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Economic development hits and misses: AML and baseball

By Morgan Griffith

morgan griffithAn economic development hit has been the continuation of the federal Abandoned Mine Land (AML) pilot program.

On January 24, I joined the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy in announcing funding for two more projects through the AML pilot program.

This round of funding is the latest to be awarded through the pilot program, which supports projects that reclaim land where mines once operated. The reclaimed land supports new economic activity, boosting development and job growth.

Phase II of Project Intersection received $1,782,685. A 200-acre site in Norton at the junction of U.S. Routes 23 and 58A, Project Intersection is the product of a regional partnership between the Counties of Lee, Scott, Wise, and Dickenson and the City of Norton. It is developing the site for industrial and business purposes.

The Mountain View Trail System, a multi-use trail that connects Coeburn and St. Paul in Wise County, will receive $222,000. These funds will go toward new signs, repairing and upgrading trails, installing bridges, and reclaiming features from abandoned mines such as open auger holes. As a result, visitors will enjoy a safer, improved experience on the trail.

Both of these projects are promising for new economic opportunities.

Project Intersection will help draw businesses to our area. Tourism, especially eco-tourism of visitors wanting to experience our natural scenery and adventure tourism such as ATV riding, has already brought visitors and economic benefits to our region. Supporting assets like the Mountain View Trail System will further serve this purpose.

The funding we announced on January 24 came from the third straight fiscal year of appropriations for the AML pilot program in Virginia. In each of those years, I fought to include the Commonwealth in the program to make sure our abandoned mine sites were not overlooked.

I am happy to say that Virginia was included from the start of the appropriations process for fiscal year 2020, and that funding has been signed into law.

Reclaiming abandoned mine land is an important step forward on the path to economic growth and job creation. I am excited by the projects that have been supported so far and look forward to more to come.

Minor League Baseball

A miss for economic development has been the concern over Minor League Baseball’s future.

It’s not baseball season right now, but I’ve been talking a lot about baseball lately to make sure there is a baseball season at all for some Minor League teams in our area.

Minor League Baseball is a pastime many of us enjoy. It is a family-friendly and affordable activity. A sense of community is often built around our Minor League teams, and area businesses depend on them as well.

Thus, I was greatly concerned to learn last fall that Major League Baseball (MLB) planned to cut 42 Minor League teams, including the Bristol Pirates, Bluefield Blue Jays, and Danville Braves. The Pulaski Pirates and Salem Red Sox are not currently on the chopping block but cutting 42 teams understandably makes the others concerned for their futures.

In response, I joined more than 100 Members of Congress in a letter to MLB in opposition to these cuts and became a member of the new Save Minor League Baseball Task Force. I also spoke to the president of Minor League Baseball.

During a recent stop in Bluefield, I heard more first-hand from representatives of the Appalachian League as well as individual Minor League clubs, including Bluefield, Bristol, Pulaski, and Princeton. They expressed frustration with the actions of MLB.

One of the Major League’s demands of Minor League clubs is to upgrade facilities, but it has not detailed the standards it would find acceptable for the facilities.

It also cites travel times between games, but the Appalachian League, which would be decimated by the cuts, has relatively short travel times compared to other leagues.

Meanwhile, as the threat of elimination looms, none of the teams that MLB plans to cut can prepare for their next season or make improvements. Even if the cuts do not go into effect, they are damaging Minor League teams now.

Minor League teams have enjoyed an outpouring of support after MLB announced its plans. These teams are important to our communities and the communities’ economic well-being, and it is imperative that MLB recognize that fact.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405, my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671, or my Washington office at 202-225-3861. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at

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