Community, Cooperation, and Quality Living
Forty-two years ago, Vern Jackson’s employer offered him a job promotion, provided he agreed to move to Johnstown, New York. His supervisor promised to bring him back to his hometown in a year.
Jackson, now Johnstown’s mayor, never went back. “I love this community,” he said. If you asked Jackson why a business should locate in Fulton County, the answer would be simple: It’s affordable, local government is cooperative, economic development agencies are eager to help businesses attain grants and other financial assistance, people are ready and willing to work, and the quality of life is outstanding.
Johnstown has a well-balanced combination of a business-friendly climate, affordable commercial and residential properties, cultural and entertainment offerings that make it an ideal place to live and thrive in business, and a community of citizens that care about one another.
The city has been the choice for some major corporations, like paint manufacturer Benjamin Moore, which opened a manufacturing facility in the city in 1991. There is also Greek yogurt manufacturer Fage USA, which chose Johnstown for its U.S. operations headquarters, as well as Euphrates, the largest feta cheese manufacturer on the East Coast, which built a state-of-the-art, German-engineered manufacturing facility here. Pioneer Windows, a leading supplier of windows to commercial builders in New York City, manufactures its products in Johnstown and has been in a steady state of expansion since setting up shop here.
Johnstown is a fertile area for small business as well.
Johnstown is a fertile area for small business as well. Local entrepreneurs are bringing establishments with upscale urban vibes to the city. For example, Shawn Beebie opened Second Wind Coffee Shop where customers can enjoy gourmet coffee made from beans that he roasts himself. Beebie’s success has led him to open another niche business in the city. There is also Toying Around, a family-owned store with toys, comics, trading cards, collectibles, and video games, that livensup Main Street with occasional block parties featuring comic book characters and pro-wrestlers.
Workforce development programs at local high schools and colleges prepare students to enter a variety of careers in a wide range of industries, equipping them with the skills that make them highly desirable employees upon graduation. “We have a workforce that’s ready, willing, and able to work,” Jackson said.
Business owners and corporations find the local and county governments extremely receptive to new businesses as well as the expansion of established businesses. All parties work together to reduce or eliminate the usual bureaucratic red tape and facilitate growth whenever possible. “We go out of our way to make them welcome and do what we can to meet their needs,” Jackson said. Town officials are readily available to the business community and place high value on cooperative relationships. In fact, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Jackson decided not to raise taxes. “We were not expecting a pandemic and a shutdown,” said Jackson, noting that he kept both commercial and residential property taxes at $12.88 per thousand.
The city is known for its sense of community. Townsend Leather is one of many businesses actively involved in community service. The company sent a group of employees to Partner’s Park to refurbish the gazebo, plant flowers, and clean up the basketball court. Other businesses sponsor community events for the public to enjoy. Main Street’s Vintage Café sponsors an annual car show that draws classic-car enthusiasts, and Second Wind Coffee plans to revive the city’s annual motorcycle show. Toying Around toy store hosts a Comic-Con event, complete with comic book characters and displays. Mysteries on Main Street and McLemon’s Shop throw a Harry Potter birthday celebration, including Diagon Alley, people dressed up as book characters, and children’s activities. At the block party that Partner’s Pub puts on, revelers enjoy good music, food, and connection. Events like these draw people to Johnstown’s business district and increase the likelihood that those people will patronize these local business in the future.
Johnstown is poised for even more growth as it adapts to the rapidly changing 21st-century economic, cultural, and social landscapes, and Jackson invites people to understand what the city is all about during this dynamic time of transformation.