Ironton, Lawrence County have something to offer

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 17, 2003

The last-minute jockeying for grade-point position is almost over. The gowns are ready, and the mortarboards are ready for pinning onto freshly reworked hairdos.

As May begins to wind down, high school seniors all across the country prepare to graduate and say goodbye to an important segment of their lives.

Teachers and parents will warn their pupils and children to behave.

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"No shenanigans," they'll say, warning them to behave as they instruct the burgeoning adults on the proper graduation etiquette.

"As soon as you receive the diploma, move the tassel from this side to that side."

And, lots of folks will line up to offer free advice to graduates.

I'm not one of them.

If you're parents haven't instilled the values and knowledge you need by now, I suspect nothing some stranger says will help.

Graduation is an amazing time, filled with emotions. Graduates are excited, nervous and expectant all at once. Parents are excited, worried and concerned all at once.

Hidden beneath the graduation hoopla, a somewhat sad fact emerges.

Many local students leave the area to attend college and will wind up settling elsewhere. How do we change that migration of our youth?

"I remember years ago," one man told me last week, "If you were working at one place and didn't like it, it wasn't a problem, you just said, 'well, I'll just go work for the Malleable, or I'll just work over at that plant or this plant. It's just not like it used to be."

Sure, things have changed, but often, it seems, the reality is less severe than the perception.

The perception is Ironton and parts of Lawrence County are drying up.


The truth is, while Ironton-Lawrence County has seen declines in industry, its population hasn't seen a significant drop. In fact, by comparing 1990 and 2000 census figures, Lawrence County saw a slight increase. Interestingly, Cabell County (W.Va.) and Boyd County (Ky.) showed slight decreases.

To me, that is proof that Ironton and Lawrence County have something special to offer its residents, its young people and any and all potential developers.

While Lawrence County certainly has obstacles to overcome before it can rebuild its once strong economic base, two core elements that made it great still exist: its people and its natural resources.

The employment opportunities once prevalent in the area may not be as easy to spot as in the past, but opportunities still exist.

Take, for example, this week. Forces from the Workforce Development Resource Center here in Ironton and the Work4WV Career Center in Huntington, W.Va., are sponsoring a job fair. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. area businesses that have jobs available will be ready to meet prospective employees at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington, W.Va.

The event promises to be a good chance for employees to connect with employers. And once more of that happens, the future of our area and for those graduates certainly will begin looking brighter.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Tribune. He can be reached at (740) 532-1445 ext. 12 or by e-mail to