HAZARD — As mining operations in the region close down or cut back, other businesses are feeling the pinch as well. And while many businesses that carter specifically to mines are obviously affected by this downturn, so are many others that remain open based on the spending of money made through the local mines.
Over the last several months around 2,000 miners in Eastern Kentucky have been laid off due to a downturn in the industry. While many disagree on what has caused this downturn, the truth remains that many people are trying to continue running businesses in a population flooded with unemployed miners.
One such business is Hazard Quick Copy. Debby Hall, who owns both Hazard Quick Copy and Pippa Valley Printing in Knott County, said that a large portion of their business is printing for mines. She estimates that over a third of their business is printing mine books, which has taken a significant hit with so many of their major clients laying off, cutting hours or shutting down.
One of Hall’s largest clients was Arch Coal, which recently shut down many of their local mines. She said that while this is a new closure and they haven’t felt it as much yet, they anticipate it severely hurting their business.
“We print a lot for the Hazard and Flint Ridge and Pikeville, and I think they have already closed Pikeville,” said Hall. “It has been fairly painful.”
While the printing business has many of its major jobs with mining companies, they do have other clients and would still be printing without the mines. One business that is solely dependent on coal mining are companies that cater exclusively to that industry. One such business is MJ&M Sales and Repair. They supply the mines and repair different equipment.
Scott Alexander, who is a former state representative and owns of MJ&M, said that his business has been greatly affected by the closures and layoffs.
“Our sales are down probably 70 percent, and in return I don’t have the work for the men anymore,” Alexander said. “I have to turn around and lay off the same as they do.”
Alexander said that he thinks the trickle down effect of jobs being lost in the largest industry in the area is more significant than some think. He said that he believes that across the community, that each mine job that is eliminated will mean another job eliminated in another sector of the local economy.
“I would say overall in the community, but not only in the mining related jobs, but in the convenience stores there will be that many more people that will be laid off,” he said.
Alexander added that the only way he sees a turnaround in this trend is if America as a whole moves back toward manufacturing jobs.
“I just think that we as a nation need to get back to taking care of ourselves first and getting back to manufacturing and making our own products,” he said.
Until this shift occurs, Alexander added, the difficulties for businesses in Eastern Kentucky will continue, but he is optimistic.
“I think it could potentially happen that it could get that bad,” said Alexander. “I like to try and stay positive though and think you know, maybe within six months the industry will start coming back.”
Hall said that she fears if the industry does not come back soon, it could be detrimental to more than just local businesses.
“Our whole economy is based on coal and everything is based on coal,” said Hall. “When one quits working, everybody feels it. In the 50’s when they had the major coal recession there was a major exodus and out migration and I could totally see that happening again.”