In Adirondacks, a dream of Trumpian economic renewal

Catherine TRIOMPHE
1 / 3
While Dolgeville's Republican mayor Bruce Lyon laments President Donald Trump sometimes speaks "before his brain has time to work," he's sure he "really" wants to keep jobs in the US

For better or worse, this tiny town at the foot of the Adirondack Mountains has survived the decline of US manufacturing as the home to a clutch of companies and the only baseball bat factory in the country.

Last year, two-thirds of those living in Dolgeville, an isolated community 220 miles (350 kilometers) from the bright lights of New York and named after 19th century industrialist Alfred Dolge, voted for Donald Trump.

It was a vote for a political outsider and a businessman, driven by the fear that more jobs would disappear, with memories still raw of the town's biggest employer, a slipper factory, going bust in the late 1990s -- and costing 700 jobs.

And the first days of Trump's young presidency have given residents reason to think great things are on the horizon.

"It is just the feeling of hope that he is giving myself, my husband, my children and grandchildren," said Susan Fogarty, 63, who set up a small logging supply company with her husband 30 years ago.

The Republican leader's promise to bring back manufacturing jobs and pressure big corporations to invest more in the United States is music to her ears.

Fogarty says Trump has given her "hope for a better country and people starting more businesses and buying American."

- 'Right on track' -

She also says she feels able to smile again after what she called the uncertainty of the Obama years, which followed the 2008 great recession.

"Now I feel we are going to go someplace, this country is headed in the right direction," she told AFP.

Shane Morrill, one of her employees, agrees. He says Trump is doing an "excellent" job so far, praising his border and economic policies.

"I think he is right on track -- even though he has a long way to go," said the father of three, citing as proof the recent Wall Street bounce.

And while Republican mayor Bruce Lyon laments that Trump sometimes speaks "before his brain has time to work," he says he's sure the commander-in-chief "really wants to keep as many jobs in the US as he can."

Lyon, 75, says the closure of the slipper factory was "devastating."

Left behind are just five or six companies that employ several hundred people in a town of 2,400 residents.

"But 300, 400 jobs is more than we would have if they all left... if we can keep things like that safe..." Lyon trailed off.

Small towns like Dolgeville, he says, are in "dire need" of the $1 trillion Trump has promised to spend on America's exhausted infrastructure -- like the bridge that links the two parts of town, split by the East Canada Creek.

Like others, he complains about a lack of support from Democratic New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, accusing him of doing more to look after the large metropolitan centers that elected him.

- Dream a dream -

Wayne Dzierzanoski, who has worked for 18 years at the Rawlings baseball bat factory, wants to see the new owners, conglomerate Rubbermaid, branch out and repatriate other production operations that it has overseas.

He says he doesn't regret bringing up his two daughters in the area of lakes and maple trees, which are drilled at this time of year to harvest syrup.

Crime rates are low and when it comes to talk of immigrants, many think first of members of the Amish community who for years have come to erect barns.

But like many, Dzierzanoski, 61, says he hopes Dolgeville will get new opportunities thanks to Trump's promised industrial renewal.

"There is such a cultural dichotomy between New York City and here -- too many people are caught up with what they are doing to really pay attention to what's going on outside," he said.

It seems everyone has their own dream.

Waitress Tina Gorinshek, 53, hopes that the Trump years will bring back shops like "25 years ago" when she could "walk up Main Street and do all my Christmas shopping."

For Lyon, it's the dream of reviving the imposing gray building that used to house the Daniel Green slipper factory, which is up for sale.

"If Donald Trump could see something like this and come up with an idea of what we could do... Maybe we can get it back up!" he says.