Measuring Returns of The Coal Industry

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(Image of Gibson North operation courtesy of Alliance Resource Partners LP.) (Image of Gibson North operation courtesy of Alliance Resource Partners LP.)

A study launched by the Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana could help shape the focus of work force initiatives related to one of the region's signature industries. The study will evaluate the impact of reduced coal use on jobs and training on a region traditionally known as a coal production and consumption powerhouse. Over the last five years, the coalition says 1,500 jobs have been lost in nine southwest Indiana counties.

Coalition Chief Executive Officer Greg Wathen says the results will help inform talent attraction and retention efforts. He says decisions need to be made regarding training or redeployment of "this marvelous asset" that is the region's coal industry work force.

WorkOne Southwest Executive Director Jim Heck says "the goal of this project is the need to gauge the impact on coal and coal-fired power plants and the impact to the surrounding economies' workforce." As power suppliers trend away from using coal as an energy source, the study will look to see the current and future effects on the regions work force. If the numbers are high enough, the results could push area leaders toward applying for federal training support for affected employees.

Coal is still a big deal in the state. In all, there are some two dozen active coal-producing operations in the state. The Indiana Center for Coal Technology Research at Purdue University and the Indiana Department of Workforce Development estimate the Hoosier mining industry supports more than 2,500 jobs and has a more than $750 million on the economy. Each year, Indiana ranks among the top ten coal producing states in the nation. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, an average of 32 billion to 35 billion tons of coal come from the state every year.

WorkOne Southwest Executive Director Jim Heck and Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana Vice President of Community Development Carol Hagedorn describe the intention of the study.

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