Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Division of Resource Economics & Management

Committee Chair

Peter V. Schaeffer

Committee Member

Alan R. Collins

Committee Member

Harry N. Boone Jr.

Committee Member

Deborah A. Boone

Committee Member

Hodjat Ghadimi


Examining West Virginia's Economic Development: Natural Resources, Development Agencies, and Labor Force Development Gaillynn Bowman Economic development is well-recognized as being fundamental to facilitating an overall improved quality of life for communities and their residents. Throughout West Virginia’s history, the state has experienced economic hardships caused by boom and bust cycles associated with resource extraction. This dissertation consists of three essays that explore the impacts of economic development activities, including conservation programs, economic development agency initiatives, and workforce development agencies. The first essay explores the relationship nonresident landowners have with the conservation programs within West Virginia, specifically the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) agency. Absentee ownership plays a significant role in the state’s economic development, particularly in rural areas such as the Hampshire and Mineral county region where more than 153,000 acres belong to absentee landowners, out of the approximately 483,000 acres in these counties. The results suggest there is a statistically significant negative impact regarding absentee landowners adopting conservation practices. Farm size and land use designation have positive and statistically significant impacts on conservation adoption. Study limitations relate primarily to relatively small geographical area used in the analysis. Commonalities in resistance to adoption of conservation practice may be transferable to other government programs facing opposition. The second essay addresses the issue of economic development sustainability. Based upon a survey of economic development professionals, the findings indicate that over time, West Virginia economic development agencies have invested in higher levels of business supports/incentives, while inversely, these same agencies have provided fewer activities in support of environmental, quality of life, and community-based economic development. This study found that concern for economic sustainability was the most significant reason for conducting their current economic development strategies. Alternatively, West Virginia economic development agencies have selected activities that do not reflect a focus on balancing the economy, addressing environmental issues, and/or providing an equitable quality of life, all of which research indicates will ensure sustainable development. Overall, when measured by a balanced approach, strategies focusing on business economic development activities, instead of environmental sustainability and social equity, have resulted in a lower range of economic activities and reduced sustainability. The third essay examines labor force participation barriers and the employment service agencies that help West Virginians gain employment. This study finds that transportation limitations were the most common reported barrier to job placement by employment agency personnel. The study also found that the fields of occupation in which clients were placed into employment positions did not align with financial capital development nor did the industry sectors offer career pathways that would lead to earning a living wage, with the five most common employment positions ranging in median hourly wages from $11.43 to $16.07. These occupations included the fields of health care, customer service/retail, food operation, cleaning and maintenance, and factory workers. The five least common job placements ranged in median hourly wages from $9.99 to $38.31, and in the following fields: IT sector, child development, small business owner, financial operations, and the education sector. Statistical significance indicated the range of workforce placements was more positively related to the range of workforce development activities and services provided by agencies than to the range of professional certifications held by the agencies’ staff members. With regards to financial, social, and human capital, this research found that increasing the range of employment activities and services leads to increases in job placements in higher wage sectors, as indicated by the increased range of job placement fields.