West Virginia is an intergenerational extraction economy (an economy based upon the extraction and use of natural resources, e.g., timber, salt, iron, glass, coal, and gas). Extraction economies generate profit through low costs and high volume using blue-collar workers with limited options. Improvements in technology and increases in competition factor significantly in the decline of the extraction economy. Extraction economies frequently suffer from abuse, inequity, unemployment, lack of education, impoverishment, and poor coping strategies.
Update: Some question whether iron and glass are true extraction products in West Virginia. I should clarify that glass and steel are both value-added products. However, glass settled deeply into the economy of the Ohio and Kanawha Valleys (and steel-works in the Northern Ohio Valley) because the rivers provided transportation for raw materials, value-added products and the coal that was used to "add value." The ready availability of 1) coal for furnaces and 2) rivers and rails to transport both coal and product established the glass and steel industries in and around West Virginia.