A small-town newspaper publisher in coal-mining country mourns the community’s decline • Humana will sell insurance in underserved parts of Mississippi • N.C. rural leaders wonder about future without N.C. Rural Center funding • Rural communication cooperatives sign deal with Disney.
Declining Fortunes in New Mexico. The publisher of the Raton (New Mexico) Range newspaper apologized to readers last week that she hadn’t been able to publish a newspaper for Colfax, a county of 13,750 residents in the northeast part of the state.
Publisher Paula Murphy says the region’s declining coal-mining economy and her rising expenses make the newspaper’s future uncertain:
As many of you know, the population of Raton continues to decline. Many of the businesses that drove a tremendous retail town are no longer in business or are barely hanging on. The businesses that are able to remain open do so mainly because they have no debt. But that still doesn’t mean they are making it. They are spending their reserves in hopes that things will turn around.
My hope was that things would turn around. … We all remember the days of having 5,000 people in Raton for the weekend. The days when all the shops were full, the restaurants had a waiting list; all the hotels and motels had to turn people away.
We remember the days with 500+ miners went to work every day and spent their money in Raton.
Those days are gone. My company is saddled with so much debt that it would take the glory days of advertising revenue to pay it back. I don’t see that happening in the near future. I am forever the optimist, though. And I hope we can all experience that joy again.
Murphy says that she is working on a plan that may allow the paper to continue publication but that “I have to accept what is, to let go of what was and to have faith in what will be.”
Colfax County has 790 fewer jobs today than it did before the recession that began in 2007. (A county-by-county list of job gains and losses since May 2007 is available here.)
Obama in Missouri. President Barack Obama’s visit to Warrensburg, Missouri, on Wednesday shows a growing focus on rural America, says the state’s chairman of the Democratic party. The president will speak about the economy at the University of Central Missouri. The stop is part of a national tour that will focus on the economy.
Health Insurance for Mississippi. Humana has agreed to sell health insurance in 36 rural counties in Mississippi that otherwise might have been left out of the marketplace for subsidized insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Humana announced Friday that it will serve those counties, which are “some of the poorest and most rural parts of that state.”
North Carolina Rural Center. Nonmetro counties in North Carolina like Robeson County are considering the impact of possible loss of funding from the North Carolina Rural Center. The Robesonian in Lumberton, North Carolina, reports that some leaders in the southeastern North Carolina county say the cuts will hurt economic development efforts. One businessman says the grant funding for rural development projects could continue under state control, rather than through the nonprofit, which receives state funding for rural development grantmaking.
Last week, the founder and long-time director of the N.C. Rural Center, Billy Ray Hall, resigned and the governor’s office froze state support after an audit that criticized the center for its grant oversight.
Wayne Horne, city manager of the city of Lumberton, says it’s important to fund rural development through a separate organization. “One concern of mine, if rural development becomes a division in Commerce, is whether or not the eastern part of the state will get all of the funds it is entitled to receive,” he told the Robesonian newspaper. “It would be easier to divert the funds to other parts of the state.”
The story also quotes the county’s economic development director, the mayor of the town of Red Springs, a state senator and state representative who praise the Rural Center’s work. A businessman in Lumberton, Bo Biggs, however, says the center is unnecessary and a boondoggle.
Disney and NRTC. National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC) reached a long-term agreement with Walt Disney to carry the entertainment company’s programs on NRTC’s MyTimeTV. MyTimeTV is a “TV everywhere” service that allows cable subscribers to watch programs on digital devices like PCs and smartphones.