Economic chief: Growth brings challenges in Franklin Co.

    • GREENCASTLE, Pa. — During a talk Thursday morning about economic growth in Franklin County, Pa., L. Michael Ross took a few moments to lobby for an infrastructure bill.

Ross, president of the Franklin County (Pa.) Area Development Corp., said investments in the basics, from roads and bridges to waterlines and sewer systems, are needed nationwide to support business and residential growth.

“If you can’t flush a toilet, you’re not building,” he said.

Ross spoke for about an hour during a breakfast gathering sponsored by the Greencastle-Antrim (Pa.) Chamber of Commerce. About 70 people attended the event at Green Grove Gardens near Greencastle.

Ross detailed a series of investments and developments in Franklin County, from large warehouse operations to smaller manufacturing plants.

Since the corporation’s founding in 1986, he said it has had a hand in more than 760 economic-development projects, bringing about $2.1 billion in capital investment and some 48,000 jobs.

In recent years, Ross said the Exit 3 interchange of Interstate 81 has seen several projects, such as the new home for the Blaise Alexander auto dealership and the Eldorado Stone facilities.

“You’re starting to get close to a billion dollars of investment at this interchange that has already occurred,” he said.

The growth has brought some challenges. For example, he said, while there are sites for large warehouse-type structures, the county is facing a shortage of places to put smaller industrial buildings.

“You can build big boxes,” he said. “What you can’t build are 20,000-square-foot buildings.”

The corporation is looking at some options to create more space for industrial buildings.

Some of the challenges require federal solutions, Ross said. For example, he mentioned the Trump administration’s aim of bringing manufacturing plants back to the United States from other countries.

Ross called that “a great goal,” but added: “We don’t have the infrastructure or the labor force to accommodate that. … We need an infrastructure bill.”

A shortage of skilled workers is hitting virtually all sectors of the economy, from trucking to health care to construction, Ross said.

On Aug. 6, there were 3,588 job openings in Franklin County, he said.

“Statistically, there were 2,700 people unemployed,” he said.

By: Mike Lewis, Herald Mail Media, 8-17-18

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