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Pa. senator to head panel

January 08, 1997

By DAVE McMILLION

Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania State Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin, was named chairman of the Community and Economic Development Committee Tuesday, putting him in control of a wide variety of state economic programs from tourism to business loan programs, officials said.

Franklin County officials praised the move, saying Punt's new position will be vital to help offset the loss of jobs in the county.

The Senate committee oversees the state Department of Community and Economic Development, which employs 450 people and has an annual budget of $110 million, Punt said.

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Although it was too early Tuesday to determine what effect Punt's chairmanship of the committee would have on Franklin County, Punt said he will explore areas he has been interested in, such as trade between Pennsylvania and Mexico.

Punt said he believes some of Pennsylvania's agricultural products could be exported to Mexico. Franklin County is the second among Pennsylvania counties for its agricultural industry.

Punt said he is also interested in establishing trade agreements between Pennsylvania and Asia.

As chairman of the committee, Punt will oversee a number of state economic programs such as tourism, all the state's welcome centers, low-interest business loan programs, the Small Business First program, the state's motion picture industry and the Pennsylvania Minority Business Development Authority.

"It can be a very powerful committee, for the good of the commonwealth and our communities," said the Republican senator.

Franklin County Commissioner Bob Thomas said Punt's new position is especially important given the expected loss of jobs in the county. There has been plans to considerably downsize the Letterkenny Army Depot, and this year, the J. Schoeneman Co., a men's clothing firm, will close.

Thomas said he thinks the region's tourist attractions like Whitetail Ski Resort and Hershey Park can be a powerful economic tool for the area if they are promoted strongly.

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