Summary background
& SWOT Analysis


Purpose & Outcomes

  • Summarize key recent economic and demographic trends
  • Highlight the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on selected local data indicators
  • Illuminate competitive trends and attitudes on the region’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats
  • Inform priorities of NCPA Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy and Resiliency Plan

Summary Background

Demographic Trends

  • Continuous population loss for NCPA and all counties over a 20-year period vs. state and national gains
    • Interstate-80 counties (Clearfield, Jefferson) faring better
  • Positive net international migration for NCPA and all counties but significant declines in natural change (births minus deaths) and net domestic (within U.S.) migration
    • Largely mirror statewide trends
    • Over 80% of NCPA out-migration to D.C. and 16 states in the South and Southeast
  • Less diversity compared to state and nation—NCPA white population (92.9%) declined 3.1% from 2010 to 2020
    • Clearfield the most diverse county; Cameron diversifying fastest
  • Higher comparative population percentages ages 45+ in NCPA versus Pennsylvania and U.S.—smaller percentages in 0 to 44
    • More closely aligned with state than nation
    • NCPA and all counties saw relative population decline in key 25 to 44 age range
    • Jefferson County age dynamics most sustainable
  • Very challenging NCPA age sustainability ratio versus PA, U.S.
    • Speaks to worsening talent availability constraints for future employers

IRS Migration Data

  • Year to year flows based on location where tax return was filed allow for analysis of key sources and destinations of NCPA migration
  • Data confirms that NCPA is losing residents to other regions, which is consistent with Census estimates and public input
  • Net flows between NCPA and other Pennsylvania counties are close to zero, with even a small amount of inflow from other rural communities
  • This is more than offset by people leaving NCPA for other states
    • About 80 percent of outmigration is to 16 Southeastern and Southern states and the District of Columbia

Age Sustainability Ratio, 2015-2019

The number of residents between the ages of 25 and 44 for every 100 residents between the ages of 45 and 64.

North Central Region
United States

SOURCE: JobsEQ; U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year Estimates; BRS

Wealth & Income Trends

  • NCPA per capita incomes (PCI) roughly $11k below PA and $10k below U.S. averages
    • Elk County highest PCI in region at $49,141, McKean lowest at $44,774
    • Most counties’ PCI rising slower than PA, U.S.—exception is Potter County
  • Median household income (HHI) trends similar to PCI – Elk County highest but all NCPA counties below state, nation
    • Clearfield County HHI rising faster than PA, U.S.
  • Echoing public input feedback, average annual wages in NCPA well below PA (~ $20k) and U.S. (~ $22k) averages
    • Allowing for cost of living, leads to less purchasing power than state, nation
    • Older population in NCPA leads to higher percentage of income than U.S. from retirement and disability benefits and medical benefits
  • Percentage of NCPA income from wages (57.9%) five percentage points lower than U.S.
    • Higher percentages of income from wages = stronger economic “multiplier” effects
  • Lower average incomes and wages do not translate into notably higher total poverty rates in NCPA versus state or nation
    • Youth (0-17) rates slightly higher than PA, U.S.
    • Total and youth poverty in NCPA declining slower than state, nation

Economic Trends

  • Indexed over a 20-year period, NCPA employment began to diverge from state and national trends just prior to the Great Recession and has continued to underperform
  • Like population trends, all NCPA counties lost jobs in the previous five-and-10-year periods
    • Also similar to population, the I-80 counties out-performed the rest of NCPA, with Clearfield County topping the state from Q2 2016 to Q2 2021
  • NCPA unemployment has trended above PA, U.S. levels for decades, with the spread widening most during recessions

COVID-19 Pandemic Impact

  • From March 2020 to March 2021, NCPA had second fewest total Covid cases among Pennsylvania regions, but had second highest case rate per capita
  • Region lost nearly 13,500 jobs in first two months of pandemic but had regained 93% of March 2019 totals by March 2021
    • Comparative figures for PA (94.5%) and U.S. (95.8%) show NCPA economy has recovered slightly more slowly than state and nation
  • NCPA labor force dropped 2.4% in March-April 2020, but had nearly fully recovered by August 2021
  • For sake of comparison, NCPA did not have high concentrations in most employment sectors hardest hit by the pandemic at the national level
    • These were related to restaurants, brick & mortar retail, tourism, and entertainment
  • As could be predicted, hotel tax receipts for NCPA counties followed national trends, declining sharply in Q1 2020, recovering and peaking in Q3 2020, then dropping again due to Delta variant
  • State-reported data from February to October 2020 showed NCPA’s demographic unemployment impact was similar to state’s
    • Claims were higher among minority populations and women
    • Highest percentage of claimants was adults ages 25 to 34
  • 51.2% of NCPA online survey participants said that quality of life had “worsened” during the pandemic


Since COVID, the overall quality of life of the people living in this community has (consider job availability, safety and security, environment, housing, etc.)

SWOT Analysis


  • Key takeaways from Summary Background and SWOT Analysis will inform development of draft plan
  • Clear that NCPA stakeholders want to see strategies that increase population and employment after years of decline
  • Leveraging natural amenities and outdoor recreation are top of mind as well as addressing challenges related to housing and broadband internet accessibility
  • CEDS plan will also include priority development projects and programs from all six NCPA counties

Key Themes

  • Workforce availability challenges are impeding growth and elevating the urgency of continuing to align education and training programs with employer needs
  • Lower comparative levels of college degree attainment limit NCPA’s potential to capture opportunities in higher-skill job sectors
  • NCPA stakeholders have tremendous pride in—and awareness of—the region’s natural beauty and outdoor recreation amenities
    • Many see great potential to better leverage them for population and economic growth
  • NCPA faces critical challenges to expand access to high-speed internet and increase its capacity of “right-sized, right-priced” housing
  • Supporting existing employers and creating new small business opportunities around tourism and outdoor recreation were cited as economic priorities


Focus Group & Visioning Feedback

  • Multiple career-focused programs in K-12 districts
  • Workforce Solutions for NCPA
  • Business Education Partnership
  • PA6 talent attraction website
  • Strong CareerLink engagement with NCPA
  • PA Wilds youth outreach programs
  • NWIRC’s Manufacturing Career Readiness Training
  • Two-year & four-year higher ed campuses
  • Career, technical, and community education center
  • Low response to job placement advertising
  • Limited childcare availability
  • Entry-level workers often lack soft skills, motivation
  • Rural location complicates talent recruitment
  • Lack of jobs that match worker skill sets and/or ambitions
  • Lower comparative wages
  • Lack of funding for specialized faculty and career counselors
  • Difficult to launch registered apprenticeships
  • Improved awareness of Workforce Solutions programs
  • Utilizing NWIRC McDowell Manufacturing model
  • Increased remote working in NCPA
  • More funding for STEM and career-based K-12 programs
  • Better cross-promotion of training resources
  • More K-12 exposure to entrepreneurship
  • Region-wide talent summit
  • More robust training/industry partnerships
  • K-12 school district consolidation
  • Public perception that “there are no jobs here” compelling workers to relocate
  • Career-and-technical instructors can earn much more in the private sector
  • Automation eliminating low-skill occupations
  • K-12 student mental health challenges
  • Declining population and employment reducing funding for public education
  • Housing challenges affect talent retention and attraction
  • Uneven broadband accessibility for remote learning

Talent Pipeline Trends

  • Higher graduation rate for NCPA K-12 districts than PA for 2019-20 school year but almost 10% fewer college-bound students
    • Average grad rates increasing faster at state level; college-bound trends equivalent for NCPA and PA
  • NCPA training institutions awarded over 500 degrees and certificates in 2019
    • Just over half were Bachelor’s, followed by Associate’s and certificates
  • New Workforce Solutions plan identifies multiple challenges for labor force capacity and education/training alignment with employer needs
  • Plan developed with input from employers, education providers, economic and community development agencies, secondary and post secondary schools, and chambers of commerce
  • Key weaknesses identified in research and stakeholder outreach:
    • Lack of consistent career pathways across all providers
    • Lack of awareness of North Central Business Resource Network
    • Limited work based learning opportunities
    • Lack of public transportation
    • Limited childcare services
    • Limited fiscal resources
  • Challenges to align existing workforce skills and education and training activities with employer needs:
    • Lack of a skilled workforce due to population decline
    • Ensuring that school and training curricula match employer needs
    • Ensuring youth are aware of high priority occupations and skills and education needed for them
    • Identifying and eliminating barriers to employment for disadvantaged populations
    • Increasing the number and types of employers utilizing PA CareerLink
    • Ensuring all partners are communicating and collaborating when serving employers

Workforce Trends

  • Educational attainment—a proxy for workforce skills—in NCPA is far below state and national levels
    • Percentage of NCPA adults with a Bachelor’s degree or higher (17.7%) roughly half of state (34.1%) and national (33.5%) rates

    • Elk County highest BA+ rate at 21.8%

    • However, NCPA and all counties have higher percentages of Associate’s degree attainment than PA and U.S.

  • BA+ attainment rates have increased in NCPA, but slower than the state and nation

    • Exception is Elk County which exceeded both PA and U.S.

  • NCPA job growth at all degree levels projected to decline, but smallest declines are jobs that require a college degree

  • Higher percentage (33.4%) of NCPA adults worked outside the region in 2019 compared to 2004 (23.0%)

    • More workers are commuting 30+ minutes to their jobs, but increases are equivalent to state and national trends

  • Most NCPA counties are in the bottom quartiles for health outcomes and health factors among PA peers

    • Exception is Elk County which is in the top quartile for both measures


Focus Group & Visioning Feedback

  • Natural beauty
  • Elk herd
  • PA Wilds content, programming, and trails
  • Historic downtown districts
  • New Groundhog Visitor Center in Punxsutawney
  • Outdoor recreation
  • Kinzua Bridge State Park
  • Allegheny National Forest
  • Historic houses
  • Public safety / low crime
  • “Sportsman’s Paradise” for hunting
  • Shortage of available housing across multiple styles and price ranges; hard to find “right-sized, right-priced” housing
  • Inconsistent levels of broadband connectivity and reliability
  • Poor “curb appeal” of some commercial districts and streets
  • Property vacancy due to disinterested or absentee owners
  • Sub-standard condition of certain roads and bridges
  • Lack of transportation options for non-car owners
  • Development of a “robust, connected, and customized” public transportation system for NCPA
  • Federal funding for broadband enhancements
  • Completing the PA Wilds loop of the Industrial Heritage trail system
  • Making the connection between quality of life and talent retention and attraction
  • Program and department consolidation across jurisdictions
  • PA Wilds “Leave No Trace” partnership
  • Better communication about events to reduce scheduling overlaps
  • “Turf battles” for project and program funding
  • Reports that certain communities are experiencing housing price escalation from higher-income transplants
  • “Balancing act” of maintaining natural splendor while trying to increase tourism economy
  • Low population densities challenge development of increased transit capacity
  • Often difficult to generate local match for federally funded grants

Infrastructure & Housing Trends

  • NCPA CEDS online survey feedback:
    • 63% feel it is Difficult or Very Difficult to access places without a car
    • 51% say their community’s streets flood during heavy rains
    • 51% say local road conditions have worsened in last three years
  • A recent transportation survey identified 86 concerns in NCPA, but state officials said most are already included in existing plans
  • Census data supports survey feedback that NCPA residents and businesses have greater broadband internet accessibility and speed challenges than the state or nation
  • 64.1% of survey respondents said they or someone they know has struggled to find appropriate housing
  • Data show that NCPA housing values are well below PA and U.S. averages but are much more affordable for homeowners
    • Most NCPA counties’ values are rising faster than the state but well below U.S. rates
  • Average monthly rents for NCPA counties are between $250 to $400 lower than PA and U.S. and are rising more slowly
    • Equivalent numbers of NCPA residents are “rent burdened” (spend more than 40% of income on rent) compared to state and national averages
  • Many fewer NCPA single- and multi-family units were permitted for construction in 2020 than annual averages for decades prior
feel it is difficult or very difficult to access places without a car​
0 %
say their community streets flood during heavy rains
0 %
say local road conditions have worsened in the last three years
0 %


Focus Group & Visioning Feedback

  • Strong core job sectors like manufacturing, health care, and logistics
  • PA Wilds programs strengthening tourism economy
  • PSU-DuBois’ LaunchBox, Makerspace and Idea Lab, and small business programs
  • Northwest IRC programming and SBDC
  • County-level entrepreneurial efforts
  • Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern PA programs
  • Active local chambers of commerce
  • Lack of available workers
  • Limited availability of investment capital
  • Insufficient supply of hotel rooms for tourism
  • Perceived burdensome regulations and permitting processes
  • “Housing is a major challenge for recruiting, retaining, and attracting workers”
  • Small businesses having difficulty finding affordable locations that fit their needs
  • Disconnect between availability and awareness of small business support resources
  • Incentives more geared towards production than knowledge industries
  • “One-stop shops” for business support services
  • Entrepreneurship as a “path home” for expats
  • Helping businesses develop an online presence
  • Communicating the economic value of tourism
  • Short-term lodging options beyond hotel rooms
  • Collaborative marketing to target multi-destination tourism visits
  • “Makers and outfitters” campaign for recreation tourism
  • Regional “app” to help plan and navigate visits
  • Supply chain challenges limiting growth
  • Unsustainable pay scales being demanded by workers; companies engaged in “bidding” wars
  • High-tech talent often averse to rural living
  • “Scarcity mindset and parochialism” over legacy industries limits diversification through tourism
  • Some talent reluctant to work in perceived “dirty jobs” in production
  • Pending retirements of older workers
  • “Businesses operate in silos and don’t look elsewhere for assistance”

Business Sector Trends

  • NCPA’s three dominant job sectors (2-digit NAICS) by number of employees are Manufacturing; Health Care; and Retail
    • Only Retail pays below the region’s annual average wage 
    • Only three sectors (Agriculture; Management of Companies & Industries; and Administrative & Support Services) grew during the last five years
    • Health Care is the only sector projected to grow from Q4 2020 to Q4 2030
  • Most concentrated sectors (compared to U.S. averages) are Mining, Quarrying, & Oil & Gas Extraction; Manufacturing; Agriculture; Utilities; and Transportation & Warehousing
  • Five largest NCPA subsectors (4-digit NAICS) are Elementary & Secondary Schools; Restaurants & Other Eating Places; Forging & Stamping; General Medical & Surgical Hospitals; and Executive, Legislative, and Other General Government Support
    • Forging & Stamping employment over 75 times more concentrated than U.S. average
    • Only three of NCPA’s largest 20 subsectors are projected to grow in the next five years: Individual & Family Services; Outpatient Care Centers; and Continuing Care Retirement Communities & Assisted Living Facilities for the Elderly
  • Largest and most concentrated NCPA occupations are: Cashiers; Retail Salespersons; Fast Food & Counter Workers; Heavy & Tractor Trailer Truck Drivers; and Personal Care Aides


  • Many stakeholders believe tourism is NCPA’s top opportunity to grow its economy and enhance quality of life/place amenities to appeal to talent

    • Natural and outdoor recreation assets and PA Wilds are key regional strengths

  • Currently, NCPA’s tourism economy is comparatively small

    • Measured by Arts, Entertainment, & Recreation and Accommodation & Food Services sectors (common proxies for tourism employment), NCPA has 5,744 tourism jobs as of Q2 2021 and lower concentrations than the U.S.

    • Both sectors are projected to decline in the next five years

  • Reversing projected trends will take aggressive, coordinated, and collaborative efforts regionally and locally

Small Business & Entrepreneurship Trends

  • Survey respondents identified lack of capital and lack of interest as top reasons for not becoming a business owner

    • Data show that NCPA self-employment rates – a proxy for sole proprietorships – are roughly equivalent to PA and US

    • Exceptions are higher percentages in Jefferson and Potter counties

  • Self-employment increasing slightly faster in NCPA than PA, U.S.

  • NCPA counties have higher percentages of small (under 19 employees) firms than the state or nation

    • But NCPA and PA trail the national average of firms under 10 years old

Strategic Implications

CEDS & Resiliency Plan

  • Analysis broken down by three principal categories of competitiveness:
    • People: Residents and workers
    • Place: Quality of life and place-based dynamics
    • Prosperity: Employment and wealth-creation
  • Key findings combine top themes and information from: 1)Data trends; 2) Focus groups and visioning sessions; 3) Online survey; and 4) Existing reports and research