Becca Schimmel

Multimedia Journalist

Becca Schimmel is a multimedia journalist with the Ohio Valley ReSource a collaborative of public radio stations in Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio.  She's based out of the WKU Public Radio newsroom in Bowling Green. 

Becca was born in Charleston, SC but grew up in Lexington, Kentucky. You can often find her behind a book or near a cup of coffee. In her time away from the newsroom she enjoys running and lifting weights. She’s a sucker for unintentional puns, a good cup of coffee, a nice craft beer and a story.

Becca earned her Bachelor of Science in journalism from Murray State University with a minor in psychology. She interned with The Paducah Sun in Paducah as a general assignment reporter. From there she went on to become Morning Edition producer and general assignment reporter for WKMS in Murray.

Becca Schimmel

New data shows Kentucky is seeing an increase in counties that have more workers than available jobs. The U.S. Department of Labor report shows most of the Kentucky counties with a high labor surplus are in the more rural parts of the state.

The DOL issues the report at the beginning of every federal fiscal year. To be designated as one of these areas, a city or county has to have an average unemployment rate of 20 percent or more above the national rate for the past two calendar years.

Becca Schimmel

Kentucky has 134,000 open jobs and that number is expected to increase. The state’s Labor Cabinet and Education and Workforce Development Cabinet have been turning to apprenticeships to bridge the gap between skilled jobs and workers.

Education and Workforce Development Secretary Derrick Ramsey said in order to fill those jobs; all hands have to be on deck. He said that means apprenticeship programs for students, encouraging people leaving the military to stay in Kentucky, and giving the incarcerated population a second chance.

Office of Sen. Brown

Retired coal miners and coal community activists are on Capitol Hill this week urging action on two important issues for miners: pensions and black lung benefits. Advocates say funds supporting both pensions for retired miners and the federal benefits for those sickened by black lung disease are at risk if Congress does not act. 

Pension Problem

A United Mine Workers of America spokesperson said the miners’ pension fund could become insolvent by 2022. Congress created a Joint Select Committee to shore up this and other similar pension funds that are in jeopardy. But UMWA spokesperson Phil Smith is concerned that the committee is not making enough progress. Smith said Congressional Democrats have proposed a potential solution but Republicans have not responded.


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A new study shows Kentucky’s business tax environment had the greatest improvement in the nation. The state ranked 23rd this year in the 2019 State Business Tax Climate Index published by the Tax Foundation, a 16 spot improvement over last year.

Kentucky went to a single rate individual and corporate income tax, eliminating some business tax credits. The state also expanded the sales tax base and began phasing out inventory tax credits, or taxes on inventory held in the state by businesses. Those changes went  into effect on July 1st. The annual State Business Tax Climate Index shows Kentucky adopted a revenue-positive tax reform, meaning the state should collect more from the changes. Senior policy analyst Jared Walczak said the Commonwealth is moving towards a more competitive tax code.

flickr Creative Commons

Elizabethtown and Somerset Community Colleges are holding recruiting events Thursday and Friday for Boeing manufacturing positions in Washington state. The company is offering up to $20,000 for relocating.  

Boeing is looking for people with skills in electrical technology, engineering and electronics technology and industrial maintenance technology. Butch Tincher is an instructor at Somerset Community College. He said Boeing’s hiring exam mirrors the school’s exit exam.

Becca Schimmel

The Trump administration’s decision to lower the cap on refugees admitted into the U.S. is calling into question the future of refugee resettlement in Bowling Green. The administration announced Monday it’s reducing the refugee cap to a record low of 30,000. The International Center of Kentucky was planning to resettle about 400 refugees this year, but now it may not be able to bring in even half of that.  

The Bowling Green-based agency is a volunteer group that relies on federal funds to resettle refugees. With less refugees coming to Bowling Green, the International Center will have to cut back on staff and resources.

Creative Commons

A new report shows the number of Kentucky’s preschoolers who are obese dropped by about 5 percent between 2010 and 2014. However, the obesity rankings for the state’s high school students and adults were among the worst in the U.S.

 

According to the State of Obesity report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Kentucky has the eighth highest adult obesity rate in the nation. The obesity rate for the state’s children ages 10 to 17 is the 14th highest in the country.

Last year more than 20 percent of the state’s high school students were obese. The adult ranking wasn’t much better. More than 34 percent of adults in Kentucky were obese in 2016.

Becca Schimmel

Bowling Green could be home to a new trolley service this spring. Nashville-based Gray Line Trolley is offering free rides through Saturday, in hopes of making the service permanent. Bowling Green hasn’t had a trolley in more than 100 years.

The first few days of trolley rides are a trial period to see whether residents are interested in the service. Gray Line is a private business and is sponsoring the free rides. If the service becomes permanent, those wanting rides would pay. That cost hasn’t been determined yet. Beth Noffsinger is the public relations manager with the Bowling Green Convention and Visitors Bureau. She said free rides are available from 2 to 8 p.m. Friday, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

Becca Schimmel

After nearly 30 years of construction and a budget that rose into the billions, Olmsted Locks and Dam passed the first tow barge through its system at a ceremony Thursday on the Ohio River.

The $3 billion infrastructure improvement by the Army Corps of Engineers is the most expensive inland waterway project in U.S. history and is touted as the hub of the nation’s river navigation system.

“We know that this lock and dam is going to be here for decades and that’s a big deal,” Matt Lowe said. He was the project manager for Olmsted from 2012 to 2016 and he was in the crowd of dignitaries to dedicate the project at a ceremony Thursday. 


Becca Schimmel

Although jobs in Kentucky are growing, they still haven’t returned to pre-recession levels. The 2018 State of Working Kentucky report from the left-leaning Kentucky Center for Economic Policy shows the state would need 60,000 more jobs to return to the pre-recession economy of 2000.

According to the report, wages have remained stagnant across multiple sectors and public investment in schools, payments to hospitals and public safety are playing a big role in where major employers locate.

Becca Schimmel

The United States and Mexico have reached a preliminary deal to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. The emerging agreement has big implications for agriculture and automakers in the Ohio Valley.  

President Trump has played up his tentative agreement with Mexico’s president, but NAFTA partner Canada has only recently been included in the weeks of negotiations. At an automotive conference in Lexington, Kentucky earlier this month Auto industry representatives stressed the importance of trade with Canada and Mexico.


Kara Lofton, WVPB

In back-to-back events this week President Trump and his commerce secretary visited the Ohio Valley to tout administration policies aimed at propping up two of the region's traditional but faltering industries -- metals and mining.

The president used a Tuesday rally filled with West Virginia coal miners to unveil a new plan to ease pollution requirements on coal-burning power plants.

The next day, Commerce Sec. Wilbur Ross presided over the ceremonial start-up of a production line at a Kentucky aluminum company that has increased production in response to Trump’s tariffs on imported metals.


Mark Doliner/Creative Commons

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s plan to keep up with emerging automotive technology—like self-driving vehicles-- is to maintain existing roads and bridges. But that strategy may face challenges as cars become more efficient and less reliant on gasoline. The state’s road fund relies heavily on revenue from gas taxes.

A report from the Center for Automotive Research, a non-profit research group, forecasts fully automated vehicles could be ready for mass production by 2040. Bernard Swiecki is with the Center’s Industry Labor Economics Group at the Center for Automotive Research. He said communities need to take into consideration the likelihood of more self-driving and electric vehicles when building a new facility.

Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

Automotive manufacturing leaders met in Kentucky to discuss how changes in U.S. trade policy under President Trump affect the industry and its growing presence in the Ohio Valley.

Industry leaders gathered for the annual AutoVision conference and many don’t like what they see coming.

NAFTA 2.0 negotiations are ongoing, companies are paying tariffs for some steel and aluminum imports and domestic metals prices are increasing as demand goes up. Add to that the prospect of auto import tariffs President Trump is exploring and executives like John-Mark Hack see trouble ahead. 


Coal Miners Respiratory Clinic

When former coal mine employees in western Kentucky faced arraignment Wednesday on federal charges that they conspired to falsify the required monitoring of coal dust, the hearing brought renewed attention to the region’s surge in black lung disease.

The case highlights the many challenges miners face in the workplace. And health officials in black lung clinics say sick miners also face an increasingly Byzantine bureaucratic process that determines if those afflicted with the lung disease receive benefits.


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