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Ross, Shuster tout Franklin County's strengths

August 17, 2010|By DANA BROWN

GREENCASTLE, Pa. -- The nation's economy has been in a tailspin for several years, but the president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp. still pitched a positive view of the county's business development trends to Greencastle-Antrim Chamber of Commerce members Tuesday.

L. Michael Ross spoke to about 90 Chamber members during their monthly breakfast meeting at the Antrim House Restaurant.

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., also attended the breakfast and spoke briefly to Chamber members before yielding the podium to Ross.

Shuster prefaced Ross's remarks with words of appreciation for the FCADC's efforts to facilitate and promote business development within Franklin County.

Shuster said that even in uncertain economic times, Franklin County is making progress. But he added that the government could be doing more to stimulate further development.

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Shuster said "business is sitting on over a trillion dollars in cash," but there is hesitation to invest because of concerns about taxes, health care reform and rising energy costs.

"Our government needs to help foster an environment of certainty," he said.

Ross pointed to the county's advantages for attracting future development, which include the more than 2,000 acres of land available for business development. More specifically, nearly 1,000 acres are zoned for industry and are within a mile of interstate roads, he said. He noted that the Antrim Commons Business Park along Interstate 81 has 250 acres available for development.

"That's unheard of in the Northeast," he said. "We're managing growth and putting it where we want it."

Ross highlighted the profound economic impact, estimated at $1.4 billion by 2020, expected with the development of the Norfolk Southern Intermodal Rail Facility in Antrim Township, slated for groundbreaking in September.

"It will affect the whole region," he said.

Ross said about $6.5 million has been spent in 2010 on capital investment projects throughout the county, including Volvo's $45 million capital investment, Atlas Copco's $1.7 million investment and DeeTag U.S.A. Inc.'s $1.2 million investment.

Ross also singled out Summit Health for recognition of its $72 million expansion of Chambersburg Hospital, and the planned or completed renovation and expansion projects within several county school districts.

"We're encouraged by what we are seeing," Ross said. "We're seeing greater optimism, but not confidence yet."

Ross said the development corporation is focused on facilitating selective attraction of new businesses, startup assistance for new businesses, and retention and expansion of existing businesses.

John Rotz, senior credit officer with First National Bank of Mercersburg, said he was encouraged by Ross's update.

"I think this county is very unique," Rotz said.

Brad Graham, Antrim Township administrator, acknowledged Ross's efforts on behalf of Antrim Township.

"Mike is a great advocate for the area," Graham said.

Cindy Marconi, branch sales manager with Tower Bank, said Ross confirmed her belief that "we're fortunate to live in Greencastle."

"He has a way of drawing on the positives," she said.

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