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Altoona Mirror: Sunday, April 8, 2001 - Page 1

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   Altoona Mirror (Newspaper) - April 8, 2001, Altoona, Pennsylvania                                Copyright 2001 SUNDAY, APRIL 8, 2001 newsstand IN SPORTS Tiger Woods takes lead in Masters IN BUSINESS Services see increase in hunt for jobs "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Charles Dickens, "A Tale of Two Cities" Layoffs, slowdowns and shutdowns have dominated the headlines recently, but there are enough positive projects brewing to make one wonder exactly which way the area's fortunes are heading. Area economy: Good, bad, uncertain Negatives create culture of despair "The difficulty lies not with the new ideas, but in escaping the old ones." John Maynard Keynes, 19th and early 20th century English economist. BY CRAIG WILLIAMS Staff Writer Paul Ritchey said his Roaring Spring dairy farm isn't terribly affected by a slowing economy because people always will drink milk, and prices for milk have been regulated by the state for years. It's the lack of opportunity for the younger generation that has his attention. "Agriculture is pretty Ritchey said.. "The younger people are who I'm concerned about. It's getting harder for them to get established. Now the only way you can get into agriculture is if your family has a farm." Traditionally, children of the farming of the oldest industries in Blair County who couldn't afford a farm would turn to manufacturing jobs for an income, he said. "And if there is no work for them on the farm, they are going to want your he said. With companies in the region cutting work forces or shutting down, displaced workers are com- peting for fewer and fewer jobs. According to local industry experts, it isn't profitable for the region to dwell on the jobs that were once important such as rail- roading. Changing technology has reduced the manpower needs of traditional industries and forced communities to diversify their employment base if they want to remain economically healthy. For employees, lifelong retrain- ing has become the key to surviv- ing the new economy. Unlike machines, humans easily can be reprogrammed. "More and more, industry isn't looking for a guy to run a lathe they need someone to program the said Jay Strawmire, mar- keting manager for the Altoona- Blair County Development Corp. "Today the U.S. manufacturing base is globalized, and it is informa- tion-based technology. Are we going to replace these manufacturing jobs easily? No. We know we need to ramp up our efforts to replace Strawmire said. "Unfortunately, the fact is that many of the factories in Blair County do not have headquar- ters here, and as the economy col- lapses, companies consolidate. So the greatest resources to Altoona are the companies with headquar- ters here." Please see A4 dayslhead Mirror photos by Jason Sipes When the twisting steel and concrete of Interstate 99 finally provides a link from the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Interstate 80, Blair County will be at ground central of a crucial trade link. Work on the project is continuing in Centre County (shown at There are signs everywhere, subtle and not so subtle, that the sun is setting on the area's time as a railroad hub (above, at left) and as both a manufacturing and industrial center. Three reasons to think Blair County is in an economic downturn: 1. Dying manufacturing economy has resulted in massive layoffs. 2. The railroad industry's continued decline is creating a collective psyche of despair. 3. The region lost its powerful congressman to retirement and will be starting over in May with a freshman legislator. Three reasons to think Blair County is headed toward economic growth: 1. The impending completion of Interstate 99 to Interstate 80 will open a vital trade and transportation link. 2. The opening of a new convention center signifies the region's official transformation from a manufacturing to service economy. 3. Penn State Altoona's expansion is fueling growth around its campus'and creating a variety of new educational opportunities. Layoffs affect the psyche as well as wallet Tell your story The Mirror is looking to help tell the stories of some of the hundreds of area people who have been laid off in the past few months or who will be soon. If you've been laid off recently or are scheduled to lose your job soon and you'd like to talk to a Mirror reporter about your specific situation, please call 946-7457 and leave your name, hometown and telephone number. BY KEVIN OTT StaffWritfr Lydia Booker just lost her job. But as far as she's concerned, she's one of the lucky ones. The 61-year-old former C-COR.net employee has Social Security checks and widow's bene- fits to look forward to in the years to come. Her job was there mostly to make ends meet after her husband died, and she moved to Tyrone from Connecticut. She'll find another job, but it's not an emergency. It's her younger co-workers she's worried about. "I'm not in as sticky a situation as people who have to work for a she said. "I feel bad for the people who have husbands and wives." Hundreds of jobs have evaporated from Blair County and its neighbors since summer as local employers, one by one, downsized or shut their doors completely. Booker had been at C-COR.net for seven-and-a-half years. Others at businesses across Blair County had many more years of seniority and are now back at square one. As more companies lay off workers in the face of a stormy economy, local job prospects thin out, and looking for work becomes a full-time job. Please see A4 Diverse job base provides positives BY WILLIAM KIBLER Staff Writer With the national economy getting bushwhacked and local plant closings at Norfolk Southern Corp., OCOR.net, Huck Jacobson and Butterick Co. Inc., people fear the economy is derailing, shorting out, stripping its threads or coming unstitched. People may say the sky is falling, but it's not, said Jay Strawmire, director of marketing for Altoona-Blair County Development Corp. There 4re still about jobs here, coinpared to years ago, he said. When Altoona was a railroad city, a national downturn quickly threw it off track. But the area is diversified now. It has more ser- vice and retail jobs than manufac- turing jobs, thank you, said offi- cials and please take a look at our new convention center. Blair County is networked to the rest of the world 99 different ways by is starting to plug into the informa- tion-based, high-tech economy. And the relationships between local edu- cational institutions and local busi- nesses are many degrees wanner than they used to be. Officials are expecting that warmth to fertilize and incubate more little businesses. In the last year, Blair County has lost about jobs mostly manufacturing as a result of the bank merger, the planned shutdown of the Hollidaysburg Car Shop, the clos- ing of Huck Jacobson, the shut- down of the C-COR.net plant and the closing of Butterick. Those lost jobs total a 2.3 per- cent hit on the existing jobs. But other job gains have offset those lost. The net loss is. around 1 percent, giving the area 6.2 percent unemployment now. Also, all the good things in the last 20 years that helped create many of those jobs and lots of oth- ers aren't going away, Strawmire said. The things that aren't going away include Interstate 99, the rail- road main line, this area's location near the biggest concentration of people in the country, industrial parks, and roads, sewer and water and communications lines that serve them, Perm State Altoona and the main campus, St. Francis University and Juniata College in neighboring counties, the new con- vention center, Blair County Ballpark, the Pleasant Valley com- mercial and downtown service areas, cooperation of economic development agencies and person- al computers in residents' homes.- Please see A4 MEUVENY Subscription or home delivery questions: 946-7480 or (800) 287-4480' 8 732 Lottery numbers, A2 WUTHOI Mix of sun and clouds, Forecast, A2 Altnnna THE GREAT COMBINATION Call us today...Make money today. Ask for THE CHEAT COMBINATION of MIRROR CLASSIFIEDS and HOT-ADS Phone (814) 946-7422 or tux up at (814) 946-7547 Newsmakers B2 Strange Brew B6 1 01 tram Obituaries A9 I Outdoors Opinion A7 i Scoreboard Politics School menus AS i H UK Astrograph Movies Puzzle Travel C9 C8 04 D3 04 D6 Stocks E2.3 CDs, Mutuals C4 Couples 03 Yesteryear 03   

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