PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WOWK) – Since the peak of coal production in 1982, hundreds of miners in Eastern Kentucky have been let go, but one start-up software development company is putting them back to work.
“Their exact words were ‘due to the failing mining market or failing coal market, we gotta let you go,” said James Johnson, a former coal miner who had worked in the mines for more than 25 years.
Bit Source, based in Pikeville, Kentucky, was opened in 2015 by two former coal miners who wanted to help those like them earn a liveable wage and stay in the mountains.
The company first hired eleven coal miners who were handed pink slips and trained them into coders.
Bit Source COO, Payton May said, “I think it’s challenging when you’re faced with economic disruption to redefine yourselves and find market opportunity in a new sector, so that’s really what we’re trying to do here.”
Coal mining is a high tech type of work that can easily be crossed over into computer programming.
“There’s a complexity of jobs that are happening within mining as a whole… there’s technicians, there’s electricians, there’s definitely aptitude there and with enough kind of diligence then those skills can be learned and we can build products here,” said May.
Now nearly five years later, Bit Source specializes in an array of things, such as web design, app development, virtual reality, 3-D modeling, and graphic design.
“I love being able to create. Being able to take a problem or an issue, or something the world needs and think it through and build a solution for it, that’s basically what coding is – what computer programming is,” said James.
And creating a virtual reality into a financial reality for former coals miners leaving an old industry for a new one.