NH Town Still Reeling But On Cusp Of A Comeback
BERLIN, N.H. (AP) â¿¿ Erik Guilbeault of Berlin could be the symbol for Berlin's economic despair and its prospects for revival.
A lifelong resident, 30-year-old Guilbeault had worked at Isaacson Steel 11 years when he was laid off in February. A welder by trade, Guilbeault was on the brink of leaving his wife and two children to go on the road seeking work when he was hired recently to be warehouse supervisor at the new federal prison that begins housing inmates this month.
He said he hasn't negotiated his pay yet, but at a range of $21-$25 an hour, he'll be making more than he did at Isaacson. And his wife was among the first hires at the prison, leaving Androscoggin Hospital to work in medical records at the prison for a "big-time" salary boost.This once-thriving mill city appears on the cusp of crawling out of its steep economic woes, with residents and officials pinning hope on the federal prison's annual $20 million payroll and a biomass plant that promises to resuscitate the logging industry when it opens late next year. But lifelong residents of this once-thriving mill city temper hope with caution and the manager of the local employment security office is bracing for one of the toughest winters yet. "We talk about all the hope, but this is scary right now," said Mark Belanger, manager of the Berlin office of the state Department of Employment Security. "It's a very flat job market." Berlin continues to be in a state of flux. Job losses this year outpace new hires. Isaacson Steel and Car Freshner both shut local plants this spring, putting about 200 people out of work. "Every year we seem to lose something," said Diana Nelson, DES's employer services representative in Berlin and a member of the city council. "We keep saying 'What more can we lose? It has to be over.'"
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