The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

June 12, 2014

'Recovery City' a possibility | Region making strides on labor front

JOHNSTOWN — Better than the year before.

Those are words that just about everybody enjoys hearing – and saying. Whether it’s about your finances, sports team, family status, health, academics, standing in life, etc., it always brightens your day when you find out this year is an improvement over the past 12 months.

That’s exactly the news that Johnstown Area Regional Industries gave this past week during its annual progress report.

“All statistics that we track on an annual basis were better in 2013 than the year before,” Linda Thomson, JARI president, wrote in her report. Thomson’s comments were read during a luncheon for stakeholders and the public at Mount Aloysius College.

Job creation and retention were highlighted among JARI’s accomplishments. It also bragged about the drop in laid-off workers.

We can’t fault JARI for wanting to crow about its accomplishments.

More than 250 new jobs were added to the Laurel Highlands region, and more than 2,400 small business jobs were retained.

That dovetails nicely with news from the federal Labor Department late last week that U.S. employers have added more than 200,000 jobs a month for four consecutive months. That pace, the labor department said, had not been seen since 1999.

Auto sales have inched upward, and manufacturing and service industries also have spiked, making consumers more confident in the economy.

Americans are beginning to breathe a little easier as the economy slowly starts to right itself.

But getting back to our little niche in the world, Thomson also told The Tribune-Democrat that 629 people were trained for various employment opportunities in the region.

That’s a credit to schools such as Pennsylvania Highlands Community College and Greater Johnstown Career and Technology, which have added classes specifically to retrain individuals to re-enter the job market.

And JARI’s Procurement and Technical Assistance Center brought in about $200 million in government contracts, mostly in the region’s defense-related industry. In fact, this year’s Showcase for Commerce, which recently wrapped up, announced more than $150 million in contracts.

But the best news for the region didn’t come from the defense section.

“The biggest story of the year was the (Route) 219 story,” Thomson said.

That project is expected to last five years.

“Thousands of jobs will be realized as a result of this new transportation corridor, both during construction and into the future,” Thomson wrote.

We anticipate new businesses springing up all along the new 11-mile corridor that will stretch southward from Somerset to Meyersdale.

As Alan Walker, state Department of Community and Economic Development secretary, said at the luncheon: “As the future unfolds, in 20 years, I want the nickname for Johns-town changed from the ‘Flood City’ to the ‘Recovery City.’ ”

That would please us, too. But it won’t happen by just sitting on our laurels. There is still a lot of work to do before Johnstown emerges from under the dark cloud of labor setbacks and economic woes.

However, with everybody doing his or her part, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t happen.

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