EDC director says economic recovery in area is slow

June 01, 2011|By DON AINES |
  • Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Timothy R. Troxell.
File photo

HAGERSTOWN — Although there was net job growth in the projects the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission worked on in the past year, Executive Director Timothy R. Troxell said Wednesday that the county is experiencing what appears to be “a jobless recovery.”

The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation reported last week that unemployment in April was 9.1 percent in Washington County, the lowest in 2 1/2 years, Troxell said at an Eggs & Issues breakfast hosted by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

“The concern that I have ... is we’re still seeing kind of a jobless recovery,” Troxell said. He predicted “a slow climb back to the lower unemployment numbers that we were used to.”

The last time the jobless rate in the county was lower than the national unemployment rate was in June 2008, Troxell said. While some businesses are investing in plants and machinery, many are still reluctant to hire more people in a still-uncertain economy, he said.

EDC projects totaled more than $42 million in capital investments in 2010 and created about 785 jobs, 36 percent of them in the finance and real estate category and 27 percent in manufacturing, Troxell said.

There were also several major layoffs in 2010, including 233 jobs lost when Northrop Grumman closed its facility at Hagerstown Regional Airport and 64 lost when Kongsberg Power Product Systems closed its plant, Troxell said.
Capital investment for 2010 was more than $100 million less than the $145.5 million in 2009, he said.

Washington County did receive $14 million last year in financing through federal Recovery Zone Facility Bonds, which provided tax-exempt loans and other assistance for businesses to create or retain jobs. The county got another $5 million in  unused funding from other counties, he said.

The Washington County Board of Commissioners approved recovery bond projects for the Rider Jet Center, Bergman Eye Center and Capital Women’s Care, Troxell said.

Troxell noted business prospects that ended up going to other states.

One, Macy’s $200 million E-Fulfillment Distribution Center, decided on a site in Berkeley County. But some of the up to 1,200 jobs at the center will likely be filled by Washington County residents, he said.

In addition to having a more suitable site, Berkeley County and West Virginia were able to offer more tax breaks and other incentives than Maryland, Troxell said.

So far, 2011 has been a mixed bag with Sierra Nevada Corp., L.L. Bean and The Herald-Mail announcing a total of 140 layoffs, Troxell said.

At the same time, 10 announced projects are expected to create 320 new jobs, he said.

The largest is CitiMortgage, which is adding 120 jobs, while new product lines at Volvo Powertrain could add more than 50 jobs, according to EDC figures.

One of the companies adding jobs is Potomac Edison, the sponsor of Wednesday’s breakfast.

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