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Geography key to Franklin County's success

June 03, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA.-If the three most important things in real estate are "location, location and location," the same might apply to economic development, particularly in Franklin County, where its position in the Interstate 81 corridor has made it one of the fastest growing economies in Pennsylvania.

In charge of promoting the county's economic development strategy is L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp. Ross was hired by the Franklin County Board of Commissioners to head the corporation when it was created in 1986.

In 21 years, the FCADC has been involved in 530 projects, assisting businesses seeking to expand or move into the county and startup businesses. Those efforts have resulted in $1.1 billion in new investments, helped along by $217 million in subsidized financing and job training support, and retaining or creating 37,000 jobs, according to FCADC figures.

Ross recently sat down for an interview about what is on the horizon, including a CSX intermodal facility off Kriner Road in Chambersburg; the redevelopment of Fort Ritchie; and efforts to protect Letterkenny Army Depot.

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Ross said the county's geography has been important to its sustained growth.

"You've got essentially a recession-proof economy with the state government moving south out of Harrisburg (Pa.) and the federal government working its way north out of Washington," Ross, 52, said last week. The redevelopment of Fort Ritchie, he said, will bring about 4,500 government and private sector jobs to the region, with much of the economic effect spilling across the Mason-Dixon line into Washington Township and Waynesboro, Pa., he said.

CSX's intermodal facility, where truck cargoes will be transferred for rail shipment, will hasten the development of distribution centers south of Chambersburg, creating 2,500 or more jobs in that industry in years to come, he said.

That has gotten local officials in recent years to begin pushing for a new I-81 interchange south of Wayne Avenue to serve the distribution centers, Ross said.

Ross, who worked for the former Pennsylvania Department of Commerce before heading the FCADC, said Letterkenny Army Depot hosted its second Business Opportunity Showcase last week to entice contractors to enter into joint ventures with the depot. While the depot has benefited from military spending associated with the war on terror, that will not always be the case, and economic development organizations and the state are working to protect it from future cuts by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, he said.

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