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Johnstown's Economic Forecast: Green And Growing

Marcus Charleston
90.5 FM WESA
Johnstown Mayor Frank Janakovic (left) and Linda R. Thomson President and CEO Johnstown Area Regional Industries (right) speak to Paul Guggenheimer at Essential Pittsburgh temporary broadcast location at the Johnstown Heritage Discovery Center.

Following the devastating flood of 1889, Johnstown quickly rebounded and began to grow. The region has been bouncing back from a series of set backs ever since.  The city has seen more floods, the near-demise of the steel industry and the gutting of military contracts, just to name a few.

Now Johnstown Mayor Frank Janakovic and Linda R. Thomson, President and CEO, Johnstown Area Regional Industries (JARI) think the region is poised for another comeback. 

“How do we take those things that we are really known for and who we are… and build on them,” Thomson said.

JARI and other groups are looking to showcase the region’s dedicated workforce and strong work ethic, along with the technology expertise built over the decades. But that might take some non-traditional thinking as a region. 

In the 70’s, according to Janakovic, US Steel and Bethlehem Steel combined employed nearly 20,000 people in Johnstown, now the entire city’s population is just slight more than 20,000.  But the region still has a large population base from which to draw.

“We need to come up with a new face for Johnstown,” Janakovic said,  “A new branding is what I’m looking at.”

The Hockeyville USA designation might serve as the catalyst to pull the region together and get the economy going again.

“[Hockeyville] has been a unified effort to make this happen and I think it is a big celebration for Johnstown that should carry on for decades,” Janakovic said. “It’s a piece of history for all of us in Johnstown, something we all can enjoy and carry on.”

Among the recent success stories for the city and JARI is the attraction of North American Hoganas.  The powdered metals company has established operations in the region despite the fact that the North American powdered metals industry is, for the most part, centered in north eastern Pennsylvania.

The region is also turning to much greener economic development efforts.  Tourism has been building slowly.

“Our trail networks, the outdoor amenities and our historic land marks,” Thomson said.  “All of these things come together to make Johnstown a great place to locate [a business].”

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.

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