The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


April 15, 2013

For region, challenges keep mounting

— While Johnstown population figures released recently by the U.S. Census Bureau weren’t unexpected, they still smart.

And whether we’ve hit bottom with nowhere but up to go is anybody’s guess.

It’s easy to get down, throw up our hands and accept a fate none of us wants.

Giving up has never been this region’s way. Why start now?

At least two things seem certain:

* It’s time for an all-hands-on-deck blitz to address our sorry situation. This is front-burner stuff.

* Our region still has plenty to offer new businesses and new industries – or those looking to expand – and new residents.

On the heels of recent and especially bad economic news involving closures and layoffs – from the Cresson prison and MetLife and Lockheed Martin Global Supply Chain Services, both in Richland Township – comes a report saying Johnstown’s population is dropping at a faster pace than almost any other metropolitan statistical area in the United States.


U.S. Census Bureau figures say the MSA, which encompasses all of Cambria County, saw an estimated seven-tenths of a percent population drop – 142,624 people to 141,584 – during a 12-month period that ended on July 1, 2012.

The loss tied for fifth-sharpest among the nation’s 381 MSA areas.

Showing the fastest decline were Pine Bluff, Ark., at -1.5 percent, first, and Joplin, Mo., at -1.3 percent, second.

In the case of the city of Johnstown, the principal municipality in the MSA, the 2010 census listed its population at just shy of 21,000, down some 40,000 from the late ’50s and early ’60s.

Massive population loss translates into smaller tax bases, smaller school enrollments and less attractive communities for outsiders looking to relocate.

With a remaining population that is growing older and fewer people overall to share the financial load, we shudder every time governments and school boards talk about tax increases.

So what do we do besides cower, whine about our miseries and blame others?

Start by encouraging and electing leaders with vision and give them the support they need to break the latest down cycle. And we build on the many, many positives we have: Several top-notch colleges and universities; solid defense, high-tech and health-care industries; an attractive, inviting Richland Township business district; state-of-the-art airport; a work ethic outsiders admire; and historic tourist offerings that enthrall our visitors.  

“We need a break,” some say.

We do – and it will come – through hard work and intense marketing of the many things that make our region so great.

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