Excelsior signs lease at Letterkenny

August 27, 1997


Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The three signatures on a sub-lease agreement between the Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority and Excelsior Manufacturing Company mean Debbie Hile will likely keep her job.

The new company, a clothing manufacturer, was officially named Letterkenny Opportunity Center's first tenant in a lease-signing ceremony Wednesday morning.

"Through the efforts of your organization and all of you, I'm happy to be the beneficiary of the very first lease," said Charles J. Dempsey, general manager of Excelsior.

The company expects to start operating by mid-October and plans to hire the 200 displaced workers from the J. Schoeneman Co. in Chambersburg, which plans to shut down at the end of next month.


Hile, who has worked at Schoeneman for 22 years, is one of the employees who plans to take advantage of Excelsior's job offer.

"A lot of people were really apprehensive about starting over. This gives those, especially the ones close to retirement, a chance to stay in the work force," Hile said.

During Wednesday's ceremony, attended by several local and state officials and Army personnel, the development authority first signed an interim lease with the Department of the Army that allows them to sub-lease buildings to prospective tenants.

The authority then signed a sub-lease with Excelsior.

U.S. Rep. Bud Shuster, R-Pa., presented Dempsey with the key to the new company's headquarters and plant at Building 9, a warehouse at Letterkenny Army Depot, which is part of 1,500 acres the Army is transferring to Franklin County for industrial development.

"This wouldn't have happened without everyone in this room pulling together," Shuster told the crowd.

The new company fills a gap left by the closing of the Schoeneman plant by employing its workers and serves as the first step in the economic development of land conveyed from the Army to the community, Shuster said.

Robert Zullinger, chairman of the Franklin County Reuse Committee and member of the development authority, reminded the audience of the struggle and countless hours of volunteer time spent on the redevelopment project when the Department of Defense announced the depot would be downsized two years ago.

"That was a blow to the community. But today we see two years of planning. It took a lot of hard work and patience. Now we're celebrating the fruits of our labor," Zullinger said.

Franklin County Commissioner Cheryl Plummer said the lease signing shows how the county as a whole can come together to meet a challenge and find a solution. Other communities throughout the nation have been faced with the same task and been unsuccessful.

"It's a real tribute to this community," Plummer said.

Excelsior is a start-up company created by Dempsey and others who broke away from the Haas clothing manufacturer in Baltimore, Md.

Dempsey said he and company officials were attracted to Franklin County by the "highly qualified work force" and the opportunity at Letterkenny.

The company has plans to start manufacturing pants, then expand its clothing line into military uniforms and men's suit coats using state-of-the art machinery and technology, Dempsey said.

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