The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

February 20, 2013

Absorbing another blow

Area again looking for job-sustaining niche

The Tribune-Democrat

— Our residents are fighting mad while trying to make sense over the hundreds of jobs that have left or are leaving our region – just over the past year.

We share their anger. And we expect local and state government leaders and our economic-development gurus are already fighting back.

If we don’t respond and find answers quickly, who will do it for us?

No one.

Starting early last year, we:

* Saw what remained of the National Drug Intelligence Center leave downtown Johnstown.

* Witnessed the furloughs of more than 350 Somerset County coal miners over the last six months of the year.

* Read in disbelief as the state last month announced SCI-Cresson would be closed.

* Were told last week that a major Lockheed Martin plant in Richland Township was no longer economically feasible.

But what really hurts is that these were not jobs tied to government pork, as some would tell us.

With the exception of the mine closings, most of these workers were offered jobs elsewhere – in Virginia, in Centre County and in Middle River, Md.

What are we doing wrong?

Our salaries aren’t excessively demanding. Our work ethic is second to none. Our communities are friendly and, arguably, safer than most.

We’ve heard readers vent about President Obama’s policies dooming the NDIC and closing the mines. We’ve listened as the governor, the corrections secretary and other state officials were blasted for targeting the Cresson prison. Who they will blame for Lockheed relocating its shipping workers is anybody’s guess.

And, really, none of it matters.

“This news is disappointing, but it doesn’t change the fact that Johnstown is a great place to live and work,” said U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus in response to the Lockheed news.

“In these tough economic times,companies looking to keep and grow jobs would be well served by Johnstown’s low cost of living and highly skilled labor force, and I will work with the community to promote job creation.”

In the 1970s and ’80s, our steel and coal jobs disappeared and we looked and found relief in defense and high-tech industries. Having at that time a powerful congressman like John Murtha certainly helped.

We must look again, perhaps elsewhere, to find another niche while working to improve and expand the many great businesses and industries we already have.

We expect our new congressman will help. As will Gov. Tom Corbett.

But a community is only as strong as its people and its leaders and we should not expect others will do our work for us.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.