Altoona Mirror, April 8, 2001 : Front Page

Publication: Altoona Mirror April 8, 2001

Altoona Mirror (Newspaper) - April 8, 2001, Altoona, Pennsylvania Altana Mirror © Copyright 2001 SUNDAY, APRIL 8, 2001 $1.50 newsstand IN SPORTS ► Tiger Woods takes lead in Masters IN BUSINESS I* 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 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 basic,” 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 community — one 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 job,” he said. With companies in the region cutting work forces or shutting down, displaced workers are competing 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 railroading. 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 retraining has become the key to surviving 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 lathe,” said Jay Strawmire, marketing manager for the Altoona-Blair County Development Corp. “Today the U.S. manufacturing base is globalized, and it is information-based technology. Are we going to replace these manufacturing jobs easily? No. We know we need to ramp up our efforts to replace jobs,” Strawmire said. “Unfortunately, the fact is that many of the factories in Blair County do not have headquarters here, and as the economy collapses, companies consolidate. So the greatest resources to Altoona are the companies with headquarters here.” Please see Negatives/Page A4 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 right). 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, lf 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 Staff Writer 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 benefits 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 living,” 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 Psyche/Page A4 By William Kibler Staff Writer With the national economy getting bushwhacked and local plant closings at Norfolk Southern Corp., C-COR.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 are still about 60,000 jobs here, compared to 48,00014 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 service and retail jobs than manufacturing jobs, thank you, said officials — and please take a look at our new convention center. Blair County is networked to the rest of the world 99 different ways — including by highways—and is starting to plug into the information-based, high-tech economy. And the relationships between local educational institutions and local businesses are many degrees warmer 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 1,400 jobs — mostly manufacturing — as a result of the M&T/Keystone bank merger, the planned shutdown of the Hollidaysburg Car Shop, the closing of Huck Jacobson, the shutdown of the C-COR.net plant and the closing of Butterick. Those lost jobs total a 2.3 percent hit on the 60,000 existing jobs. But other job gains have almost offset those lost. The net loss is around I 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 others aren’t going away, Strawmire said. The things that aren’t going away include Interstate 99, the railroad 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, Penn State Altoona and the main campus, St. Francis University and Juniata College in neighboring counties, the new convention center, Blair County Ballpark, the Pleasant Valley commercial and downtown service areas, cooperation of economic development agencies and personal computers in residents’ homes. Please see Positives/Page A4 im i DELIVERY Subscription or home delivery questions: 946-7480 or (800) 2874480 ■7~—2291Q * BIG FOUR 8    7    3    2 I Lottery numbers, A2 WEATHER Mix of sun and clouds, 76° ■ Forecast, A2 J H(£r-ADS^om Altoona mirror I THE GREAT COMBINATION I Call us today...Make money today. Ask for THE GREAT COMBINATION of MIRROR CLASSIFIEDS and HOT*ADS Phone (814) 946-7422 or fax us at (814) 946-7547 We're white-hot! n— czsim QLOCAL 0 SPORTS Q BUSINESS Obituaries A9 Outdoors C9 Stocks E2,3 Opinion Politics A7 A3,8 Scoreboard C8 CDs, Mutuals 64 School menus A5 Qufe Q CLASSIFIED (TJ NATION Astrograph Movies D4 D3 lj COMMUNITY NEWS Newsmakers B2 Puzzle 04 Couples Q2 Strange Brew B6 I Travel 06 Yesteryear Q3 > * economy: Good, bad, uncertain Diverse job base provides positives ;

  • Charles Dickens
  • Huck Jacobson
  • Jason Sipes
  • Jay Strawmire
  • John Maynard Keynes
  • Kevin Ott
  • Lydia Booker
  • Paul Ritchey

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Publication: Altoona Mirror

Location: Altoona, Pennsylvania

Issue Date: April 8, 2001

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