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The Appalachians and the Ozarks, Economy

Tobacco farms, Tennessee Valley Authority, sightseers, Appalachians, Ozarks

Historically, the economy of the region has been depressed. In many parts, natural resources were meager, and agricultural land was scarce and often rocky or hilly. In addition, in some areas, industry was isolated from markets by poor transportation networks. In the 20th century, employment in coal mining, which had brought prosperity to parts of this region, declined.

The depressed economy of Appalachia was one consideration in the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) project in the mid-1930s. TVA built dams, created reservoirs, and improved river navigation. TVA’s work decreased flooding and erosion. Its facilities provided electric power, creating jobs by allowing industries and businesses to locate in much of Appalachia. The TVA helped Appalachia’s economy, but until the 1970s, the region was still synonymous with poverty, depressed living conditions, poor education, and little hope for change.

In the 1990s, the region’s economy has benefited from government facilities such as a center for research on nuclear energy and environmental management at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Such facilities have stimulated employment opportunities in manufacturing and recreational services, generating pockets of prosperity.

Another spur to growth at the close of the 20th century was tourism. Both Appalachia and the Ozarks contain spectacular scenery and pristine wilderness areas. The Pennsylvania Piedmont and the Shenandoah Valley, treasure troves of American Civil War (1861-1865) history, have drawn sightseers from all over the world. In addition, specialized economic activities have recently helped boost prosperity in parts of the Ozarks. Branson, Missouri has become a country music haven with big hotels and concert halls, while the Ozark-Ouachita uplands have recently experienced a surge of development as a resort and recreation area.

In the agricultural sector, specialized crops have done well. Tobacco farms in the Appalachian valleys and dairy and apple farms in the Ozarks have increased in importance, while lumber milling can still be found in almost every county in both areas.

At the close of the 20th century, urban growth patterns, agricultural specialization, and diversified economies have developed in the Appalachian and Ozarks regions. Because of its scarce resources, the economy in the Appalachians and the Ozarks will probably never be dynamic and expansive. Businesses will have to capitalize on the region’s few strong points, including a pleasant environment, extraordinary mountain scenery, low living costs, outdoor recreational activities, and desirable retirement accommodations.

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