Washington County top work destination

Recently released Census data confirmed that 17,483 Tri-State area residents commuted to Washington County in 2000.

Recently released Census data confirmed that 17,483 Tri-State area residents commuted to Washington County in 2000.

March 17, 2003|by JULIE E. GREENE

Chambersburg, Pa., resident Kris Mulka drives 25 minutes, over the state line, with her two boys largely because she likes that her employer, Citicorp, has on-site child care.

Mulka said she and her husband never really thought about moving to Washington County to shorten her commute.

Her extended family lives in Franklin County, her husband works in Chambersburg, they've heard good things about the Greencastle-Antrim School District, and they like where they live, Mulka said.

Commuting patterns for Tri-State area residents were all over the map in 2000, but recently released Census data confirmed that, once again, Washington County is the top workplace destination for Tri-State area residents. That year, 17,483 Tri-State area residents commuted to Washington County.


The Tri-State area is Washington and Frederick counties in Maryland, Franklin and Fulton counties in Pennsylvania and Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties in West Virginia.

And just like in 1990, Franklin County had the most commuters - 7,841 - coming into Washington County in 2000.

L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corporation, said the commuting data is just further evidence that Washington County is the center of a regional economy for the Tri-State and the Quad-State area.

"We're all part of the same economy, and Hagerstown is really the commercial epicenter," Ross said.

"We don't think about whether we're shopping in Franklin County or Washington County," said Nick Mowen, 39, of Greencastle, Pa. Mowen and his wife, Carol, both commute to Hagerstown for their jobs in the education field. He is a guidance counselor at Western Heights Middle School and she is spokeswoman for the Washington County Board of Education.

Washington County provided more job opportunities for the couple, making the approximately 20-minute commutes worth it, he said.

Overall in 2000, Washington County was the workplace destination for 20,451 commuters. Almost 90 percent of those commuters lived in neighboring counties.

County officials point out that regional employment base to potential employers considering locating in Washington County, County Planning Director Robert Arch said. That's because some potential employers think the county alone won't be able to provide them with enough workers because of the low unemployment rate, Arch said.

Creating more jobs in Washington County has been a goal for county officials during the 10 years since the previous comprehensive census, County Planning Director Robert Arch said.

In that time period, Citicorp has expanded, First Data Merchant Services opened and most of the businesses in the Hopewell Valley area opened, Arch said. The Hopewell Valley area includes the Staples distribution center, Purina Mills, Pavestone and Blue Seal Feeds.

"We are creating jobs for the people in our community. They at least have opportunities," Arch said.

County residents who can't find jobs here to match their skills may look in other areas, Arch said.

Washington County had 16,378 residents driving outside the county for work, according to Census 2000.

As in 1990, the top destination was neighboring Frederick County with 7,150 commuters from Washington County in 2000.

Frederick County, Md., was the second most popular workplace destination for Tri-State area residents.

Other than neighboring counties, the top draws for Washington County residents were Montgomery County, Md. (2,355 commuters), and Washington, D.C., (474 commuters).

W.Va. commuters

Jefferson County, which has seen tremendous population and development growth in the last 10 years, jumped ahead of Franklin and Berkeley counties as a popular workplace destination for Tri-State area residents in 2000.

According to Census data, 4,724 people commuted into Jefferson County that year. That included 4,042 Tri-State area residents.

However, Jefferson County had 11,614 people, or 27.5 percent of its 42,190-person population, driving outside the county for work in 2000.

"We have a lot of commuters that live here and go, primarily, to the D.C. area," said Jane Peters, executive director of the Jefferson County Development Authority.

Loudoun County, Va., (2,305); Berkeley County, (1,725); Frederick County, Md., (1,606); Montgomery County, Md., (1,348) and Fairfax County, Va. (1,241), were the top workplace destinations for Jefferson County residents.

Teachers and health-care workers account for many of the people driving outside the county for work, Peters said. They often go to nearby Virginia counties where there are higher salaries, especially for teachers, she said.

County officials are still trying to get more residents to stay in their home county to work, Peters said.

Peters said she's working to bring higher-paying jobs to Jefferson County so those workers return home. She has two potential high-tech employers that would employ about 100 people each, she said.

Miles and money

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