2009-12-31 / Front Page

2009 End Of A Year End Of A Decade

Decade ends with a struggling economy and business losses for the county

The U.S. military’s M-ATVs became a common sight in 2009 as they were test-driven in and around McConnellsburg after coming off the line at JLG Industries. The U.S. military’s M-ATVs became a common sight in 2009 as they were test-driven in and around McConnellsburg after coming off the line at JLG Industries. With the end of the year just hours away, many are wishing for a better year ahead. Although experts say there are some signs of economic recovery, the county, state and country will end the year seeing very little signs of progress in the economy, especially in the area of jobs and unemployment.

Fulton County has certainly fared no better than anywhere else, and the county’s persistently high unemployment rates throughout the year are testimony to the difficult times being experienced in this small, rural community.

In terms of unemployment, Fulton County spent the entire year with higher rates than the state and national postings. Fulton County spent the entire year fluctuating between number 66 and 67 (out of 67 counties) for the highest and next-to-highest unemployment rates in the state.

Locally the JLG layoffs dominated the news early in the year while the county lost the last of its three new car dealerships when Chrysler Jeep pulled its franchise from Richards Auto Sales in late spring. Fulton County is now without any new car sales after decades of Ford/Mercury, Chevrolet and Chrysler dealerships helping to pump money into the local economy.

When the BiLo closed in 2008, the coun- ty was left with only one supermarket. The Giant Food Store continues to serve the county, and in November a Save-A-Lot food store opened in the old BiLo store in Penn’s Village, giving the county two food markets once again.

At the end of 2008, Mc- Connellsburg Borough Council disbanded its two-man police force after 80 years, citing economic reasons. Final contract details were ironed out in early 2009, and borough citizens have expressed their satisfaction with the “stepped-up” efforts by the Pennsylvania State Police to patrol the borough.

However, the news for 2009 was not all bad on the economic front. After months of continuing layoffs at JLG, the company rebounded on the strength of the U.S. military. By the end of the year, JLG’s parent company, Oshkosh Corp., had received a total of six orders from the Department of Defense to build a total of 6,619 M-ATVs to be used in Afghanistan. The six orders were worth $3.3 billion and resulted in the call-back of many of the company’s laid-off employees. The orders have also changed the scenery of the community as seeing the armored vehicles on their test drives has become a daily occurrence.

The Fulton County Library completed its $1.2 million spruceup and expansion in September of this year. Work on the project began in August of 2008. At year’s end, it appeared that the library will lose a portion of funding from both the county and the state in 2010 as a result of budget cuts.

Fulton County Medical Center, in spite of posting a net loss in 2008, rebounded in 2009 to show a net operating profit of $680,000 and a turnaround of more than $1 million from previous year losses.

End of the Decade

While it may seem like just yesterday that doom and gloom was predicted for Y2K, the year 2000 passed with relatively few glitches in our technology. The relief felt when the day had passed, however, turned to fear and sorrow in 2001 when nearly 3,000 were killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D. C., and in a field in Pennsylvania. The attacks changed the very way that Americans live as we try to prepare in anticipation of further attacks on our homeland. This has never been more apparent as recently as Christmas Day this year when an airplane passenger was foiled in his attempt to use chemicals to blow up a Delta flight as it approached Detroit.

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast devastating New Orleans, killing nearly 2,000 and displacing many more.

The economy took a downward trajectory during the decade with the United States beginning 2000 with an unemployment rate of 4 percent and ending it with a whopping 10 percent.

And although the nation changed in the 2000s, perhaps no more so than the county did. Fulton County lost all three new car dealerships and lost local control of both banks. The Fulton County National Bank was sold to F&M Trust while The First National Bank was sold to The First National Bank of Greencastle, which later became “Tower Bank, a division of Graystone Tower Bank.” The name change came as a result of a merger between The First National Bank of Greencastle and Graystone Financial Corp., a rapidly growing Harrisburg-based bank. The McConnellsburg bank is now known as Tower Bank, a division of Graystone Tower Bank.

But the banks were not the only change in the downtown during the 2000s. McConnellsburg lost a venerable institution when the Racket Store closed in 2003. The century-old hardware business was replaced by the Log House Coffee House which later closed, leaving the storefront still vacant.

It was the decade that brought us a new Giant Food Store and cost us an old one when the BiLo closed in Penn’s Village. When Giant opened with a pharmacy inside, many predicted that it could cost the county at least one of its two local independent pharmacies. Both longtime pharmacies proved to be mighty competitors, and the end result was the closing of the Giant pharmacy in early 2008 while both McDonald’s and McLaughlin’s drug stores still enjoy local customer support.

It was the decade that saw Fulton County Medical Center leave its old 57-year home in favor of a view from a shining hill overlooking McConnellsburg. The new $32-million project saw huge financial support at the state and federal level as well as from the community that vowed it could be done. The old hospital remains vacant. The Medical Center will make history again in the new decade when its new patient services/ administration building wing is scheduled to open in June 2010.

And as 2010 begins with the economy showing some indication of recovery, may the new year remind us of the enduring things that have made and continue to make our county truly a “community.” As we say goodbye to the old and usher in the new, let us remember the continued cooperation within our county and a genuine spirit of goodwill 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 leave their homes and their families to fight for the very freedoms that allow the rest of us to live and flourish in what is still that “city on a shining hill” that the late President Reagan often invoked.

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