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Ross says good workers will be harder to find

November 30, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Franklin County's epicenter is not the counties surrounding it in south-central Pennsylvania, as state planners believe, it's Hagerstown, a county economic development official told about 50 Waynesboro Rotarians Tuesday.

L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp., said in remarks about the county's growth picture that "Harrisburg is not aware of what is going on down here."

Ross quipped that planners in the State Capital "think Carlisle (Pa.) is on the Maryland line."

He said Franklin County is unique.

"Harrisburg doesn't totally understand the dynamics that affect us," Ross said. "They have us lumped in with south-central Pennsylvania and we align with Hagerstown. Our sphere of influence comes from Hagerstown."

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Washington and Antrim townships are neck-and-neck in the race to be the county's fastest-growing municipalities, Ross said.

He touched on the proposed development at Fort Ritchie, just over the Franklin County line in Washington County.

"It's not in Franklin County, but the biggest impact will be felt in Waynesboro and in Quincy and Washington townships," Ross said.

Ross said the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is not preparing for the growth that is coming to the county.

Washington and Frederick counties in Maryland have placed moratoriums on building.

"Developers jumped over Maryland into West Virginia and Pennsylvania," Ross said. "They got here a lot faster than any of us could imagine."

Ross said his office is seeing more and more projects coming through the door this year than in any time before.

"A good year, we have 30 to 35 projects," Ross said. "Last year, we had 45 and this year, we expect 60. That's $50 million in projects and about 1,800 new jobs."

Franklin County has the lowest jobless rate in Pennsylvania, he said.

"The big challenge is that we have more jobs than people to fill them," he said. It's true in manufacturing, school and service jobs, he said.

"Everybody is trying to find good employees," Ross said. "My answer to them is they're already working."

Employers will find "monumental challenges" trying to recruit good workers, he said.

Ross said even the tragedy of the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast is a boon to some Franklin County industries, especially Manitowoc Crane Group in Shady Grove, Pa., owner of Grove Worldwide.

A lot of cranes were lost and will have to be replaced, Ross said. More cranes will be needed for the new construction taking place. Area companies in the "Grove supply chain will need more employees, too," he said.

Ross' remarks touched on the Wharf Road Industrial Park in Waynesboro. Ten years in the making, it now is starting to accept more tenants.

"You will soon see a lot of construction there," Ross said. He predicted that that park will be filled with businesses within a year.

"It will create a tax base for the school district," he said.

That led Ross to talk about how, without a countywide school system, local school districts are competing with each other for industrial and commercial development to support their growing needs.

"The school districts are trying to create their own tax base," he said. "They're competing for development projects."

Revenues aren't shared countywide, so small school districts such as Fannett-Metal have to rely more on shrinking state funds, Ross said.

"We need more revenue sharing," he said.

Farmland will be lost to development at an increasing rate in the next few years as pressure to sell bears down on farmers.

"We'll see a lot of farms go by the wayside," Ross said.

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