Report says Washington County lost more jobs than gained in 2010

January 31, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS |

Washington County gained more than 300 jobs from new businesses and expansions in 2010, but lost more than 440 through layoffs and closures, according to a report released this month by the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission.

“I would say 2010 was a very challenging year, and if it were not for some of the businesses at the airport and one or two of our larger projects, it would have been a very disappointing year,” EDC Executive Director Timothy R. Troxell said recently.

The biggest setback was the closure last fall of Northrop Grumman’s aerospace systems facility at Hagerstown Regional Airport, a move that resulted in about 233 layoffs, according to the EDC report.

Other businesses to close in 2010 included Kongsberg Power Products Systems, with 64 workers, and the Food Lion grocery store on Eastern Boulevard, with 40 workers.

Layoffs included 36 workers from Washington County Health Systems, 36 from Review and Herald Publishing and 30 workers from Jamison Door Co., the report said. Redland Brick announced plans to lay off 60 workers, but didn’t end up doing so, Troxell said.

Troxell said the number of layoffs and closures was probably much higher than the 444 listed in the report.

“We only count numbers with projects we’re somewhat involved in,” he said.

Meanwhile, electronics and appliance retailer Hhgregg created about 60 new jobs with the opening of a store in the Centre at Hagerstown, The Home Depot created about 50 new jobs at its warehousing facility on Hunters Green Parkway and the new Courtyard by Marriott hotel near Valley Mall created about 30 new jobs, the report shows.

Those were among 14 job-creating projects completed in 2010 of which the EDC was aware, according to the report.

Job-creation prospects for this year look much better, with about 700 new jobs planned between 10 announced projects, according to the report.

CitiMortgage has said it expects to create 280 new jobs in the first quarter of 2011, and JLG Industries Inc., an equipment-manufacturing company at Fountainhead Plaza, has said it expects to create 140 new jobs in the first quarter, according to the report.

Another major job creator will be a manufacturing plant on Western Maryland Parkway.

V-T Industries, a manufacturer of laminate countertops and doors, is expected to open an $11 million facility within the next few months, potentially in April, Troxell said. The company will create about 75 new jobs, according to the report.

Troxell said he was satisfied with the types of jobs created and announced in 2010.

“I think we had a good mix of professional, aviation and some manufacturing jobs,” he said.

Based on project cost, the largest business project created in 2010 was the $275 million Meritus Medical Center on Medical Campus Road. Meritus Medical Center was built to replace Washington County Hospital and no new permanent jobs were reported as a result of the project, Troxell said.

At $75 million, T. Rowe Price’s new backup data-recovery center at Friendship Business Park, off Downsville Pike, was the second-most-expensive project completed last year. That project created about 17 jobs, according to the report.

Troxell said the amount of capital investment and new construction announced in 2010 was down compared to previous years, but federal incentive money helped prevent it from being even lower.

V-T Industries, Rider Jet Center and Bergman Eye Center each announced new construction after being approved for Recovery Zone Facility Bonds in 2010.

While the county did not add more net jobs in 2010, Troxell said he felt the overall job picture in 2010 was one of stabilization.

“We’re just hoping 2011 is better than 2010, and we’re going to work hard to make it happen,” he said.

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