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From Reagan's Visit to Obama's, Local Middle Class has Changed

(Source: Jason Weinstein)

When Ronald Reagan spoke in front of over 20,000 people in Endicott in 1984, he was speaking at the epicenter of what was once a thriving manufacturing base in Broome County.

"In 1984 IBM was still a thriving industry here with ten to 14,000 workers. Endicott-Johnson was hanging on, not as well, but Link Aviation, what had been Ensco, what became Anitek were still going," said Broome County Historian Gerald Smith.

As Barack Obama is scheduled to speak Friday at Binghamton University about education and the middle class, the middle class in Binghamton, thanks to a decades-long decline in manufacturing, is in a much different state.

"We still had literally thousands upon thousands of industrial jobs and a very large middle class environment here. And of course today we look at it and the whole situation President Obama is coming into is we have a declining middle class," said Smith.

According to census data Broome County had a population of almost 215,000 people when Reagan spoke in Endicott in 1984. As Obama makes his way here Friday, the latest numbers pegs the county's population at 198,000. But there are some hopeful signs.

"The climate is healthy. We have a lot of skilled workers here. I think the colleges, both BCC and BU are working hard to create an environment, especially with the incubator," said Stephen Day, co-owner of McKinney Real Estate.

"We're hopeful that the trend we're seeing nationally, statewide, and locally will continue, that we'll see more individuals match up with the opportunities, that opportunities will grow here as well," said economist Christian Harris of the New York Department of Labor.

"There are sources for rebuilding the industrial base. The infrastructure, the basics are there but they have to be improved upon. If that all came about, if everybody realized they had to pull together in the same direction, you could rebuild," said Smith.

***In Broome County, Jason Weinstein, Fox 40 HD News***

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