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Development booming in Franklin County

February 10, 1998|By DON AINES

Development booming in Franklin County

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Franklin County Area Development Corporation batted a thousand in 1997, getting state assistance on every one of a record number of economic development projects.

"Everything that was submitted for funding in Harrisburg (Pa.) was approved," development corporation Executive Director L. Michael Ross said Monday. All 36 projects were approved for low-interest, state-backed loans and grants totaling more than $7.7 million.

The projects represent a total investment in the county of $35,090,230. Ross noted the number of projects approved was a record, although in past years there have been higher investment figures.

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He said major projects from past years, such as the Food Lion distribution center in Greencastle, Pa., and Borden in Chambersburg, now Ventura Foods, resulted in higher overall investments.

Ross said the projects approved in the past year will mean the creation of 847 new jobs, while helping to retain 1,612 others.

The biggest project was Fort James Corp., formerly James River, in Chambersburg.

"They are making a significant investment in new equipment for packaging and printing," Ross said of the Chambersburg plant.

Fort James received a Pennsylvania Opportunity Grant of $100,000 and another $100,000 for customized job training for the $14.6 million project, according to Ross. Among other things, the company makes ice cream cartons and the boxes for M&Ms that President Clinton hands out as gifts.

Ingersoll-Rand in Shippensburg, Pa., received a state-backed loan of $457,333 for a $4.6 million expansion. Ross said the company is purchasing new machinery and equipment and building a 20,658-square-foot addition for its line of soil and road compactors.

The state-backed loans and grants come from an assortment of programs aimed at priming the pump for business start-ups, relocations, machinery and equipment purchases and expansions. Those include the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority, Small Business First Fund, Pennsylvania Economic Development Financing Authority and the Franklin County First Fund.

The Franklin County First Fund was created through a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and a 25 percent local match from FCADC of $125,000, according to Ross. During the past year, the revolving loan fund doled out $502,500 in loans to 15 companies.

Ross said it was the first year for full implementation of the fund. Companies borrow from the fund and, as the money is repaid, it is loaned out to other companies.

This year, Ross said the development corporation hopes to implement a similar program, the Letterkenny Opportunity Center Fund, for businesses locating at the Army depot. He expects 1998 to be a transitional year at the depot, with sustained growth there beginning in 1999.

For this year, Ross expects major construction at the Chambers-5 Business Park for projects announced late last year.

He also foresees the development corporation assisting the Waynesboro Industrial Development Corporation with development of an industrial park off Wharf Road in Washington Township; aiding in the redevelopment of a former tannery site in Mercersburg; and projects in the Greencastle area and elsewhere.

Last year 19 of the 35 projects approved for assistance were in the Chambersburg area, followed by eight in the Waynesboro area. Ross said, however, more projects are being funded outside the county's two major boroughs, a trend he says should accelerate in the future.

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