Bill Polacek, one of the pivotal figures in defense contracting here, said that with Mr. Murtha's passing, local businesses are creating a sort of confederation, with each working to open doors for the other. Mostly this consists of local companies, such as Mr. Polacek's JWF Industries or Concurrent Technologies Corp., a research and development outfit, making the rounds with new businesses to introduce them to the people at the so-called "prime" contractors, such as Northrup or Boeing or Raytheon. Those large firms account for much of Johnstown's homegrown defense work, subcontracting portions of their massive defense business.
Already, Johnstown Area Regional Industries, the local business development agency, has put together a panel of executives to help mentor newcomers, essentially providing the guidance through the confusion of federal contracting that Mr. Murtha was once able to give. Mr. Polacek said this help was more important in many ways than any direct earmarking of dollars.
"The idea is that we all know what each other does. But the congressman's not here. We have to start working together," he said.Photo: Dennis Roddy. U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, left, tours the floor of Showcase for Commerce and chats with Tom Kurtz, CEO of the Windber Research Institute.