BUSINESS

Future looks good for development

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot

“Franklin County is as well-positioned for growth as any county in the northeastern United States,” said Mike Ross, president of Franklin County Area Development Corporation. He addressed the Greencastle-Antrim Chamber of Commerce Tuesday morning at a breakfast at Green Grove Gardens.

He admitted the statement was bold, and defended it with backup data: every community in the county was livable, they were close to an interstate, and between 1,500 and 2,000 acres within a mile of I-81 exits were available for development without encroaching on the towns.

The major challenge, Ross said, was providing the workforce. Franklin County had lost Green Mountain Coffee because the company analyzed the labor supply and doubted it could find 1,000 qualified employees.

Ross said a higher level of education was needed by workers to handle the manufacturing sector.

“It’s a different world,” he said. “The investment is in high tech, which requires a different skill set. One person can do the work of four or five. Today’s machine is not your grandfather’s machine.”

He was optimistic on future growth, with 12 projects likely to settle in the county in 2013 and 2014. Antrim Township was on the final list for one of two major warehouse/distribution centers looking for a site, and he expected to know the decision within a week.

Ross understood that young people wanted to move away after college, but saw that many returned in their 30s. And he wasn’t worried about a “brain drain” for Franklin County because of the high caliber of people moving in.

“We are attracting talent from around the world,” he said. “We are in a great place in a great time.”