Run. Off. (Hills Creek, Winter 2018) - West Virginia / by sam taylor

Run. Off. (Hills Creek, Winter 2018) - West Virginia

Good Friday Afternoon!

Today’s post will be the last (for now) looking at some of my personal research. See my last two posts (Strong Under Currents and We Stand Together, Rooted To This Place) for more background. In summary, rural places, and Appalachia and West Virginia in particular have issues with losing “their best and brightest” to other places. Conversely, Appalachia and West Virginia also have some of the “stickiest” people, in that they want to live here and fight to stay. We’ve talked a bit about the broader trends and about some of the things we think are working for us here, so what is my research focused on, within that space?

What is it that finally “runs people off”. If they want to be here, have roots here, what is the “final straw” that pushes people out. I have three different concepts that I’m working on, but all of them aren’t looking at recruitment - but retention. What things have an impact on pushing people away from here, that finally make staying impossible.

From a rigorous “research” perspective, this is tougher than it sounds to quantify. Some people will tell you that it’s work, or “things have just gotten bad around here”, but being able to put numbers to that is tricky. My first topic is focused on the impact of drugs and crime, and whether higher overdose death rates and higher crime rates cause people to leave. My next topic is still in a bit of development, but looks at environmental impacts, and whether those impacts can be drawn out as a reason for people to leave. My final paper is looking at industry make up - and whether a certain type of industry either attracts or “un-attracts” folks to a place.

In theory, I’ll be working on these for the next ~year or so. Not an easy lift. But I think it may make sense to y’all why I care about these. If we can say something about “disincentives” to stay - it may be that directly addressing an issue, or simply “not doing something” negative may be what it takes to keep a certain set of people here, hopefully an easier thing to propose in a state with limited economic resources.

The working title of my research is “Running People Off” - today’s image is meant to be a bit of a play on words on that. Looking at Hills Creek - a type of “runoff” that I’m much more enthusiastic about. :)

Run. Off. (Hills Creek, Winter 2018) - West Virginia