Coal Miner's Totter

What Kentucky's effort to break its mining addiction can teach other states

A few decades ago, Jim Booth sensed he might need to think about business beyond his two eastern-Kentucky coal mines, so he started a building-supply company, invested in real estate and began purchasing retail outlets. Over the past five years, his privately held coal conglomerate, Booth Energy, went from producing 8 million to 5 million tons of coal a year, and its workforce shrank by almost a third. But Booth says he was able to offset losses thanks to his varied companies, including a chain of Fast Lane convenience stores, which employs 800 people. "Coal has been our backbone," he says....

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