BUSINESS

Economy is slow but FCADC still busy

PAT FRIDGEN

Mike Ross, president of Franklin County Area Development Corporation since it was founded in 1986, has a perspective on the economy through his interactions with local manufacturing companies.

“From our conversations, 2010 will not be worse than 2009, but it won’t be better. The recovery will start in 2011,” he said Tuesday morning at a breakfast meeting of the Greencastle Chamber of Commerce.

Despite the hits with layoffs, notably Manitowoc Crane Group with 1,000 since December, Ross said the FCADC has been busier the first seven months of the year than any previous year. It is working on 33 projects in the county.

“We try to create an atmosphere for planned growth and family-sustaining employment opportunities,” he said of the corporation’s purpose.

Manitowoc has been the third largest employer in Franklin County, behind Letterkenny “a godsend,” and Summit Health. Encouraging news was that Volvo, a Top Ten employer, has started a $45 million expansion in Shippensburg.

Though Franklin is currently at an 8.4 percent jobless rate, the highest in 20 years, it is still the second fastest growing county in Pennsylvania. Ross expected the census to show a growth from over 141,000 to up to 150,000 people.

The recent announcement of an intermodel terminal for Norfolk Southern in Antrim Township means an explosion of businesses in the near future.

“This is a big deal,” Ross said. “The terminal complements what CSX did at Exit 14. Atapco and Chesapeake Realty control 500 acres now. They are committed and understand what they are doing. I can’t imagine anything better in the state.”

On the other hand, he said small businesses have trouble finding sites. “That’s why what the Greencastle-Antrim Area Development Corporation wants to do, developing a 50-acre park, becomes important.”

As Exit 3 is redesigned, he said it should not impact downtown Greencastle. “There’s not a nicer community in Franklin County or in southern Pennsylvania, with the exception of Hershey,” he said, to laughter from the audience.

When no one had questions following his economic update, Ross told the 60 members, “All right, go home.”