Economic development has so much momentum in Franklin County, workforce needs to catch up
Amber South, Chambersburg Public OpinionPublished 11:47 a.m. ET March 8, 2019
Franklin County’s economic engine is humming, but work is needed to keep the momentum going.
Franklin County Area Development Corporation President Mike Ross shared a long list of successes in local development in the past year on Thursday at the organization’s State of the Economy breakfast. But, he also told the more than a hundred local business, nonprofit, municipal and political figures in the audience at Chambersburg Country Club that companies are struggling to find skilled workers, and educational programs and others must collaborate to prepare the workforce for such positions. Also at the breakfast, one of the many local appearances he has made in his first months in Congress, U.S. Rep. John Joyce talked about key issues affecting the region, including the opioid crisis, workforce development and cyber security.
Development quick hits
The Wharf Road Industrial Park near Waynesboro is at full capacity, 20 years since its founding, Ross said. The park and other sites allowed regional and international companies alike to choose Franklin County as a second home.
- Jamison Door Company, which produces roll-down doors and is based in Hagerstown, Md., is in the process of expanding at a new location in Wharf Road Industrial Park. FCADC’s “signature project,” it should be completed in April, and will host 35 jobs when fully operational. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence referenced the project recently when discussing the impact of small businesses on communities, Ross said.
- Fil-Tec, a producer of fibers for tech, home and clothes based in Hagerstown, moved into a 20,000-square-foot building in Wharf Road Industrial Park. The structure was built with the expectation it would be for a supplier to Manitowoc of JLG, but the timing lined up with Fil-Tec’s plans.
- Herbruck’s Eggs is “one of the major (agriculture) projects that’s ever been done in Franklin County,” Ross said. About $100 million has been invested for an egg- laying- and-processing facility in Montgomery Township. That’s still in the works, but the company opted to establish itself locally by opening a cold-storage facility in Cumberland Valley Business Park north of Chambersburg.
- Wipro Infrastructure Engineering, a hydraulic cylinder manufacturer based in India, extended its lease for five years in the Chambers 5 Business Park in Chambersburg. Ross said significant growth is expected in the next 18 months, and he thinks the company will extend its lease again.
- Pennsylvania Cherry LLC moved into the former Foremost building on Pa. 16 in Montgomery Township last spring. Owned by a Chinese family based in Taiwan, the company gathers cherry board from around the Northeast and grades and kiln-dries it, and ships it mainly to China. Ross said “it’s a perfect reuse of that building.”
Investment, and alcohol, drive success in municipalities
From Exit 3 at Interstate 81 up to Shady Grove, $400-500 million in investment has done the work it was supposed to in the area around Greencastle, Ross said.
Located steps west of I-81, the 400-acre Antrim Commons Business Park holds a growing number of warehouses and other facilities, including a Chevrolet dealership and a Sheetz.
Northpoint Development, based in Kansas City, Mo., has been “aggressively” building 1-million-square-foot facilities, Ross said. The first one will be the new home of the Staples warehouse which is currently located on U.S. 11 just inside the Borough of Chambersburg’s southern border.
“Having this building available kept Staples and their employees in Franklin County,” Ross said.
The second such building is under construction now; a tenant has signed on, but can’t yet be disclosed. A third project and facility are in the works.
Summit Health, now part of WellSpan Health, is set to open a medical office building just steps inside the park later this year. )
Chambersburgis enjoying $100 million in investment that has taken place in the downtown core, Ross said. Projects include the recently completed Grant Street Loft, which holds The Butcher Shoppe’s commercial kitchen and an event space, as well as offices; the new Franklin County Visitors Bureau and 11/30 Welcome Center on Memorial Square; the development of the old Central Junior High (and before that, Chambersburg High School) into loft apartments and community space; and a new affordable housing project that is in the works for the corner of South and Main streets, which Ross said will transform the neighborhood.
The Court Facility Improvement Project will have a huge impact downtown, Ross said. Demolition for the $67.8 million project, which will result in a modern judicial center and county administrative spaces, is ongoing.
He said the borough is one of the few municipalities in Pennsylvania that has “opportunity for organic growth,” and pointed to the shopping and restaurant district in the area of Norland Avenue and Walker Road.