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EDC leader says 2009 was 'challenging'

May 05, 2010|By ANDREW SCHOTZ
  • Washington County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Timothy R. Troxell
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HAGERSTOWN -- After three years of growth, new capital investment in Washington County dropped 31 percent in 2009, Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Executive Director Timothy R. Troxell said Wednesday.

Also, the county lost nearly as many jobs as it gained.

Troxell called 2009 "challenging," yet decent.

Of the $145 million in new investment announced last year, about half was connected to T. Rowe Price's plans to build a backup data-recovery center at Downsville Pike and Rench Road.

Troxell said the initial estimate was $75 million, but construction costs are down, too, so the latest estimate is about $68 million.

Capital investment in the county rose from $81 million in 2005 to $212 million in 2008 before dropping last year.

Troxell spoke Wednesday at a Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce "Eggs & Issues" breakfast at the Academy Theatre Banquet & Conference Center in Hagerstown.

He said 2010 "hasn't started off real well."

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The EDC produces an annual report of business and economic activity in the county.

Besides T. Rowe Price, 2009 highlights included Mountainside Teleport Corp.'s $20 million satellite communications project, a $10 million aerospace project by Sierra Nevada Corp., a $6.8 million Courtyard by Marriott hotel and Centra Bank's $6 million headquarters.

Some significant capital projects, though, won't bring many jobs.

In each of the previous five years, Washington County expected to gain between 1,000 and 1,900 jobs.

In 2009, the estimate was 528 new jobs, compared to 508 jobs lost.

The bulk of that loss is tied to Unilever North American Ice Cream's decision to close the Good Humor-Breyers Ice Cream plant in Hagerstown at the end of 2011.

Later, in an interview, Troxell said the EDC counts job gains and losses in the year they are announced.

The local Good Humor-Breyers plant manager said last June that 460 jobs would be lost in 2010 and 2011 as the plant closes in phases.

Excluding the Good Humor-Breyers jobs from the EDC estimate leaves 48 jobs lost in the county in 2009. Troxell noted the estimates are based on what the EDC has heard and don't include some segments of the work force, such as construction jobs.

In other ways, 2009 was a success, Troxell told the breakfast audience.

The county and the EDC attracted regional, national and international honors.

Elizabeth Morgan of Washington County Public Schools won a national Superintendent of the Year award. The EDC earned recognition for its website and a marketing campaign in which two D.M. Bowman tractor-trailers became traveling billboards.

Troxell said the county's strengths include a healthy variety of industries; a good education system; available land; its airport, which serves defense-related businesses; and an emerging focus on "green," or environmental, construction.

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