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Ross shares economic development strategy

June 03, 2007

Editor's note: L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County (Pa.) Area Development Corp., sat down last week with Herald-Mail reporter Don Aines for a question-and-answer session. Following is the transcript, edited for length, of that session.

Q: CSX is well into the process of planning soon to build an intermodal facility off Kriner Road. I'm looking for, what is the economic impact of that facility. There's a lot of raw land down there south of Chambersburg that can still be used for distribution centers and manufacturing. Will this spur the approvals and the financing necessary for an exit south of Chambersburg to handle the truck traffic, and what's the impact on traffic going to be?

Ross: I think to put it in perspective, (this project has been) in the works for the last probably four years, and CSX made the commitment when it began to purchase the property. ... I think it was about 2004 when they actually bought the property that is now the site of the construction. At that point, we began looking at the need for a new interchange south of Wayne Avenue, and I think in part because of CSX ... that just kind of became the fuel that really kind of ignited the fire, because the property ... that's controlled between Wayne Avenue and Marion is owned by W.C.N. Properties, and they are a logistics company.

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They're going to construct a distribution park on that 250-plus acres that they control. ... We don't want Wayne Avenue to look like Lincoln Way, and now that's a concern and just a mass congestion. On Lincoln Way, the widening has helped considerably. Wayne Avenue though, has become a fairly active interchange at this point, without the intermodal or any of the new distribution that's planned. So we've been trying to take some proactive steps. ...

Looking at similar projects that they've done in other communities around the country, I think on the low end (it will create in the distribution sector) in the neighborhood of 2,500 jobs over the next five to seven years, something like that. On the high end, it could create as many as 6,500 jobs.

... Part of what you're going to see is going to trigger additional distribution ... centered from Carlisle essentially to Martinsburg (W.Va.), maybe as far south as Winchester, Frederick County, Va., but concentrated in Chambersburg, Hagerstown, Martinsburg, primarily.

So there's going to be additional growth ... That project, and the redevelopment of Fort Ritchie, are two of the most significant projects occurring in this valley, in this part of the world right now. Both of those stand to have a huge impact on the economic development of the Cumberland Valley - Franklin County, Washington County, Adams County (Pa.), down into Berkeley County (W.Va.), up into Cumberland County (Pa.). It's a big deal.

Q: Talk a little bit about the redevelopment of Fort Ritchie.

Ross: I think the Fort Ritchie redevelopment is, interestingly in Pennsylvania among state policymakers, off the radar screen because the project is in Washington County, Maryland ... And one of the frustrations I've had for the last 20 years is we've had an awful lot that's taken place in Franklin County and in this valley, but there's no county more south or more central in P-A than Franklin County, but there's probably no county that is more marginally aligned with the south-central P-A region than we are. ...

People in Harrisburg don't understand the political geography here. They don't understand that the epicenter of Franklin County is Hagerstown. ... And it radiates out from there and it goes down into Berkeley County, goes a little west into parts of Allegany County, Maryland, but we are, we go the other way, and south-central Pennsylvania historically has been defined (in) Harrisburg (as being) from Carlisle to Lancaster, down in through York, and that's south-central P-A. to the policymakers.

The only time that they even think about us or they learn about us is if somebody gets killed on (Interstate) 81, or one of our sports teams is competing for a state championship. ...

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