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Ross shares economic development strategy

June 03, 2007
(Page 3 of 3)

The idea (is) to expose those folks to what is taking place here in Franklin County (which has an unemployment rate of 3 percent) and give them the option to investigate. Hopefully, some may determine that there are opportunities that would cause them to move into this ... area, and hopefully we can start to fill a need. ... We think it's a creative approach. The state, interestingly, has been very supportive. If we experience some level of success, we're going to investigate replicating the whole thing, maybe up in the Erie area, which has experienced some significant layoffs, and then possibly down in the greater Pittsburgh area.

To put the whole notion of Pennsylvania in perspective, here's your trivia for the day: Between 2000 and 2006 - this is according to the U.S. Census - only New Orleans lost more people than the City of Pittsburgh. ...

What we want to do is expose folks to what is taking place here ... and we don't know what to expect.

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We're not going in thinking that because we go up and say, "Oh, man, there's great opportunities here. You just lost your job, how about that? We can find you one down here." If people are aware, maybe some ... would take us up. ... And if they experience success, then by word of mouth they may go back home and say, "You know what? It's not so bad," and maybe there's an opportunity there ... for others who may be on the fence to look at it more seriously.

Q: (On the subject of job opportunities at Letterkenny)

Ross: ... Letterkenny has emerged as a major employment center, and we've been trying to expand the mission. ... Right now, Letterkenny, as well as most of the installations, have experienced significant workload because of Iraq. What we're trying to do is prepare and broaden that base so that when that surge goes away - and eventually it will - that Letterkenny has positioned itself with a broad enough mission that it will survive and go well into the future. ...

The Army was pretty certain that they have five depots and they only need four, OK? And three of them are pretty well-protected, being Tobyhanna, Corpus Christi and Anniston. So the two ... always on the edge are Red River down in Texas and Letterkenny. And this (brings up) the theory of, if we're down at the river, and it's only you and I, and we see a bear, I don't have to be the fastest guy, I just need to be faster than you, OK? And that's the way we look at it with Red River.

If they're going to cut, we need to be better than they are, OK? Because one of us is going, we want it to be them. ...

The other thing that it's brought to light is that ... we were able to establish a relationship with the state of Pennsylvania for the first time, where they're now allocating general fund dollars to help support projects on the installation, that once an improvement is made, that it's gifted to the Army. But it helps them, and in this case, the rail dock is an amenity that Letterkenny needed. There was no funding in their budget for it. The state came forward with $340,000 to help us build it, and it'll, again, really help in terms of their logistics capabilities and being able to ship, especially by rail, from there down to strategic ports in Philadelphia. So that's a big deal.

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