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Author Topic: Elk County, PA  (Read 3429 times)
platypeanArchcow
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« on: February 18, 2009, 05:08:19 pm »
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Why did this county go to Obama?  It is not historically Democratic (has not voted for any losing candidates since 1968; a rural county with this profile I would think would have gone to McCain) and has no cities or universities.  Of the surrounding counties, Forest doesn't even have significantly fewer Germans.
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Keystone Phil
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« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2009, 05:34:42 pm »
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It's certainly a socially conservative area. They love themselves some Casey, too (it was one of Casey's best counties in 2006). He's a perfect fit there.

I'm guessing they were getting hit hard by the economic downturn in late 2008 so that would explain Obama's narrow win.
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« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2009, 06:16:00 pm »
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It's certainly a socially conservative area. They love themselves some Casey, too (it was one of Casey's best counties in 2006). He's a perfect fit there.

I'm guessing they were getting hit hard by the economic downturn in late 2008 so that would explain Obama's narrow win.

Just looking at unemploment rates it does appear Elk has been hit a bit harder than the state as a whole.
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Sibboleth
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« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2009, 05:23:23 am »
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Two reasons which sort of add together; it's an (ex, I think) mining area outside the Pittsburgh media market.  And ethnically it's more typical of various traditionally Democratic (and Catholic) groups than most of its neighbours. You just add the general swing (and maybe McCain's lack of Bush special appeal to the middle of Pennsylvania, I don't know) on top of that.
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« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2009, 11:35:24 am »
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Two reasons which sort of add together; it's an (ex, I think) mining area outside the Pittsburgh media market.  And ethnically it's more typical of various traditionally Democratic (and Catholic) groups than most of its neighbours. You just add the general swing (and maybe McCain's lack of Bush special appeal to the middle of Pennsylvania, I don't know) on top of that.

Actually, Elk County was mostly a manufacturing area.  Brockway Glass, Straub Beer, and several powdered metals concerns were situated there.  Out of those, only Straub and a couple of the metals plants remain.  Unemployment is a huge problem up there, and has been growing for years.

Elk County is odd.  Very Catholic and very insular.  Most people who come from Elk County think it is the world, and I am not exaggerating.  At college Elk County kids only hang out with other Elk County kids.  On the weekends, they travel back to Elk County to watch high school athletics, and to drink at parties in the woods where they have nothing but Straub Beer. And when they graduate they move back to Elk County and have Elk County families.

The fact that the employment situation there has been a nightmare for years, and that there is just nothing there doesn't seem to deter this pattern in the least.

P.S. Next time, just ask the guy who lived 15 miles away for most of his life.
« Last Edit: February 19, 2009, 11:46:56 am by Supersoulty »Logged

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« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2009, 02:53:26 pm »
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Why did this county go to Obama?

The local Kool-Aid factory was shut down.
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« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2009, 03:22:44 pm »
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Actually, Elk County was mostly a manufacturing area.  Brockway Glass, Straub Beer, and several powdered metals concerns were situated there.  Out of those, only Straub and a couple of the metals plants remain.  Unemployment is a huge problem up there, and has been growing for years.

"Was" is interesting; in the last census there was a very high (weirdly high for that part of the world, actually) percentage of people in manufacturing jobs.
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supersoulty
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« Reply #7 on: February 19, 2009, 04:08:38 pm »
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Actually, Elk County was mostly a manufacturing area.  Brockway Glass, Straub Beer, and several powdered metals concerns were situated there.  Out of those, only Straub and a couple of the metals plants remain.  Unemployment is a huge problem up there, and has been growing for years.

"Was" is interesting; in the last census there was a very high (weirdly high for that part of the world, actually) percentage of people in manufacturing jobs.

The decline started around 1998 and has really hit its stride since 2003.
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supersoulty
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« Reply #8 on: February 19, 2009, 04:22:19 pm »
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powder_metallurgy

Not too many people are even familiar with powered metals, but the techniques are highly specialized and require alot of technology.  Thus, until very recently, it was an outsource proof business.  That has changed very rapidly, though.

The area in and between DuBois (pronounced DooBoys) and St. Mary's Pennsylvania used to be known in the industry as the "Powdered Metals Capital of the World".  There used to be about a dozen different manufacturers in the area, at its height, totaling about 75% of the world's total production capacity.  One of the places in DuBois has three flag poles out in front of its plant, one of the United States, one for PA, and the third for the country of the representatives who are visiting that week.

As I said though, labor and technical capacity in China and India has now reached a point where they can do it for less.
« Last Edit: February 19, 2009, 04:29:51 pm by Supersoulty »Logged

platypeanArchcow
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« Reply #9 on: February 19, 2009, 05:15:36 pm »
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Soulty, thank you so much, this is fascinating.  It's too easy to make assumptions about a rural area's culture, and much more interesting to learn what's actually there.
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bullmoose88
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« Reply #10 on: February 19, 2009, 06:15:14 pm »
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Why did this county go to Obama?

The local Kool-Aid factory was shut down.

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supersoulty
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« Reply #11 on: February 19, 2009, 09:24:07 pm »
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Soulty, thank you so much, this is fascinating.  It's too easy to make assumptions about a rural area's culture, and much more interesting to learn what's actually there.

Well, the thing is that the area running east, from Pittsburgh, and then north from Indiana, Punxy, DuBois, and then branching off into Clearfield and St. Marys is rural by definition, but not by culture.  The entire area was once a bedrock for manufacturing, and each town in the area had a specialization of some kind.  Borckway had one of the largest glass factories in the U.S.  I already mentioned DuBois and St. Marys, though DuBois had other major manufacturers, Punxy was a major rail hub, Clearfield had one of the largest brick manufacturing concerns in the country.

Now, that's all gone, and with the exception of DuBois, the area is becoming very economically depressed... DuBois is only kinda economically depressed.  As the regional center, most activity still concentrates there.
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« Reply #12 on: February 20, 2009, 01:39:42 pm »
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Isn't St Mary's an early rail hub as well? Maybe I'm only thinking that because the first time I heard of the place it was on the map of some railroading boardgame...
And from the Arda I recall it as being over 50% Catholic (possibly the only such place in PA?)
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supersoulty
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« Reply #13 on: February 21, 2009, 05:25:15 pm »
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Isn't St Mary's an early rail hub as well? Maybe I'm only thinking that because the first time I heard of the place it was on the map of some railroading boardgame...
And from the Arda I recall it as being over 50% Catholic (possibly the only such place in PA?)

I don't think it was a railhub.  It might have been an important station because of the lumber industry, which was huge in that area.  I don't think any major railroads met there.
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