NEWS

Herkimer County villages losing residents

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

The villages of Herkimer, Ilion and Mohawk have seen dramatic population declines from July 2000 to July 2007, according U.S. Census estimates.

All three lost about 6 percent of their population — Herkimer from 7,498 to 7,028 residents; Ilion from 8,610 to 8,093; and Mohawk from 2,660 to 2,493. The only village or city in Oneida and Herkimer counties to gain residents was Waterville, which increased by 14.

This doesn’t come as a surprise to Mohawk Mayor Irene Sweet.

“Well, it is hard for our young people,” she said. “It is economically depressed. The merchandising jobs are not high-paying.”

In addition to blue-collar and manufacturing jobs, the region also needs well-paying jobs for qualified and educated individuals, she said.

“We need some industries to look at the Mohawk Valley,” she said.

Census numbers reflect a long-term trend of population losses in upstate areas as manufacturing jobs dry up and people settle in the South and the West. California and Texas each had five cities among the 25 fastest-growing cities.

Mark Feane, executive director of the Herkimer County Industrial Development Agency, agreed with Sweet that the lack of lack of jobs continues to take a toll on the area’s population.

The story was the same around much of upstate New York, where the largest cities — including Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany — showed slight losses in their annual estimates that were also released today.

Feane remains optimistic about the county’s future, especially with two new business parks and the hope that assistance from the state and federal level will help rebuild upstate economies.

“If you give up the fight, you lose the battle,” he said.

But in many cases, families have become accustomed to having their children move away. Such is the case with Jane and Louis Paternoster of Mohawk. The couple watched their son Mark Markley move to Arizona for a microbiology job.

“He was highly educated,” Jane Paternoster said. “There just isn’t a job here. I would never hold anyone back.”

Observer-Dispatch