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Hurdles cleared for new business

April 10, 2002|BY STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

An Alabama roofing company expects to break ground on a facility in the Cumberland Valley Business Park next week, marking the first new construction in the five years since the county began marketing the former Army land.

Warrior Roofing, which is based in Tuscaloosa, Ala., plans to begin topography studies next week with the official groundbreaking by May 1, said Steven Crew, the company's executive vice president.

The company entered into a tentative agreement with the Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority last week. The agreement is contingent on the four local taxing bodies voting to remove local criteria on the tax-free zone where Warrior plans to locate.

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The Chambersburg Area School District, Franklin County and Greene and Letterkenny townships established restrictions on wages and company size in 1998 when the state created a 283-acre Keystone Opportunity Zone in the business park. The opportunity zone offers tax breaks as an incentive for new businesses.

The business park is on the southwest part of land that was once part of the Letterkenny Army Depot north of Chambersburg.

So far LIDA has had no success marketing the property and the state has threatened to decertify the zone if the restrictions are not removed.

Tuesday night Greene Township supervisors agreed to remove the criteria, following similar action by the school board and county commissioners earlier this month. Letterkenny Township officials said last year they would eliminate the restrictions if the other taxing bodies agreed, said John Van Horn, executive director of LIDA.

The vote paves the way for Warrior Roofing to move forward with its plans and could be a springboard for development in the opportunity zone, officials said.

Warrior Roofing, which has manufactured asphalt-saturated roofing since 1978, is planning to invest $4 million in a 50,000-square-foot building on 21 acres that will employ about 25 people.

"Warrior showed up in early February, and we have been working very intensely with them. They are looking forward to being our first tenant in the KOZ," said Mike Ross, a LIDA board member and president of the Franklin County Area Development Corporation.

Warrior expects to expand to a second production line in three to five years, which would double employment, and add a 200,000-square-foot warehousing facility, Ross said.

Warrior Roofing is moving ahead, pursuing approval of a land development plan. Crew said he hopes the facility will be ready for manufacturing operations in October.

"We have a large population base here that we can service more cost effectively by being in Pennsylvania," Crew said.

In addition to the "big box" home improvement stores like Lowe's and Home Depot, Warrior's customers also include large and small material distributors, he said.

The company considered the Tri-State region when looking to expand, but found Franklin County to be the most promising.

"Their decision centered on the elimination of local criteria and KOZ benefits," Ross said.

He said LIDA has addressed the concerns of some officials by adopting a motion that stipulates companies locating in the KOZ must pay 1.75 times the federal minimum wage and it will not sell property to any county firm that wants to relocate unless it can show evidence it can't expand at its existing location.

"Those were the sticking points with (taxing authorities). LIDA heard their concerns loud and clear," Ross said.

LIDA began marketing the business park in 1997 and has successfully leased the existing warehouses and facilities on the former Army land. To date there has been no new construction in the park, Van Horn said.

He said the agency is tracking Warrior's timetable of land development, zoning approval and other development hurdles so it can give future companies an idea of how look it might take them to be up and running.

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