county’s top five employers were coal mines, with the fifth a mine repair and maintenance company. But King Coal has been losing his grip of late, shedding jobs and idling miners in a place where coal mining has been a way of life.
The mounting losses now by rough count several hundred, in addition to the nearly 400 jobs shed by the closure of the power plants two years ago have workforce officials like Cole sensing that the industry’s struggles could be different from its more usual boom-bust cycles of the past.
A multi-faceted battle:
Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency announced its final draft of its Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce harmful carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030. While a dozen states have filed lawsuits to slow or halt the implementation of the regulations, other factors are working against the mining industry. “It’s not just the EPA,” said Robbie Matesic, Greene County’s executive director of economic development. “There are market conditions – the parity between natural gas and coal prices – and coal export demand has slowed,” she said. All of those factors weigh heavily on a coal-based economy.
According to a recent study by the CWIA, the loss of 100 mining jobs has a projected “multiplier” effect that can eliminate many other jobs in the coal supply chain and beyond. The CWIA calculates that each 100 jobs lost from mining has a multiplier of 2.4, and in mining support, 4.6 times and in power generation job losses, a multiplier of 3.9. By comparison, CWIA notes that the average multiplier for job loss impact in other industries in Pennsylvania is just 1.9. “Thus, a loss of 100 jobs in coal mining may result in an estimated total loss of 244 jobs,” the analysts write. “Similar calculations for 100 job losses in the other two industries are even more dramatic, resulting in 461 job losses in support activities for mining and 388 job losses in electric power generation."
No one understands the CWIA’s math better than Allison. The 380 positions lost at the two power plants, he said, were just the beginning. "Those were just the power plant workers and their families who were affected.” When the Hatfield’s Ferry plant had outages for maintenance, he said, crews of skilled laborers were brought in: boilermakers, ironworkers, electricians, insulators and their suppliers. "Sometimes there were 200 workers at a time, sometimes 300 to 400 working there one to two months at a time," Allison said. "They depended on that work." But that long-term dependence on good-paying coal jobs can also keep people from considering other work, even when faced with layoffs for months or even years.
Call backs | Career Center busy:
Looking past coal:
Greene County is launching a major initiative to diversify itself beyond its traditional coal mining roots. “We really need to be very aggressive about diversifying the economy here,” Matesic said, describing a grant application she’s written for $100,000 to develop a strategy for incorporating the workforce into Catalyst’s overall plan. She said Chevron Corp. is matching the amount with another $100,000 specifically for job training.
Matesic and Don Chappel, executive director of Greene County Industrial Developments Inc., said they’ve been working with Pittsburgh-based Catalyst Connection Chief Executive Officer Petra Mitchell, who recently was successful in having the Pittsburgh region designated as part of an investment in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Manufacturing Communities Partnership initiative. Mitchell’s work showed that the region has 62,000 high-paying jobs in the metals manufacturing sector responsible for $2.1 billion in exports. Her study found that the jobs can be grown to 77,000 positions in the next decade. Matesic said her grant application to the U.S. Economic Development Administration, if approved, will be used to plan ways for retraining Greene County’s displaced mining workforce for other good-paying jobs.
Along the way, Matesic and Chappel said they’ve also received support of 20 to 25 business and economic development and community colleges in the region for their effort, including Westmoreland County Community College, ShaleNET, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the Southwest Corner Workforce Investment Board, the Pennsylvania Small Business Development Center, Southwest Planning Commission, West Virginia University and Carnegie Mellon University. “We’ve garnered attention on us like we have never had before on a federal, state and local level,” said Matesic. “It’s an opportunity to hit the reset button.”
One of the major factors in getting the diversification initiative off the ground was winning the support of the United Mine Workers Career Center, which is helping displaced miners to look at other career options. “We know we have a big cultural hurdle,” Matesic said. “Coal miners are finding it hard to believe they have to move on and look for other opportunities,” added Chappel.
Developing 'Plan B':
Allison said those who find themselves out of a coal-related job need to be proactive. “You need to ask yourself, what is your Plan B?” he said, urging them to visit the CareeerLink office. “Some of these guys are being in denial. We all lived through that, myself included. All of a sudden, it’s right in your face,” he said, recalling that when he received the layoff, the Allisons’ son, Andrew, was in college and he made a promise to Katlyn he wouldn’t take a job that would make her change schools, something he wondered if he could honor. His wife, Lisa, was working when he lost his job and her health benefits covered the family. “She was a big part of this equation,” he said. “We felt really blessed when this job offer came up.”
For Katlyn, who grew up around the coal show pageant, serving as a crown bearer as a little girl, her father’s job loss changed the way she views her reign as coal queen. “It really hit home when my dad lost his job,” she said, adding that some friends’ parents who work in the mines have had their hours cut, while she knows others whose fathers took jobs out of town. “It’s not just a fun coal show now,” she said. “I have a real passion for the coal industry now that I’ve lived through what is happening to my community.”
For general information, please contact the Information Services at 724-852-5399 / Toll Free: 1-888-852-5399 Greene County Office Building, 93 E. High Street, Waynesburg, PA 15370