2009-01-08 / Front Page

2008 The Year That Was!

It was all about the economy
By Jean Snyder STAFF WRITER

The old year drew to a close last week amid mixed emotions. While many were glad to see it go, others expressed concern for the year that lies ahead. During the 2000 presidential campaign, then-candidate Bill Clinton was reminded regularly by his staff that "it's the economy, stupid!" And, now just eight years later, those words have never rung truer. The United States has ended the year in a dramatic economic slump fueled by the failure of banks, brokerages, small businesses, the Big-3 automakers and retail stores.

When President-elect Barack Obama takes office later this month, he will face a tough road ahead as he prepares to lead the country into what many hope will be a brighter tomorrow.

The mountains that seemingly separate and isolate Fulton County from the rest of the world have been no barrier this year against rough economic times. The county has seen massive layoffs at its largest employer, JLG, as well as in other companies such as CitiCorp in Hagerstown, Md.

In terms of unemployment, Fulton County spent much of the year with higher rates than the state and national postings. In both August and October of 2008, Fulton County had the highest unemployment rate in the state, breaking the 10 percent mark.

Locally the JLG layoffs dominated the news while other economic problems also dominated, such as the closing of the Ford/Mercury dealership, leaving Fulton County with only one new car dealership remaining after decades of Ford/Mercury, Chevrolet and Chrysler dealerships helped to pump money into the local economy.

Both the Fulton Industrial Development Association and the Chamber of Commerce & Tourism lost their executive directors and neither position has been filled in large part due to economic reasons.

The county lost one of its only two supermarkets when BiLo closed its doors citing "underperformance" by the store.

McConnellsburg Borough Council disbanded its two-man police force after 80 years, citing economic reasons.

The First National Bank of McConnellsburg became another step removed from its native roots when its parent company, Tower Bancorp (The First National Bank of Greencastle) merged with Graystone Bank. The new name of the local bank will be known as Tower Bank and will no longer include Fulton County in the name.

While it may have sounded all bad, and there is surely nothing worse than tough economic times to put the nation's mood in a slump, there was also good news to report. The Fulton County Library began a $1 million spruce-up job using $500,000 of a Keystone matching grant.

Fastenal, the largest distributor of fasteners in North America opened a store in McConnellsburg.

Fulton County Medical Center, in spite of posting a net loss, continues to expand and announced a fundraising campaign to fund a patient services/ administration building to be attached to the new medical center located off Peach Orchard Road. The Medical Center announced the formation of a foundation to spearhead the campaign.

The Sideling Hill turnpike plaza reopened after an eight-month renovation project was completed.

As the new year begins, many have put together their own personal wish lists for a new beginning. However, Fulton County's wish list may include: a rebound for JLG and other businesses suffering from the national economic slump; the attraction of more businesses to the county to ease unemployment rates; a safe community for Mc- Connellsburg as it deals with not having a local police department; a tenant (hopefully a food market) for the old BiLo building in Penn's Village Shopping Center; and a resurgence and support for the Chamber of Commerce & Tourism and the Fulton Industrial Development Association.

And while it may seem to be about the economy, may the new year also bring a continued cooperation within our county and a genuine respect for those who help us out in both the bad and the good times - the state police, sisters Margie and Martha at the Catholic Mission, all of our elected public officials, our Fulton County Medical Center and the community's medical professionals, our church congregations and pastors, all of our county's volunteer and paid fire and ambulance personnel and emergency management staff and last, but by no means least, our men and women in the armed services, who faithfully stoke the fires of the very freedoms that allow the rest of us to moan and complain when things aren't quite the way we wish they were.

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