Main Street

Main Street in Port Allegany.

Since 2010, the population of Port Allegany has fallen almost 10%, from 2,151 residents to 2,037 in 2017. While this may seem like a marginal fall at first glance, this is a loss of about 27 people per year. At this rate, Port Allegany is expected to have less than 1,500 residents in the year 2040.

The economy of Port Allegany, in turn, relies on two independent factors: the local purchases may in part be by both Route 6 travellers and factory workers. The drastic dip in population may be in conjunction with the relatively recent foreclosure of the Pittsburgh Corning Glass Plant. This has put severe economic pressure on laid off laborers to rejoin the workforce, specifically those unable to join the other local glass plant, Ardagh Group. This isn’t to say that the only job opportunities in town lie in the hands of the Ardagh Group, but it is concerning to say the least. Most Port Allegany workers are blue collar laborers and service industry workers. Recent job growth is eight times below the national average, yet the income tax and sales tax burden on an individual is almost unchanged nationally.

So, how does the town recover from impending economic losses? To kick start growth in the heart of Appalachia we must be able to grow and change. For example: crop. Port Allegany is not a farming town. Only 1.8% work in agriculture alone, mainly because the valley is not especially flat. However, Pennsylvania has legalized the sale of medical marijuana and is on a fast track to fully legalize the recreational use of the plant. Not to mention the vast demand for CBD products that the country is currently going through. The advantages to growing marijuana are great for Port; it can grow relatively quickly, it can be cultivated indoors, its value does not depend on quantity, but quality, and therefore it doesn’t have to be grown in large amounts, there is an increasing demand nationwide for THC rich strains, and so much more.

This is not a new idea. Medical marijuana distribution is now commonplace in McKean County. There is already a very popular and well regulated distributor in Bradford, and Port needs economic growth. Giving tax incentives and subsidization can bring Port Allegany back before we suffer more losses.

Ayden Russell is a high school student at Port Allegany Area School District.