According to NPR, the climate of the Appalachian region is very similar to the medicine belt in China, meaning Chinese medicinal herbs can grow well in the area. This is good news to local farmers as there is a growing demand by healthcare providers to get these herbs locally instead of by import. The world-renowned Cleveland Clinic, which has recently opened a Chinese Herbal Therapy Clinic inside of a hospital, would potentially be one of many medical facilities interested in obtaining Appalachian grown herbs. Other groups, such as The Blue Ridge Center for Chinese Medicine and the Appalachian Medicinal Herb Growers Consortium have already begun growing these herbs and are providing education to others.
Currently, the market for these herbs is estimated between $200 million and $300 million a year. Some believe these numbers will increase if a large quantity can be provided locally.
Eastern Kentucky Takes Flight
The long-awaited Appalachian Air airline service has got off the ground after four years of planning. Based in Pikeville, KY Appalachian Air provides people in Eastern Kentucky, Southwestern Virginia, and Southwestern West Virginia with a more convenient way to access national and international flights. They offer daily round trip flights between Pikeville and Nashville.
It will be interesting to see what type of impact a local airport with the ability to connect people to the global airways will provide Pikeville and Eastern Kentucky. Many hope this will be a catalyst for more improvement in the local infrastructure.
Chevron Corporation Investing in Education
The Chevron Corporation has made a $20 million investment into education focusing on STEM programs in 27 counties across Appalachia. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Chevron has many reasons for wanting to see an increase in these areas, as they will always have a need for skilled workers in energy and technical jobs.
This is part of a larger national effort and Chevron is working with organizations such as Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, and the RAND Corporation.
There is some controversy surrounding these efforts as Chevron is playing a large part in the push for fracking, which has been blamed for heavy environmental impact such as water pollution. Detractors believe that education is a convenient way for Chevron to buy off local government officials as well as well as a way for them to be seen more favorably by community members who may be impacted negatively by fracking. However, others see the investment into STEM as both a win for the Appalachian communities as science and math jobs are in high demand not only by Chevron but other companies as well.