Franklin County’s Economy is Booming, But there are Still Challenges
Franklin County is the eighth fastest growing county in the state, with an unemployment rate of 3.5 percent, but that doesn’t come without challenges.
“The challenges for Franklin County are lack of available industrial buildings; public infrastructure; expanding social and human services; and affordable housing,” L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corporation, explained at an annual breakfast meeting Thursday morning in Chambersburg.
The FCADC is a private, nonprofit corporation designed to implement and promote a county-wide economic development strategy.
“We focus first and foremost on the retention and expansion of an existing business,” Ross said. “But we are always looking at attract new businesses to diversify the business community.”
Over the past decade, the FCADC was involved in 125 projects that resulted in more than $523 million in capital investments, with the office providing more than $86 million in resources to support projects, creating 3,767 new jobs and retaining 5,292 existing jobs.
“We achieved our annual goal to facilitate at least one economic development project in each of our six school districts,” Ross said.
Some of those projects FCADC facilitated last year included Rough Edges Brewing in Waynesboro, Jamison Door BMP in Washington Township, A. Duie Pyle in Antrim Township, Gearhouse Brewing Co. in Chambersburg and Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch in Montgomery Township.
But Ross said it’s not just what’s happening within county lines that affects the county’s economy.
“The biggest economic development project impacting Franklin County is in Martinsburg,” Ross said, pointing to the Proctor & Gamble mega distribution center in Berkeley County, West Virginia. “They are impacting our labor supply.”
Despite the growth — and more is planned for 2020 — Ross said he’d like to see some basic changes.
“Something needs to be done with Interstate 81,” he said. “It’s become a double-edged sword. It’s the foundation of our economic growth and impacts our national security as it supports five major military installations between Franklin and Lebanon counties. On the other hand, it has become a congested and dangerous highway.”
Ross pointed out a new interchange at Guilford Springs Road that is on PennDOT’s plan.
“It’s going out for bid in 2023, for 2025-2026 completion,” Ross said.
He said unfortunately, traffic on 81 moves faster than government.
“These transportation projects take forever,” he said. “If we got funding for a project today, the earliest you’d be under construction would be 2030.
Other areas of concern, Ross said, are education and workforce programs to train the population we have to work in the jobs we will create.
Also at the breakfast, Ross presented the FCADC’s Chairman’s Award to former Franklin County Commissioner Bob Thomas, who previously served on the FCADC board.
“Bob has dedicated his entire professional life to the economic prosperity of Franklin County,” Ross said. “For 24 years, his contributions have greatly affected this county.”
Guest speaker for the program was Congressman John Joyce, who spoke briefly about the USMCA and the coronavirus.
“The economic impact on business is significant,” Joyce said.
Joyce said there’s no reason to panic about it coming around.
“The best way to protect yourself is to wash your hands for 20 seconds,” Joyce said. “It’s important.”
Andrea Rose is a Gannett reporter based in Waynesboro. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-762-2151.