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Interstate major part of conference

August 11, 1998|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Interstate 81 will be high on the agenda when 22 state legislators representing 23 counties in Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia gather Thursday for the 13th Annual Quad State Conference.

"It's the critical economic lifeline for all of us," said L. Michael Ross, executive director of the Franklin County Area Development Corporation. Ross is also a member of the Interstate 81 Improvement Task Force.

The daylong conference at the Chambersburg Holiday Inn is open to the public. Pennsylvania State Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin, will host the conference, an annual meeting he initiated to foster regional cooperation on issues affecting an area primarily along the interstate corridor.

Punt said the guest speaker will be Roger Nober, general counsel to the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Nober will speak about the impact of the recently passed federal highway bill on the corridor, and about programs and funding available for improvements to the interstate.

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Ross said improvements to the interstate from Carlisle, Pa., to Winchester, Va., are essential to the well-being of the four-state region.

"Even if we could secure funding today, it would probably take 12 to 24 months to get a study of the corridor done," Ross said.

Any improvements a federal study may recommend, such as adding more lanes, could take a decade to complete, Ross said.

James D. Latimer, chairman of the interstate task force, will address the issue at the conference.

Ross will update legislators on Quadco, a cooperative of economic development groups formed after the 1990 conference.

He said his report will focus on developing a work force to serve the burgeoning printing industry.

He noted there are approximately 75 printing and publishing firms in the area, including Quad Graphics in Martinsburg, W.Va., Phoenix Color Corp. in Hagerstown and Graphics Universal Inc., in Greencastle, Pa.

Quad Graphics plans to expand to 2,000 employees by the year 2000, "and that would make them one of the largest employers in the region," Ross said.

Ken Green, executive director of the Eastern Panhandle Regional Planning and Development Council, will update efforts to create a Quad-tech International Trade Corridor. Punt said that involves a consortium of private industry and educational institutions.

Dennis Frye, president of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites, will speak about the the importance of the region's Civil War history to the tourism industry.

Punt said afternoon sessions will focus on deregulation of the electric and natural gas industries.

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