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Franklin County economy poised for growth in 2017

Written by Jim Hook/Chambersburg Public Opinion | Jan 3, 2017 4:16 PM
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Whitetail Resort is adding two restaurants to its ski lodge near Mercersburg, as seen Wednesday, May 25, 2016.. The resort will be adding 80 or more employees this season as a result of the $8.5 million project. (Photo: Markell DeLoatch, Public Opinion)

(Chambersburg) -- More than $150 million is being invested in a variety of industries across Franklin County.

"It's just been one of those years where we can point to all parts of the county for projects, and that's important to us," said L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp., said of 2016. "It shows all the county is sharing in the growth."

The growth is happening outside the traditional sectors of warehousing, manufacturing and retailing. An industrial bakery is moving to the Waynesboro area. An industrial egg-laying operation has plans for the Mercersburg area.  A stone-veneer manufacturer is expanding in the Greencastle area.

The business and job growth comes during a period of full employment.

The county's unemployment rate has hovered around 5 percent during the year. Ross considers 5 percent unemployment full employment.

Major distribution warehouses and other projects also are in the works. They will require more than 1,000 employees.

Employers in the county already employ 62,600 people, the most ever, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

So how will the jobs be filled?

"I'm not sure," Ross said. "We are a microcosm of a national problem. No one has a solution how to address that. It's a regional challenge for us on how we're going to address it,and address it effectively."

Coping with lower unemployment

People commute to jobs up and down the Interstate 81 corridor. The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate is less than 5 percent from Carlisle to Winchester, Virginia, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Low unemployment should drive up wages, according to Ross.

"Companies have to make adjustments to retain and attract the employees they want," he said. Wages go up out of employer necessity. I'm a big believer that wages are a function of the marketplace."

Some companies will be using technology to improve production and services, Ross said. They should also consider ways to keep older workers in the workforce longer.

"Baby boomers are eligible for retiring," Ross said. "We always look at manufacturing, but everybody is going to be affected."

In just four years, people born in 1978 or later will make up 56 percent of the people working for state and local governments, according to the Center for State and Local Government Excellence, Washington, D.C.



Planning for the future

Employers also need to be looking at job training programs, Ross said. Companies are working with area colleges. Shippensburg University recently began offering a four-year degree in electrical engineering, and could expand into mechanical engineering. SU and Penn State Mont Alto offer degrees in supply chain management.

Ross also encourages a long-term commitment to preschool education and creating a healthy community to assure a future workforce.

"We're at a good place at a good time," Ross said. "Some of our community projects are going to take on added significance. People want to live near and enjoy first-class amenities, to the point we can support them."

Memorial Park in Waynesboro is getting a facelift. A major addition and renovation of the Coyle Free Library in Chambersburg is underway.

The challenge is to manage growth and improve everyone's quality of life, according to Ross.

"We want to focus on corporate culture that promotes social responsibility," Ross said.

Beyond warehousing

The obligation to give back to the community permeates the corporate cultures of companies such as Volvo and Herbruck's, from top managers to workers on the line.

"I'm somewhat hopeful we can continue on the path of diversification so that we're not focused just on logistics," Ross said. "Diversification is critical to our future. We don't want to depend on just one sector. We'd rather have far great balance."

Franklin County has a greater percentage of manufacturing jobs than the state average. Most of the local manufacturing jobs are in the businesses of making machines for the construction industry.

They've fallen on hard times in recent years, and they are waiting for federal legislation that would boost spending on roads and other infrastructure.

All is not rosy in manufacturing

Information about the health of the county's manufacturing base is mixed:

Manufacturers added 200 jobs during the past year, but at the same time 400 people who had worked for manufacturers exhausted their unemployment benefits, according to the state labor and industry department. Employees in manufacturing comprised more than a third of the 1,020 workers who exhausted their unemployment benefits between November 2015 and October 2016.

Manitowoc Crane announced in August it was consolidating operations to its Shady Grove plant in Antrim Township. Two months later employees said the local plant was laying off. The company did not specify the number of layoffs or acknowledge them, but indicated that 250 jobs would move to Shady Grove in early 2017 a a result of consolidation.

In the past year employers in the county added 2,100 jobs, most of them in unspecified sectors of the service industry, according to the state department of labor.

Projects in 2016

Here are major projects started in 2016 in Franklin County:

 -- Atlas Copco Secoroc LLC completed a $4.5 million expansion of its local Fort Loudon campus. Sweden-based Atlas manufactures drilling tools for use in rock excavation, mining and construction. Atlas is projecting the creation of 45 jobs in the building that is to open by April.

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    -- Italy-based Manuli Hydraulics moved to the Cumberland Valley Business Park in Greene Township. Manuli, the No. 1 global supplier to Volvo Construction Equipment, assembles hydraulic hose components. VCE's North American headquarters is in Shippensburg.

    -- New Jersey-based Matrix Development Group purchased 205 acres of the United Business Park near Shippensburg. Matrix plans to build two warehouse with 2.7 million square feet under roof. Matrix owns the World Kitchen warehouse in Greencastle.

    -- Texas Stock Tabs is constructing a 100,000 square foot factory at the United Business Park at Exit 24 of Interstate 81, Shippensburg. The project will result in the preservation of 75 jobs. The company currently has a plant on Wayne Avenue in Chambersburg.

    -- Eldorado Stone plans to spend more than $6 million to consolidate its Greencastle and Hagerstown, Maryland, operations into a 432,000 square foot factory at the Antrim Commons Business Park in Antrim Township. The maker of stone veneer employs 300 people locally.

    -- Whitetail Resort opened an $8.5 million, 31,000 square foot addition to its ski lodge near Mercersburg.  The resort's parent company, Snowtime Inc., is based in York.

    -- Hadley Farms Bakery is moving operations and jobs from Smithsburg, Maryland, to a $10 million plant it will build in the Wharf Road Industrial Park near Waynesboro.

    -- Cumberland Valley Analytical Services also is moving from Washington County, Maryland, to an existing building within the Wharf Road Industrial Park. Retrofitting will cost $4.6 million. The lab tests forage and feed for agriculture and employs 78 people.

    -- Letterkenny Army Depot broke ground on a $15 million expansion to its main industrial shop. The 45,000 square foot expansion will provide more space for repairing military vehicles.

    -- The Letterkenny Munitions Center continued construction of a $31 million facility for disposing of rocket motors. The Department of Defense also named LEMC as a Center for Industrial and Technical Excellence for its various ammunition activities.

    -- Manitowoc Crane Group is spending $20 million to consolidate all crawler crane production at its Shady Grove manufacturing campus. The project is to create 250 local jobs.

    -- The Franklin County Area Development Corporation is finishing by March a welding training center on Opportunity Avenue in the Cumberland Valley Business Park. Slovakia-based Phenomenal Industries Inc. will offer certification from both the American Welding Society and its European counterpart.

    -- FCADC also has an industrial building at 1711 Opportunity Ave. in the park available for purchase or lease.

    -- FCADC is working with Guilford Township to extend Archer Drive to Lighthouse Road in the warehouse district off Guilford Springs Road. FCADC has applied for a Multimodal Transportation Fund grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The aim of the 1,900 foot extension is to open up more than 500 acres south of the Target warehouse to industrial development.

    -- Chambersburg-based Franklin Logistics and Development purchased the 60,000 square foot building located at 1445 Sheffler Drive, and has filed plans to add 58,000 square feet to the building in the Chambers5 Business Park.

Major projects benefiting residential developments also were announced in 2016:

     -- White Rock Inc., the developer of Penn National Retirement and Golf Community, got a multimodal             grant to support construction of a grocery store, medical office building, coffee shops, bakery and                 other shops at a town center. The 30-acre campus is located adjacent to the Fayetteville-area                     development that Where to Retire rates as one of America's Top 50 Master-Planned Communities. 

  • -- Menno Haven Senior Living announced a 5-year, $120 million plan for its campus near Chambersburg. The plan includes the development of 81 independent-living residences, 24 assisted-living memory care accommodations and a 35,000 square foot resident life center.

 I-81 corridor employment

The seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates for all seven counties in the quad-state Interstate 81 corridor were below 5 percent in November, the latest month for which data is available:

  • 3.7 percent in Cumberland County
  • 4.5 percent in Franklin County
  • 4.6 percent in Washington County, Maryland
  • 3.7 percent in Morgan County, West Virginia
  • 3.3 percent in Berkeley County, West Virginia
  • 2.8 percent in Jefferson County, West Virginia
  • 3.3 percent in Frederick County, Virginia.

 

This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between WITF and Public Opinion Online.

 

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