Galesburg economy growing slowly since President’s last visit

It’s been eight years since then-Senator Obama first spoke at Galesburg’s Knox College on the economy. The unemployment numbers, though, show not much has changed for the town since 2005.

There are some positive signs for the Galesburg economy. Wednesday, business was booming at start-up Sitka Salmon Shares.

“It’s our second full year, and essentially, we’re more than tripling our freezer capacity. That’s because we’ve seen growth in all of our markets,” said Sitka Salmon’s Helen Schnoes.

It’s good news for a town where the unemployment rate still sits just below 8 percent.

“To have that kind of support means that other people are doing well as well,” Schnoes said.

For many of the hundreds who turned out to hear the President speak, though, the progress isn’t enough.

“In many ways, the trends I spoke about here in 2005 — those trends have been made worse by the recession. And that’s a problem,” said President Obama Wednesday.

“I don’t think [the local economy] is that great still. I know that we’re still trying to get there, and we haven’t gotten there yet, like he said in his speech,” agreed Galesburg resident Colleen Shelly.

Over the past eight years, unemployment in Knox County has ranged widely, from a low of 4.2 percent in 2006 to topping 12 percent in 2010. When the President first visited Knox College in 2005, unemployment was nearly identical to today’s rate at 7.4 percent.

“Here in Galesburg, things have remained pretty much the same. Some jobs come in and then other jobs leave, so it kind of balances out. Right now, we’re kind of in limbo,” summed up resident John Bainter.

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