Blair County Economy
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The Blair County officials remain optimistic about the county economy after a year marked by layoffs. Development officials say many furloughed workers have been hired elsewhere in the area and more than one dozen businesses expanded in 2019. Marshall Keely is here to explain the developments that have one lawmaker feeling encouraged. Hi, Marshall. Stephen McKnight from the Altoona Blair County Development Corporation says almost 600 workers were laid off in the last 24 months from six different businesses in the county. As we previously reported, 250 of those were from Norfolk Southern in 2019. Representative Jim Gregory says the railroad will always be part of the fabric of this area, but changes are taking place. The Altoona area now offers a more diverse range of jobs in healthcare, education, manufacturing and agriculture and no longer needs to rely solely on the railroad to sustain the economy. Job growth and wages increased from 2018 to 2019. McKnight says 16 companies expanded, adding a total of 600 jobs. ABCD Corp. Also assisted more than 108 startup businesses and managed 20 projects with more than $26 million in new, capital spending. A multi billion-dollar health management corporation is considering opening facilities in Blair County, bringing over 300 jobs. He says his job is to keep bringing opportunity to the area. "Some companies are making decisions that are going to cause layoffs, but the silver lining in that is that so many of these jobs that were lost at Norfolk Southern are jobs that require a very specific skill set." "This market is still very strong. It is still on the upside and we hope that through our career link partners and workforce partners that those skilled workers that are affected by downsizing can find an equal job someplace in our local economy." McKnight says as long as furloughed workers continue to get jobs within a 50 mile radius of Blair County, the economy in the region will stay strong,