It's natural to think that the Maple City "hit the lottery" of sorts when Amtrak chose Hornell Alstom to build its next generation of high-speed rail cars for the passenger service's busy (and profitable) Northeast Corridor routes.

No one would easily toss away a winning lottery ticket, that's for sure, not in these times.

Economists tell us that there are sections of the country — like the Southern Tier — that are the first to feel the impact of a national recession and the last to recover. The most recent recession follows this pattern, as Steuben and other rural counties continue to lag behind the rest of the state and nation in employment. But maybe that is about to change.

The $2.4 billion contract has the potential to kick-start the moribund local economy. The effect of adding 400 new, competitive-paying jobs right here in Hornell, along with more than 300 positions in ancillary industries across the region, won't just have economic "ripples." It has the potential to be a full-on wave that lifts up other segments of the region's economy like retail, real estate and construction.

Of course, the local economy was not the primary focus of the national media covering the Alstom-Amtrak contract.

When Vice President Joe Biden announced the federal loan that will allow Amtrak to make major upgrades to its rail fleet and infrastructure, the focus was on the loan approval and Amtrak's decision to replace its aging fleet with world-class trains that will carry more people at faster speeds. Most national stories mentioned Alstom and Hornell in their final paragraphs, noting Alstom's French-based ownership first and Hornell as the manufacturing site for the Acela Express trains second.

But Alstom knows that Hornell, its workers and the rolling stock facility is much more than a footnote in this story. In announcing the contract agreement with Amtrak, the company first noted that the train sets will be manufactured at Alstom's "150-year-old historic site" in Hornell. What is better than being called historic? How about being referred to as the "foundation" of Alstom's North American operations?

"Alstom’s rolling stock facility in Hornell, has been manufacturing and servicing trains for nearly 150 years. This historic facility and its highly-skilled workforce represent the foundation of Alstom’s extensive North American presence," the company said.

So, yes, this is a big boost for Hornell. But it's no gift. Instead of thinking of Hornell and its workers as the beneficiaries of corporate and federal largess, or lottery winners if you will, try considering Hornell's workers and management team as the ace that helped Alstom win the hand over its competitors.

You won't get an argument from Scott Sherin, Alstom's vice president of Marketing and Strategic Development, and a key player in negotiations with Amtrak.

"There was a phase during the process where they were checking the ability to deliver the trains," Sherin said. "In my opinion, looking at the workforce, the reputation, proven experience and capabilities of the facility.... When you have this full scope of service, it gives the customer a level of confidence."

What did Hornell bring to the table?

- Hornell has the largest passenger rail manufacturing facility in North America.

- The facility has delivered new and refurbished rail vehicles and components to North America’s largest transit agencies, like New York City and Washington.

- There is a substantial pool of experienced, skilled, hard-working laborers.

So take a bow, Hornell Alstom. You were not handed anything. You earned it.