Ross says county in a good place; 1,000 acres available for development in Antrim

PAT FRIDGEN
MIKE ROSS

Having enough people ready to take jobs with incoming companies was a major hurdle for Franklin County. Mike Ross, president of Franklin County Area Development Corporation, spoke to 80 guests at the Greencastle-Antrim Chamber of Commerce breakfast Aug.16. He said that the area's unemployment rate of 6.9 percent after a spike to 9.1 percent, lower than the national average, was good, but it also presented a double-edged sword.

The labor shortage was a problem for companies looking for relocation sites, as well as for those already established and growing. As a result, FCADC was working with schools to train students for the most prevalent jobs.

"They want people with basic mechanical backgrounds to come into a manufacturing environment," Ross said.

The county was in a pocket for growth opportunities, since the Harrisburg metro area extended into Greene Township, and the Washington D.C./Baltimore district reached Antrim Township. Additionally, Franklin County was on the national radar with its positive growth history, predicted to continue. FCADC had received a call from the television program Insights with Terry Bradshaw, broadcast on Fox, TCN and regional stations. It filmed a segment on the county surviving the recession.

With the corporation celebrating a quarter-century promoting economic development, Ross added, "Franklin County is unique. We have the opportunity to grow. The past 25 years of change won't compare to the next 25."

There are currently 1,500 acres available for development, all zoned with infrastructure in place. Of those, 1,000 were in Antrim.

"The challenge is how well we'll be able to manage this. The infrastructure must be expanded to meet the needs of construction."

The county lost Macy's to West Virginia because when scouts looked at the northern end of Franklin County, exit 24 at Shippensburg met their needs until they saw the adult bookstore in a prime spot, and no zoning in place at the time to control what went where.

Ross stressed that FCADC wanted to retain the quality of life and preserve the area's agricultural foundation as it created places where people wanted to live. Among the attractive features were the many good municipal parks. Even the schools underwent scrutiny, with one company interested in whether high school teams ever participated at the state level.

He closed with the statement, "Workforce development will be the issue of the day. Overall, we're in a good part of the world."

He also hoped to be able to make several major announcements by the end of the year.