Roundup: A Rural Town’s Prayer

W. Va. spill contained second chemical • Private equity firm focuses on rural companies • State legislation focuses on rural issues • Brain drain shows signs of reversal in Australia

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It’s hard to stay on top of the West Virginia water contamination story. The water is safe to drink, or maybe it’s not. The odor of the water doesn’t affect its safety, or maybe it does.

To that baffling list of contradictory information now comes word that the tank that leaked into the Elk River and contaminated the water for 300,000 customers of the West Virginia American Water Co. contained a second chemical, PPH. The chemical is described as “harmful if swallowed” and a skin and eye irritant, according to a data sheet, reports Ken Ward Jr. in the West Virginia Gazette.

The owner of the tank, Freedom Industries, informed West Virginia officials about the second chemical on Tuesday, 12 days after water disaster began.

Freedom Industries filed for bankruptcy protection last week. Court papers show the company is owned by Pennsylvania coal magnate J. Clifford Forrest, reports Paul M. Barrett in Bloomberg Businessweek. The papers also indicate Forrest’s lawyers may try to pin some of the blame for the chemical-tank leak on a busted water line that caused the ground below the tank to freeze.

The broken water line belongs to West Virginia American Water, which is already part of the controversy for how it responded to the leaking chemical tank.

An Iowa private-equity firm is focusing on investments in smaller companies located in rural areas, reports the Des Moines Register:

The game plan is to deploy that capital in an underserved niche market — rural Midwestern companies with annual revenue of $40 million or less. They’re especially looking for companies led by aging baby boomers struggling to find qualified successors so they can retire. The sector is largely ignored by the big Wall Street firms which dominate private equity

“Traditional funds don’t play in the marketplace where we are going to play, which is small to midsized companies,” said John Mickelson of Midwest Growth Partners. “The geographic area, especially in the rural Midwest, has been underserved in the past and that’s created an opportunity for us.”

A state legislator in Washington wants to revive a rural tax break that expired in 2009.  State Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, says the tax break will “lead to more diverse job opportunities.”

An Idaho legislator has introduced a bill he hopes will make it easier for rural areas to attract general surgeons.

First came the steel plow, then the tractor, then the power take off. Now it’s … the drone?

Next month is the third annual Unmanned Systems in Precision Agriculture Conference. The conference will examine the use of unmanned systems (a.k.a. drones) in farming.

Australia reports that rural-to-urban migration patterns in the nation may be shifting for younger adults:

The drift among young adults from country to city living is reversing, with more 25 to 44-year-olds returning to the regional towns they grew up in, the Regional Australia Institute says.

Internal migration data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows, for 2010-11, that eight capital cities lost a net 10,638 people in the 25 to 44 age category while the top eight regional centres gained 8064.

“This trend signifies a big change in lifestyle preferences for this demographic and opens up many opportunities for regions and businesses to consider how to take advantage of this,” RAI chief executive Su McCluskey said. …

According to a report by the RAI, there is anecdotal evidence many of those moving to the regional areas are returning to where they grew up once they settle down and have families, a group the research group has dubbed “regional returners”.

The returners make the move for various reasons, the RAI says, including lifestyle, affordability, and to be close to family and have lower stress.

 

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