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Economy on minds of attendees at Celebration of Business 2010

April 20, 2010|By DAVE McMILLION
  • Retired U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Judith E. Keene was guest speaker at the Celebration of Business 2010 at Fountain Head Country Club.
Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN -- Washington County boasts a broad range of businesses, from technical support, banking, manufacturing and transportation to drink products, bedding and hardware.

That mix will go a long way toward keeping the area economy stable, local economic officials said Tuesday night during the Celebration of Business 2010 at Fountain Head Country Club.

The annual event, hosted by the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, honors local companies that provide jobs in the community and that support nonprofit organizations.

About 180 people attended the invitation-only dinner where 33 businesses were honored.

An obvious issue on the minds of those present was the struggling national economy, and Franklin Erck III prayed during the invocation that the community and its business sector will make it through the tough times.

Erck talked about the 10 percent of the county's population who are out of work, but he said the bleak times can't last.

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"There will be a light at the end of the tunnel," Erck said.

The 33 businesses that were honored have operated in the county anywhere from five to 120 years.

Builders FirstSource, FedEx Ground, High Rock Studios and Vertical Technology Services LLC were among the youngest, each celebrating the five-year mark.

Among the oldest were Wolters Kluwer Health, which has been in business 90 years, Central Coca-Cola Bottling Co., which has hit 95 years, and Fridinger Ritchie Co. Inc., which has 120 years in business.

Wolters Kluwer Health assists medical-related businesses with services like tech support and order processing.

An official with the company said Tuesday that it is facing challenges like the "crazy economy" and pressure from corporate headquarters to do things "better, faster and cheaper." But the company, which employs about 130 people, is thankful that it has a low employee-turnover rate, said Maureen Connors, vice president of customer support.

Wolters Kluwer Health has partnered with Hagerstown Community College to provide continuing education to its workers, and Connors said she thinks the workers appreciate that.

"We are looking forward to another 90 years," Connors said.

Steve Collins, senior manager for FedEx Ground on New Gate Boulevard, said the company used to only have a pickup and delivery operation in the county. Now, the operation has grown into a hub that resulted in about 200,000 more packages coming into Hagerstown and another 700 jobs, Collins said.

Collins said the challenges he sees ahead involve providing continuing training for the company's workers.

The keynote speaker was Capt. Judith E. Keene, a 1977 graduate of North Hagerstown High School who was the 31st Commandant of Cadets at the Coast Guard Academy, the first woman to hold the post.

Keene, who was assigned to the position in 2006, entered the U.S. Coast Guard Academy after high school and graduated with bachelor's degree in 1981.

Keene talked about the quality of public education in Washington County and how she benefited from it.

"Many of my classmates were not as lucky," said Keene, relating how many of her classmates struggled with the curriculum at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

Keene recalled tough times in the 1970s when the country was dealing with a 9.2 unemployment rate, a raging Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal and how people were taking jobs pumping gas in an attempt to survive.

The following companies, which are observing milestone anniversaries, were honored at Tuesday night's Celebration of Business 2010.

Five years



o Builders FirstSource

o FedEx Ground

o High Rock Studios

o Vertical Technology Services LLC

10 years



o JLG Industries Inc.

o M&T Bank

o PetSmart FDC 18

o R+L Carriers

o Susquehanna Loan Servicing Center

15 years



o BJ's Custom Creations

o Fugro EarthData International

o HK Engine Components Inc.

o Pepsi Bottling Group -- Refurb Center

20 years



o Rampf Molds Industries Inc.

o Sealy Mattress Co.

25 years



o ABF Freight Systems Inc.

o Citi

o Specialized Communications Corp.

o Tristate Electronic Mfg. Inc.

35 years



o First Action Security Team Inc.

o Reisner Products Inc.

o Rust-Oleum Corp.

40 years



o Blaine Window Hardware Inc.

o Tri-State Printing Inc.

o WHAG-TV

45 years



o Ewing Oil Co. Inc.

55 years



o Horizon Goodwill Industries

o Martin Marietta Aggregates

70 years



o Richards-Wilbert Inc.

85 years



o Susquehanna Bank

90 years



o Wolters Kluwer Health

95 years



o Central Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Inc.

120 years



o Fridinger Ritchie Co. Inc.

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