ORVI Insider – Vol. 4

A Message From Our Executive Director 
The Ohio River Valley, like much of the country, is currently living under the nation’s microscope – we are facing scrutiny from pundits trying to predict our contribution to the outcome of the Presidential election, we are navigating the turbulent waters of educating our children during a pandemic, we are facing rising unemployment in an already strained and low-wage market, and we are at the center of conversations on racial and economic oppression in America. Everything feels urgent and very little feels within our control. But, we also have an opportunity to define our future on our own terms – to analyze what is working and what is not working in our current system, and to resist the temptation of comfortable rhetoric in favor of evidence-based solutions. As we continue our work at the Ohio River Valley Institute, we strive to be a resource for organizations and individuals who see that opportunity and work tirelessly to create better conditions for their families, their neighbors, and for generations to come.

One such individual is our Advisory Council member, Dr. Amanda Weinstein, who serves as an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Akron. Dr. Weinstein has served our country as a commissioned officer of the United States Air Force, and continues to dedicate her career to research that contributes to the civic and economic advancement of our communities. We also highlight new findings from Ohio River Valley Institute researchers, including a preview of a forthcoming study co-authored by Dr. Weinstein on how quality of life contributes to economic prosperity in small cities and towns; a move by the oil and gas industry in West Virginia to secure property tax cuts while the rest of the state deals with the coronavirus pandemic; and the inadequacy of using gross domestic product (GDP) as an indicator of local or regional economic growth and prosperity, especially as it relates to the oil and gas sector. 

Advisor’s Corner: Meet Advisory Council Member Dr. Amanda Weinstein

“Dr. Weinstein’s work has illuminated pathways of regional economic growth that support the wellbeing of real people in real communities. She has recently completed a new study, Estimating Quality of Life in Micropolitan Areas, with her colleagues Michael Hicks and Emily Wornell of Ball State University. This article highlights the importance of quality of life for the economic and civic vitality of small towns in America, and will provide important considerations for regional and local decision makers.”                                             – Joanne Kilgour, ORVI Executive Director
Dr. Amanda Weinstein is an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Akron. She graduated with a PhD in Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics from The Ohio State University. As the C. William Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy Graduate Research Associate, she conducted research on regional economic growth and policy issues including conducting one of the first studies to examine the economic impact of shale development on drilling communities.
 

ORVI Research Spotlight

Quality of Life-Driven Prosperity for Small Cities and Towns: a preview of featured Advisory Council member Dr. Amanda Weinstein’s new paper, Estimating Quality of Life in Micropolitan Areas

                     

Population and job growth are more highly correlated with quality of life amenities than they are with business environment attributes. Entertainment, recreation, healthcare, cultural opportunities, sports, education, weather, restaurants, retail options, and clean air and clean water all matter. But, some are more controllable by policymakers than others and, in a happy coincidence, many of those are also highly correlated with economic success.

 

West Virginia’s Oil and Gas Industry Pushing for Millions in Property Tax Cuts: while West Virginians are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and trying to figure out if their kids can attend school, the oil and gas industry is working to cut its property taxes by as much as $62 million per year.

                     

 

According to the West Virginia Property Tax Department, the proposed changes could lower local oil and gas property tax collections “by approximately 50%”. In Tax Year 2019, West Virginia’s local governments collected an estimated $123 million in oil and gas property taxes, suggesting that local governments would lose an estimated $62 million. The counties where  horizontal fracking wells produce gas and oil will be the most heavily impacted, taking a hit of $54 million.

 

The Fracking Boom in Appalachia: Big Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Growth, Small Amount of Jobs and Local Income

                   

 

While GDP can be a good proxy for looking at the economic output or total value of what is produced in an economy, it paints an incomplete, and sometimes distorted, picture of how well an economy is delivering broadly shared prosperity. This is true, for example, when we look at the economic growth associated with the shale fracking boom over the last decade. While there has been large growth in GDP associated with oil and gas industries in the Ohio River Valley, the reality is only a small fraction of the income and wealth generated stays in the community or in the pockets of workers or residents.

 

ORVI In The News:

Sean O’Leary: No Natural Gas-Driven Boom Here (Pittsburgh TribLive)

Ted Boettner: Oil, Gas Industry Seeks Huge Tax Breaks (Charleston Gazette-Mail)

The Columbus Dispatch

 

What We’re Reading at ORVI:

 

As presidential campaigns heat up and the COVID-19 pandemic persists across the country, energy and democracy issues are taking center stage in the news. Our researchers have compiled the top stories of the past week to keep you informed and up to date on key developments in the sectors that matter most to our region.