While the financial state of the nation seems to be mired in a quagmire of doom and gloom, the economic future of Franklin County is sound and getting brighter, said the president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp.
Speaking to hundreds of business leaders at the Tuscarora Area Chamber of Commerce Economic Partnership Breakfast at Whitetail Golf Resort last week, L. Michael Ross said the community has many reasons to be optimistic about the future of Franklin County.
“I’m happy to talk about this because every time we watch TV everybody wants to tell us how bad we are. The fact is that I think we need to be aware of some of the things taking place (here),” said Ross, rattling off a list of local achievements.
While the nation’s unemployment rate is at 7.8 percent, the county’s rate is at 6.8 percent, Ross said.
“We’ve created 1,100 jobs in the county since September 2011,” he said.
He said a lot of the jobs created are in the manufacturing sector.
“One of the things we’ve (FCADC) tried to do over the last 26 years is to diversity the county’s economy,” he said. “We never want to be dependent on any one industry sector or any one company.”
The danger of depending on a handful of companies is if the company goes down — the entire community struggles, Ross said.
“So far this year we’ve supported about $61.3 million in capital investments,” he said.
In terms of diversification, he said the area is still one of the areas of the country that makes things.
Volvo is one of the most well-publicized projects taking place, but Ross said it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Volvo has made the strategic decision to make Shippensburg, Pa., its North American headquarters for heavy construction, which triggered a $45 million expansion of the facility, he said.
In 2011 Volvo decided to move everything to Shippensburg, Pa., by closing its operations in Asheville, N.C.
Ross said that’s significant, because for the last 50 years, companies in the Northeast moved operations south. Now, that trend is reversing.
Volvo, which employs more than 700 people in Shippensburg, according to its website, is not the only company that has decided to move north to Franklin County, he said.
Atlas Copco, which makes compressors, construction and mining tools and equipment, moved operations out of Virginia to Ft. Loudon, Pa., Ross said.
TE Connectivity, formerly Tyco Electronics, also relocated operations from Virginia to Waynesboro, Pa.
“What we’ve seen in the last two years is a trend of companies who have a presence here locating their manufacturing out of the South back up here where they have found both market conditions to be better and the labor to be exceptional,” Ross said.
One of the questions Ross said he hears all the time is, “When are you guys going to create new jobs?”
“The fact is these are world-class companies that have every conceivable kind of employment opportunity from Ph.D. level to high school level employment,” Ross said.
Not only are the world-class manufacturers like Volvo and Manitowoc (formerly Grove Worldwide in Shady Grove, Pa.,) expanding, but Ross said even the smaller local companies are growing.
“Edge Rubber, a company that has been in Chambersburg for the last 50 years, is expanding its Progress Road location and doing a 35,000-square-foot expansion at its Letterkenny-leased facility,” Ross said.
Shreiber Foods in Shippensburg, a Wisconsin-based company, recently completed an expansion and invested $100 million to improve its operations.
Ventura Foods in Chambersburg, is doing a $30 million expansion, he said.
Knouse Food is expanding in Chambersburg and Olympic Steel just invested $11 million to upgrade software equipment at its Chambersburg location, Ross said.