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Proposal: Alleviating both the issue and the effects of Poverty on the Cumberland MD-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area.

For decades, unemployment and poverty in Cumberland has slowly risen, and the many issues that come with Unemployment have of course followed. Hindered by both political opposition and cultural hardheadedness, those actively seeking a solution to the issue have been left with little in the way of progress. 

The Issue

Problem Defined

I am solving the issue of poverty and unemployment, as well as the litany of side effects that Unemployment brings, in the Cumberland MD-WV metropolitan area. The lack of jobs in Cumberland has led to a population decline, a removal of businesses, and a rise in illicit and hardcore drug use over the years. The City of Cumberland has been named the poorest city in the state of Cumberland, with differing studies placing the poverty rate anywhere between 15.9 percent, and 24 percent at the highest, both numbers higher than the National and State averages. 

Expand all bullets
How it StartedMORE

While the population of Cumberland began to decline with the conclusion of the Second World War, the major issue of unemployment started in the mid-1980's. With the withdrawal of two major industrial plants, the Celanese, in 1983, and the Kelly Springfield Tire Company, in 1987. The withdrawal of these two plants are what got the ball rolling. Cumberland, having always been an industrial town, was now left without both of its biggest producers, and two of its biggest employers.

Cumberland: City of IndustryMORE

Cumberland has always been an industrial city, both in the production, and transportation, of primary and secondary goods. Whether it is our coal mines, plants like Kelly Springfield Tire, or our famous B&O Railroad, Cumberland has always been a city known for it's industry. 

The Opioid PlagueMORE

Like many post-industrial cities, specifically in the north-eastern portions of the United States, Cumberland has a frightening opioid crisis.

There are two contributing factors to this:

  1. Lack of Recreational Marijuana Legalization
  2. The nature of being an economically depressed, poverty-ridden, post industrial city.

According to Evan Comen of USA Today, "Many of the communities most affected by drug addiction and overdose death are low income, rural parts of the country. Often, economic opportunities are more limited in these areas, and social isolation is worse. There are also fewer resources for substance abuse treatment."


One key factor (that is somehow often overlooked) when addressing the issue of unemployment, is that an area needs employers before it can have employees. While some of the Suburbs of Cumberland, such as LaVale and Bel-air, are very business heavy, the more urban city of Cumberland itself lacks flourishing businesses. 

Of it's many flaws, the one attraction that Cumberland can boast above all others is our very cheap housing. This is because of our over-abundance of residences. While our population has declined since the 1970's, and our poverty continued to increase, the number of available houses has in fact stagnated. This over-abundance of residential areas in the city is part of the problem. There is simply no available space for businesses to establish themselves.  

Source in Description

Anon - Citytowninfo (October 28, 2019)


Anon. n.d. “Cumberland, Maryland Employment.” Citytowninfo.com. Retrieved October 31, 2019 (https://www.citytowninfo.com/places/maryland/cumberland/work).

Source in Description

Anon - Data USA (October 28, 2019)


Anon. n.d. “Cumberland, MD.” Data USA. Retrieved October 31, 2019 (https://datausa.io/profile/geo/cumberland-md/#demographics).
Anon. n.d.

Source in Description

Anon - population.us (October 28, 2019)


“Population.us.” Cumberland, MD Population. Retrieved October 31, 2019 (https://population.us/md/cumberland/).

Source in Description

Evan Comen - USA Today (November 5, 2019)


Comen, Evan. 2019. “Victims of the Opioid Crisis: Counties with the Worst Drug Problems in Every State.” USA Today. Retrieved November 5, 2019 (https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/08/02/opioid-crisis-counties-with-worst-drug-problems-in-every-state/39822385/).

Source in Description

Stanford Chihuri and Li Guohua - NCBI (November 7, 2019)


Chihuri, Stanford and Guohua Li. 2019. “State Marijuana Laws and Opioid Overdose Mortality.” Injury Epidemiology. Retrieved November 7, 2019 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6717967/).

Source in Description

Wiley - Science Daily (November 6, 2019)


Wiley. (2019, August 7). Marijuana legalization reduces opioid deaths. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 6, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/08/190807092350.htm

Go deeper

I am a resident of Cresaptown, one of the many suburbs of Cumberland, and have lived here all my life. I am attending AC in the hopes of transferring to Frostburg State to pursue a degree in Sports Physiology. I am economically conservative, and Socially libertarian. 

Logan Shuck

The Solution

Proposed Actions
Expand all bullets
Returning to our RootsMORE

Cumberland, since the 1990's, has strayed from it's industrial roots, and returning to them would reduce several of the problems that help create poverty. 

Even in 2019, some of the largest employers in Cumberland are industry or manufacturing based. This isn't coincidental. Due to Cumberland's location here in the mountains, it has always been a city that has either produced, or distributed primary or secondary goods. Cumberland was a key road, railroad, and canal junction, and because of this, it became the second largest city in Maryland, second only to major port city Baltimore. Cumberland was also the terminus and namesake for the "Cumberland Road," which would eventually become the National Road, which was a key part of Westward Expansion. The surrounding areas were mined for it's useful coal and iron ore, which helped supply the industrial revolution. These factors coupled together led to Cumberland developing as a major manufacturing center.

How is this information useful? With it, we know what made Cumberland the second largest city in Maryland. 

Encouraging the return of industry would go a long way toward reducing poverty. It would provide plenty of job opportunities. Some of our areas largest employers are still manufacturing based, including American Woodmark, and Biederlack of America. Industry thrives here, for reasons previously explained, and therefore would employ a large number of people. 

Legalizing Recreation MarijuanaMORE

This bullet point might seem relatively absurd to one looking at it from the outside. How could legalizing recreational marijuana possibly help alleviate poverty? Well, it helps in 2 different ways:

  1. The first, is by reducing opioid-related deaths. According to Science Daily

    "Investigators found that legalization and access to recreational marijuana reduced annual opioid mortality in the range of 20% to 35%, with particularly pronounced effects for synthetic opioids." Legalizing recreational marijuana is part of one of many ways to help reduce the effects of the Opioid Crisis.

  2. The second, it would allow regular smokers to continue the perfectly healthy habit (when compared to consumption of Alcohol or Tobacco) and still hold jobs that require drug tests. 
  3. Thirdly, it would reduce the consumption of Alcohol. According to several studies done by Forbes, Alcohol sales have dropped as far as 15 percent in some areas, and another article on the same site stated that, " 'In legal adult use cannabis states,' the analysts wrote, 'the number binge drinking sessions per month (for states legal through 2016) was -9% below the national average.' "
Bringing Back BusinessMORE

Other than industry, Cumberland also has another way which it can capitalise on it's location to bring revenue. 

Cumberland is, for lack of a better term, a "pass-through" kind of city. I-68, which connects Morgantown to Hancock, and connects to I-70, which is a route to Ohio and further west, cuts right through Cumberland. If we began opening businesses that complimented this, such as hotels, restaurants, and strip malls, along the Interstate in the city, this would accomplish several things:

  • It would employ people within city limits.
  • It would create more traffic through the city
  • More young people would be willing to stay, instead of moving out looking for jobs, creating the "brain drain" phenomena. 
  • The wages paid to these new employees would be spent back into the community, at other local businesses.

Instead of attempting to increasing the number of residences in the city, a more effective alternative would be to relocate citizens in the most poverty stricken areas to other parts of the city, and allow businesses to move in those areas. This tactic is known as "Gentrification." Cumberland is even more ready to gentrify than other low-income areas that have utilized it. While the population of Cumberland has declined since the 1970's at a steady rate, the number of available residences has stagnated. We would be able to relocate people in, for example, the Rolling Mill district, and they would be able to move to other available housing in the area. 

Expected Results
Expand all bullets
Business and Industry Would FlourishMORE
Opioid and Alcohol Use would DecreaseMORE
Unemployment Would DecreaseMORE

My solutions require private solutions, involving private money, and therefore these numbers cannot be pinned down, due to too many unestimatable variables.

The Conversation

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