Calling allegations of fraud “vicious rumors,” Professional Contracting LLD’s owner Eddie Estep said he has placed 30 men from Harlan County into jobs and is actively working to place others.
Approximately two weeks ago, Estep, of Norton, Va., told the Enterprise paperwork was being finalized to put approximately 800 people back to work across the Kentucky and Virginia coalfields. He said 1,000 Harlan County people had placed applications, and after his company “went through applications” they were “going to try to get drug testing done within two weeks and bring everyone in for orientation.”
“What has been said about Alpha Natural Resources not having a contract with me is true,” said Estep. “Alpha said they don’t intend to open mines in Harlan County and bring people back. The thing that happened with this was I had an investor who pulled out — rumors started at that time and delayed some things. I do have other investors. We are still actively putting people back to work.”
Estep said his contracting company’s policy is to take applications, contact companies, not just coal, and try to place applicants.
“Alpha like Arch, CONSOL, Teco and Jewell coal companies have shut down mines,” said Estep. “Our intent is to contact other mines and put a large number of people back to work. Our investors are people with money who might want to go into the coal business, but they might be in another business.”
Saying coal miners have many different skills that can be put to use in “many different ways,” Estep said he is looking at other businesses besides working in a coal mine to place applicants.
“What our purpose is, is to get these laid off miners a job, preferably in a mine, but to get them a job and check coming in to help their families and their communities,” said Estep. “It’s important they use their mining skills at a mine, but those mining skills apply to many other industries.”
Denying “vicious rumors” that he had been charging $35 to fill out an application at his agency, Estep said these rumors are hurting applicants and companies wanting to hire.
“I thought this was particularly vicious and it’s a true lie,” said Estep. “We didn’t charge anything. It was at the applicant’s expense to travel here to put in an application.”
Saying the pulling out of investors had caused delays on job placements, Estep said he does “consulting business” for 48 companies. He said he has been in the business of helping those out of work for the past 30 years.
“I have placed some of these recent applicants at my companies,” said Estep. “I’ve got investors who are trying to reopen some of the mines that are shut down. To reassure the laid off miners, I told them all up front the goal was to get them a job and that hasn’t changed. We’re still going through the 3,000 applications we received and actively working to train, orient and drug test any of these applicants companies hire once it’s opened up somewhere to place them.”
Estep said he has placed approximately 50 applicants, who’s unemployment benefits have recently stopped. He said 30 of those 50 applicants were from Harlan County.
“A job is a job and at least they’re getting a check, providing for their families, paying taxes to their community,” said Estep. “You can’t employ 800 people overnight even if you had 30 mines to put them in. You just can’t do it. It takes time. I don’t think us saying we were going to put 800 people back to work was misleading — I hope to put more than that back to work. I think people thinking it was going to happen overnight was misleading. I never said that. These vicious rumors are defeating a lot of things we are trying to do to help these people out of work. It’s terrible a lot of companies won’t touch this with rumors flying.
“As far as the rumors I’m being investigated — the Better Business Bureau can investigate, the FBI, sheriff’s office anyone who wants to can come in and see my records. All I’m trying to do is get people jobs. I have nothing to hide. It takes time to process 3,000 applications. I just want every applicant to know I’m still trying to find them work. That has not changed. We’ve got to stop these rumors and get people back to work.”
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