Diversification is key to employment

September 14, 2007|By PEPPER BALLARD

Education, health care and state government continue to draw the most employees in Washington County despite the area's reputation as an industrial hub, according to a county Economic Development Commission report.

Washington County Public Schools - with 2,750 employees in 2006 - is ranked as the county's No. 1 employer, followed closely by Washington County Health System Inc. with 2,738, according to the 2007 Economic Data Summary report.

State government has more employees in the county than Citicorp Credit Services Inc., First Data Merchant Services and Volvo Powertrain North America, which follow, in that order, closely behind, the report states.

Timothy R. Troxell, executive director of the Washington County Economic Development Commission, said that of the 2,538 state government employees in Washington County, about two-thirds work for the Maryland Division of Correction, which has three prisons south of Hagerstown.


"Our employment has become much more diversified than it was in the past," Troxell said. "Historically, we were a manufacturing-oriented community. Now, we've developed into financial services businesses" and others.

Despite that, Troxell said, "We still are an industrial hub ... We still are a manufacturing-oriented community."

He said Volvo Powertrain North America, formerly Mack Trucks, invests a lot of money in its projects that are based here.

The manufacturing base, Troxell said, "speaks well about the work force here."

Financial services, such as Citi and First Data, together employ nearly 5,000 people. Volvo Powertrain employs 1,698 people, according to the Economic Development Commission report.

Washington County, which has a population of 141,895, draws part of its labor force from bordering Pennsylvania and West Virginia, according to the report, which cites the 2005 U.S. Census Bureau population estimate.

In 2006, the unemployment rate was 4.3 percent, with 3,006 people unemployed in the county.

Troxell said Washington County has a higher jobless rate than surrounding counties.

Frederick County to the east had a 3.3 percent unemployment rate in June, according to figures at the Washington County Economic Development Commission Web site at

Washington County's jobless rate that same month was 4.6 percent, according to the Web site.

"As the unemployment rate has come down, there are less people out there available to fill jobs," Troxell said.

Citing the 2000 Census figures released in 2003, Troxell said that, at the time, 16,000 people commuted from Washington County to jobs in other areas. At the same time, 20,000 people commuted from other areas to work here, he said.

According to the 2007 Economic Data Summary report, of the 66,344 people employed in the county in 2005, 26.1 percent were in management, professional and related fields; 20.5 percent were in the service industry; and 25.8 percent in the sales and office field.

There were 9,020 people in manufacturing, making up 13.7 percent of the work force, the report states.

Only 159 people were in the farming, fishing and forestry industry, the report states.

The county is No. 2 in the state behind Frederick County for dairy production, Jeff Semler, extension educator with the Maryland Cooperative Extension, has said.

Troxell said the Interstate 81 and Interstate 70 corridors attract transportation-oriented businesses to the area, but, he added, other types of businesses are moving from the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area to Washington County just to improve the cost of living. On the other hand, Troxell said some businesses build in Washington County for its proximity to the city.

"We continue to be contacted by a lot of companies that are looking at this area for relocation," he said.

Where we work

Following is a list of the top 15 employers in Washington County in 2006:

1. Washington County Public Schools - 2,750

2. Washington County Health System Inc. - 2,738

3. State of Maryland - 2,538

4. Citicorp Credit Services Inc. - 2,470

5. First Data Merchant Services - 2,165

6. Volvo Powertrain North America - 1,698

7. Washington County Government - 1,000

8. Staples Distribution Center - 760

9. Hagerstown Community College - 684

10. Federal government - 671

11. FedEx Ground - 522

12. Good Humor-Breyers Ice Cream Inc. - 520

13. Phoenix Color Corp. - 509

14. City of Hagerstown - 494

15. Horizon Goodwill Industries Inc. - 425

Source: Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission

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