$2.8 million grant awarded to Letterkenny

January 14, 1998


Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A $2.8 million grant awarded to the Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority is expected to help create 1,100 new jobs, officials said Wednesday.

U.S. Rep. Bud Shuster, R-Pa., and U.S. Commerce Department Assistant Secretary Phillip Singerman announced the grant to nearly 100 Franklin County and state officials in the auditorium of Building 500 at Letterkenny Army Depot.

The state is kicking in $750,000 and the Industrial Development Authority will contribute $59,000 in matching funds. The money will be used for improvements at the Letterkenny Opportunity Center, an industrial park being created on 1,500 acres of land given to Franklin County by the U.S. Army as part of a federal base realignment.


The grant money comes out of the Economic Development Administration, which Shuster oversees as chairman of the federal Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

"This is a result of everyone working together," Shuster said.

Projects on which the money will be spent include construction of a water tower and a sewer pump station, work to clear 99 acres and demolish more than 40 buildings, renovation of some existing buildings by bringing them up to code and handicap-accessibility standards, and exterior improvements such as construction of parking lots and sidewalks.

The grant also will help create a $500,000 revolving loan fund for use by clients locating on site.

Members of the Industrial Development Authority hope the industrial park will bring more than 10,000 jobs to the county in the next two decades.

"This assistance will play an important role in achieving the successful conversion of the Letterkenny Army Depot to civilian uses, and dislocated defense-dependent workers to civilian jobs," Singerman said.

"The project will help create well over 100,000 square feet of marketable space for lease to business facilities," he said.

Lt. Gen. Dennis Benchoff, a native of Franklin County, told the crowd that it was his mission as commander to close Letterkenny Army Depot and nine other Army bases in the country.

Franklin County was not alone in experiencing feelings he compared to having an unexpected loss in the family when the announcements were made about closing down the military bases.

"What we all realize when we have a significant loss is that life goes on. We eventually have to put that behind us and move on," Benchoff said.

It's what the local people do with the opportunity that makes the difference, he said.

"It's going to take hard work to make this opportunity pay off, but I think you have the right people ... to make that happen," Benchoff said.

Industrial Development Authority Chairman Robert Zullinger recalled when, in the same auditorium, the announcement was made that Letterkenny would be downsized, meaning the loss of many jobs.

"Those uncertain days have been replaced with hope - hope for the future," he said.

Four companies have moved to the Letterkenny Opportunity Center, including Excelsior, a clothing manufacturing company that was the first to sign a lease and which moved into the newly renovated Building 9.

The first floor and basement of Building 500 also are occupied.

Negotiations are under way with several other potential tenants, Zullinger said.

In 1996, Shuster announced the first grant of $2.3 million in economic redevelopment assistance for job creation activities in Franklin County. Part of that grant money went to development at the Chambers Five Industrial Park in Chambersburg.

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