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Farm-City Week exchange shows different sides of labor fence

November 18, 2004|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Tonya Myers grew up on a farm near Letterkenny Army Depot, but had no concept of what went on at the 20,000-acre expanse. "All I knew was that the Army had it and that my parents farmed some of the land," she said Wednesday.

After touring parts of the depot with John Van Horn, executive director of Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority (LIDA), she gained an appreciation for how the depot is being developed, she said.

LIDA, created by the county in the 1990s to manage surplus property from the realignment of the depot, owns Cumberland Valley Business Park.

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Myers and Van Horn took part in a Farm-City Week job exchange, in which people in the agriculture sector and the business sector spend a few hours on the job with each other.

Under LIDA's management, some buildings in the depot got extensive makeovers, while others look much as they did when used by the Army. Many of the improvements were funded with a 50 percent matching federal grant, while LIDA spent $4 million to improve the roads, which are open to the public, Van Horn said.

Uses of the buildings are many and varied, according to Van Horn.

Tom James Co., a high-end clothing distribution company, has offices and a training center in the Hayes Development Center. An out-of-school suspension program for high school students occupies a smaller building. A 20-acre site is being considered for a new Franklin County prison.

Marblux, a company that makes faux marble vanities and countertops, and several woodworking companies are also in the park, Van Horn said. Some of the older 90,000-square-foot buildings are used by various businesses such as On Campus Marketing and Ingersoll Rand. The Army has retained ownership and control of some buildings, he said.

Gabler Trucking is a big presence in the park, Van Horn said. "Gabler helps the other businesses with trucking needs. It's a good partnership."

Chambersburg Area School District eventually will own 210 acres in the depot for a proposed ag/environmental center, he said.

The business park leases some areas and owns others. About 1,450 acres eventually will be available to LIDA, Van Horn said. Its 35 businesses employ about 700 people. More than 70 security people work at the site.

Local farmers grow crops on much of the land, and many areas are undeveloped. "Much of the development is driven by the geology of the land," said Van Horn, who is a professional geologist.

Myers is the coordinator for the mobile agricultural education science lab of the Pennsylvania Friends of Agriculture Foundation, a division of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. She develops curriculum for the mobile unit, which travels to schools around Pennsylvania. Students conduct hands-on science experiments related to agriculture in the lab.

As part of the job exchange, Van Horn observed a class in the lab Friday.

As a result of the job exchange, Myers said she now sees how beneficial LIDA is for agriculture. "Thirty-five acres of farm land a year (locally) are consumed by industry," she said. "Here, there are 1,400 acres available for business on land that isn't farmland. It saves our farmland in other areas."

After the tour, Myers said she was "inundated with information. It's comforting to know they have a plan for the future use of this area."

The annual Farm-City Week banquet will be held Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Kauffman Ruritan building in Kauffman Station, Pa. Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Dennis Wolff is scheduled to attend. The participants in the three local job exchanges will talk about their experiences. Tickets may be obtained by calling the Franklin County Extension Office at 717-263-9226.

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