Bloomberg – Why Do Americans Stay When Their Town Has No Future?

Family and community are the only things left in Adams County, Ohio, as the coal-fired power plants abandon ship and the government shrugs.

Excerpted from Bloomberg 

John Arnett chose Adams County, Ohio, as his home long before he was old enough to vote, drink beer, or drive a motorcycle along the Ohio River. After his parents split up, Arnett opted at age 10 to spend most of his time with his grandmother in Adams County, along the river 70 miles southeast of Cincinnati, rather than with his parents in the Dayton area. He liked life on the tobacco farm his grandfather had bought after retiring early from General Motors Co. in Dayton. And his grandmother, who became a widow when her husband died in a tractor accident, welcomed the companionship.

After high school, Arnett joined the U.S. Marine Corps, in 1999. His unit, the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines—the storied Suicide Charley—took him to the other side of the world: South Korea, Japan, Thailand. In the spring of 2003 he was an infantryman in the invasion of Iraq, spending five months in country—Baghdad, Tikrit, Najaf.

Once back in Ohio, he settled in Adams County with his future wife, Crystal, and started taking classes in criminal justice at the University of Cincinnati, figuring he’d follow the well-worn path from the military to law enforcement. One day, though, Crystal alerted him to an ad in the paper for jobs right in Adams County, at the coal-fired power plants down on the river. He jumped at the chance. The Dayton Power & Light Co. plants had been there for years—the larger, 2,400-megawatt J.M. Stuart Station, opened in 1970 as one of the largest in the country, and the 600-megawatt Killen Station followed 12 years later, 14 miles to the east—and weren’t going anywhere: Ohio was getting 80 percent of its electricity from burning coal.
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