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Fulton County bucks manufacturing trend

November 14, 1996

11/14/96

By LAURA ERNDE

Staff Writer

McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. - A business boom at JLG Industries has thrust rural Fulton County, Pa., into the spotlight for creation of manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania.

Between 1990 and 1995, Fulton County's manufacturing employment base grew by 46 percent, according to a recent study by Bell Atlantic and Penn State.

That was a larger increase than any other county in the state.

"We knew, certainly, that manufacturing jobs were increasing, but we didn't realize it would make the county No. 1 in the Commonwealth," said Margaret Taylor, executive director of the Fulton County Economic Development Corp.

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Most of the jobs were created at JLG Industries, which makes aerial work platforms in McConnellsburg.

JLG's work force has ballooned, from 500 people in 1990 to nearly 2,000 today, as the company increased sales worldwide.

While other counties in the state created more jobs, Fulton County's rate was higher because it started with a smaller base, said Theodore Fuller, development economist at Penn State and one of the study's authors.

Still, it's quite an achievement considering the decline of manufacturing nationwide and in Pennsylvania, which lost 80,000 manufacturing jobs between 1990 and 1995, Fuller said.

The new jobs have brought more opportunities to residents of the county, who used to depend largely on farming, Taylor said.

The traditionally slower pace of life here has become more hectic as workers, especially at JLG, have had to learn how to compete in a global marketplace, officials said.

"I think that's quite an achievement for the workers," Taylor said.

In 1990, nearly half of Fulton County residents had jobs outside the county. Taylor believes the next census will show that has changed.

Total employment in Fulton County was up 20.1 percent, according to the study, which used information from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

JLG's expansion has brought spinoff jobs to the region, Taylor said.

One example is JNT Precision Machining, which provides machining services on equipment parts for JLG and other large companies.

The family-owned McConnellsburg company employs 26 people and plans to hire more when its new 4,000-square-foot welding building is finished, said President Tom Neil.

Fulton County's next priority is diversification of the work force, Taylor said.

A planned industrial park will be one step toward bringing different kinds of businesses to the county, she said.

In Franklin County, Pa., total employment was down a slight 0.5 percent from 1990 to 1995, the study showed. Statewide, there was a gain of 1.5 percent.

In manufacturing jobs, Franklin County lost 1.1 percent. That was better than the state's 7.8 percent loss.

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