Danish company acquires Chambersburg manufacturer

Staff report

UPDATED:   12/15/2014 03:09:03 PM EST

CHAMBERSBURG >> A Danish company has acquired a Chambersburg manufacturer.

Vacon, which makes drives used to control speed in electrical motors, is now part of the Danfoss Group.

In September, Denmark-based Danfoss announced a public tender offer to acquire all the shares of Finland-based Vacon in a $1.34 billion deal.

By the end of November, Danfoss obtained approvals from all the relevant authorities, and has now acquired more than 90 percent of Vacon shares and voting rights in Vacon.

Vacon acquired the drive business from TB Woods, opening a new state-of-the-art manufacturing center on Nitterhouse Drive, Chambersburg, in 2009.

The combination of Vacon and Danfoss will create one of the world’s leading players in the drives market, leveraging the best of the two companies.

“The clear ambition is to be a leading player in the drives market. We see that true value is created together. This is why we will create a new business, where people work together to develop the best products, applications and services for our customers,” said Niels B. Christiansen, president and CEO of Danfoss.

“Combining two strong and innovative AC drives companies will give customers an even more competitive, innovative and attractive offering of AC drives. Joining forces also means that the new business will be able to invest further in both research and development and in the sales force, which is a key success factor in our business,” said Vesa Laisi, president and CEO of Vacon.

Laisi will be the president of the new business segment, named Danfoss Drives.

“The dedicated drives focus unites both Vacon and Danfoss and distinguishes the two companies from competitors. Vesa has spent most of his career in the drives industry and he possesses very deep insights into the business. He will use this experience to guarantee world-leading product portfolio and customer service,” Christiansen said.

Danfoss also announces a reorganization of the rest of the group. The closing of the Vacon deal now paves the way for establishing four strong and global segments, the company said in a statement.

“Today, we have very strong businesses and with the new structure, we can unite these in even stronger entities to further strengthen our market positions. This is the right outset for the next part of our strategic journey with a strong focus on growth,” says Niels B. Christiansen.

Letterkenny Army Depot gets $16M for expansion

By Jim Hook

jhook@publicopinionnews.com @JimHookPO on Twitter

UPDATED:   12/06/2014 06:47:39 PM EST

CHAMBERSBURG>> Letterkenny Army Depot is in line to receive $16 million from the 2015 Defense Authorization bill to expand one of its main shops.

Four Pennsylvania projects are listed on the nation’s 2015 military construction budget. Worth more than $60 million, they support military operations from drones to nuclear submarines.

The House passed the National Defense Authorization Act on Thursday with and the Senate is expected to do the same next week.

Letterkenny’s Building 350 would grow by about an acre, slightly less than the area of a football field. Traditionally known as the vehicle shop, Building 350 is one of the three large industrial buildings on depot. The military construction budget refers to it as a “rebuild” shop.

“This is a big deal,” said L. Michael Ross, chairman of Team Letterkenny and president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp. “Anytime you have construction on the depot, it’s an investment to enhance the military value of the depot. Not that a BRAC is imminent, but it further helps to insulate us” from action by a base realignment and closure commission.

Letterkenny and its tenants employ 3,567 people, making the installation the largest employer in Franklin County. Its fortunes have waxed and waned with the decisions of previous BRACs.

Language in the 2015 Defense authorization act rejects the Obama administration’s request for a BRAC in 2017: “Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize an additional Base Realignment and Closure.”

A largely bipartisan House vote, 300-119, approved the $585 billion Defense authorization bill, which is $48 billion less than last year’s version. The House and Senate Armed Services committees negotiated for weeks to come up with the compromise. The Senate is expected to approve the measure next week before the end of the lame-duck session.

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Hollidaysburg, and his staff could not be reached for comment on Friday. The office voice message system in Washington, D.C., was full. Shuster represents Franklin County and is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

A spokesman for Sen. Bob Casey, R-Pa., also did not respond.

A spokesman for Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said the shop “provides maintenance on military equipment” and referred a reporter to Letterkenny Army Depot for details.

“The project will create about 45,000 square feet to relocate the metal treatment operations in Building 350 so that production lines can be improved,” Letterkenny spokeswoman Janet S. Gardner said.

The design is underway, and a construction contract is expected to be awarded before October, she said.

Letterkenny got military construction funds less than a decade ago. In the fiscal 2009 Defense authorization act, Letterkenny got $14.9 million to build an Army reserve center and $7.5 million for wider doors on ammunition storage igloos.

The 2015 Defense Authorization Act would fund projects elsewhere in Pennsylvania:

  • $24 million for construction or land acquisition for the Ohio-Replacement Power & Propulsion Facility in Philadelphia as part of the Navy’s program to build a new class of nuclear submarines equipped with nuclear missiles.
  • $5.7 million for construction of a Remotely Piloted Aircraft Operations Center at the Horsham Air National Guard Station in Willow Grove.
  • $17.7 million for construction of a Marine Corps Reserve Training Center in Pittsburgh.

Jim Hook can be reached at 262-4759.

Local officials work to protect Letterkenny from future BRAC rounds

By Jim Hook

jhook@publicopinionnews.com @JimHookPO on Twitter

UPDATED:   11/23/2014 05:26:21 PM EST0 COMMENTS

CHAMBERSBURG >> Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s latest proposal for another round of base closings has not raised local eyebrows.

“In Washington only the administration seems to be talking about another round of BRAC,” said L. Michael Ross, chairman of Team Letterkenny. At a recent Association of Defense Communities conference, senators and representatives alike “made it clear they had no appetite for another round” of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, he said.

The fortunes of Letterkenny Army Depot and installations across the U.S. have risen and fallen with the independent commission’s decisions.

“Despite numerous efforts and almost 10 years since the last round, DOD has been unable to secure another round of base realignment and closure,” Hagel said on Nov. 15 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, in Simi Valley, California. “Today, DOD has 24 percent excess capacity in our basing and facilities — excess capacity that is costing us billions of dollars every year, money that could otherwise be invested in maintaining our military’s edge. We need Congress to help end this excess spending,”

A day later Hagel told reporters during a visit to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, “What we’re asking for, again, is for the Congress to authorize another base relocation closing commission to go in and take a hard look, an insightful, honest look, and evaluate where that excess capacity is.

Congress this year shot down Hagel’s bid for BRAC authorization in 2015.

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Hollidaysburg, was among those who spoke up for local jobs. He represents Pennsylvania’s 9th district which includes Letterkenny, the largest employer in his district.

“As a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, I have been fighting in Washington to make clear that the services Letterkenny offers are crucial to national security, and cannot be performed with the same degree of skill, efficiency and cost effectiveness anywhere else,” Shuster said. “I will continue to vocally oppose any measures that would make cuts to Letterkenny, and have already taken steps such as working to craft a National Defense Authorization Act that rejected the proposed BRAC round” in 2015.

Ross on Wednesday told the Franklin County Council of Governments not to worry about the immediate future of Letterkenny Army Depot.

“Right now Letterkenny is very stable with everything going on in the world,” Ross said.

Despite an outward confidence that Congress lacks the political will to close military bases to save money, local officials are proceeding as if a BRAC is possible.

The Franklin County Area Development Corp. has acquired a $50,000 state grant to assess Letterkenny’s impact on the regional economy, according to Ross, who is also president of FCADC. “It’s essential” that the community have the information in hand before a BRAC rather than reacting at the last minute, he said.

A 2003 study of Letterkenny’s economic impact was a cornerstone of the effort to unify local communities around the depot in the 2005 BRAC round. The base closure commission however considers factors other than local economic effects.

“The commission first and foremost looks at military value of an installation and how its mission complements the overall mission strategy,” Ross said.

“I have always said that the men and women working at Letterkenny are the best at their jobs in the nation, and I continue to hold that view today,” Shuster said. “As such, I intend to do everything possible to ensure that we are not only prepared to face the prospect of another round of BRAC, but adopt a proactive stance that makes clear the depot’s crucial role in outfitting our nation’s warfighters. I and members of my staff have worked closely with Franklin County community leaders, Letterkenny employees, and Letterkenny leadership, and we are continuing to develop a strategy to prevent cuts to the depot if BRAC were to move forward. “

Pennsylvania also has moved to strengthen Letterkenny and its 10 other military bases. Together they employ 164,000 people.

The Military Community Protection Commission was established in 2011 and codified earlier this year. State Sen. Rich Alloway, R-Chambersburg, helped found the commission.

“While there is always the threat that a potential BRAC could decrease the workload at Letterkenny, our community leaders and lawmakers are doing everything in their power to minimize the potential threat,” Alloway said. “I am personally committed to preserving our military installations in Pennsylvania, in particular, to Letterkenny. Continual investment in Letterkenny from both the federal and state governments will ensure its place as a premier military support installation and reduce the chance of any future BRAC.”

Alloway earlier this year secured a $656,320 to improve rail lines accessing the depot.

The Army in January broke ground on a $32 million project to destroy rocket motors more cleanly at Letterkenny Munitions Center.

Letterkenny and its tenant agencies and contractors employ more than 4,500 people, Ross said.

The installation north of Chambersburg repairs tactical missile systems and aircraft maintenance generators, produces mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, assembles tent cities and stores munitions. It has won nine Shingo medallions for manufacturing excellence.

“Letterkenny is essential to ensuring the continued military dominance of the United States,” Shuster said. “I am confident in the men and women of Letterkenny along with the entire community that is united in supporting them. Should BRAC be authorized I am certain we will be prepared just as we were in 2005 when cuts were proposed to protect Letterkenny from being affected.”

Jim Hook can be reached at 717-262-4759

Franklin County development official says I-81 expansion needs to be priority

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Posted on Nov 19, 2014by CJ Lovelace

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — A top economic development official in Franklin County said Wednesday that traffic congestion and the frequency of accidents on Interstate 81 is getting “out of control,” and he stressed the need for immediate improvements.

“And it’s going to get worse,” said Mike Ross, president of Franklin County Area Development Corp. “81’s got to be the No. 1 priority.”

Ross’ comments came during a presentation at a Franklin County Council of Governments meeting in Chambersburg.

About 12 percent of the national economy relies on I-81 for transportation and distribution, both growing sectors in the local economy, Ross said.

Franklin County is the sixth-fastest growing county in the state, Ross said, with much of that growth attributed to the truck-heavy industries choosing to locate along the I-81 corridor.

He further underscored the need for widening the interstate, noting that I-81 has supplanted I-95 as the preferred transportation corridor for commerce up and down the East Coast.

“Everybody who wants to distribute products between Charlotte and Toronto is looking for a location on I-81, so it’s become a major corridor,” Ross said after his presentation.

“Within the region, the only state that’s dealt with it effectively is West Virginia,” Ross said.

Portions of I-81 in Berkeley County, W.Va., have been widened to six travel lanes, and state officials there are planning to further widen the busy highway to meet the Potomac River bridge, which is set to be widened in the coming years to accommodate six lanes, as well.

But throughout Washington County and into Franklin County, four lanes just isn’t cutting it any longer, Ross said.

“The longer we let it go … it goes from being our lifeline to being our albatross,” he told attendees at Wednesday’s meeting. “(Widening of I-81) can’t happen fast enough. And more and more, we’re seeing the congestion. We’re seeing the accidents, many of which have fatalities involved.”

While Maryland officials have been planning to widen its 12-mile stretch in Washington County, Ross said it’s Virginia and Pennsylvania, which have about 600 miles combined, where improvements are most needed.

PennDOT spokesman Greg Penny said Wednesday that there are no current plans to widen I-81, except for two smaller projects in the Harrisburg area.

Penny acknowledged that the concerns of those in Franklin County are “legit,” but traffic engineers might conclude that other areas of the interstate that see more congestion could be widened first, if a project were to gain traction.

“I’m sure they feel a bit frustrated,” he said.

Ross said he’s been pleading with state lawmakers and Pennsylvania’s voice in Washington, D.C. — including U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, as well as U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey and Bob Casey — to move forward with improvements for the interstate, noting that even if funding is available today, it would still be “10 to 15 years out until you see anything.”

“We are hopeful that they will make this a national priority for expansion,” he said.

As for the Washington County widening project, planning got under way in 2010, according to the Maryland State Highway Administration, with improvements expected to be split into a series of smaller projects, as funding allows, to eventually widen I-81 to six lanes from West Virginia to Pennsylvania.

Chambersburg IT firm to add 150 jobs

Roughly 150 jobs to be added as part of $2.2 million project

By Jim Hook

jhook@publicopinionnews.com @JimHookPO on Twitter

UPDATED:   11/14/2014 05:47:51 PM EST0 COMMENTS

CHAMBERSBURG >> A homegrown information technology firm is rooting itself deeper in Franklin County.

Global Data Consultants LLC plans to add 150 information technology jobs after buying and renovating its headquarters at 1144 Kennebec Drive.

GDC is getting help for the $2.2 million project — an $870,000 loan from the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority, a $300,000 Pennsylvania First Program grant, $300,000 in job creation tax credits and $67,500 grant for training staff.

Founded in 1995, GDC has grown to 178 employees today from one employee in 2000. It is to add 150 jobs within three years.

“We’re talking about IT support positions,” said L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp. “These are above average salaries. The company has established strong relationships with local colleges and universities to recruit talent. This is a really good project.”

“By locating our company headquarters and operation centers in south-central Pennsylvania, we are able to leverage our proximity to population centers and transportation hubs,” GDC Principal and CEO Gregory Courtney said. “This centralized location keeps our fixed costs manageable, which in turn provides our customers with cost-competitive IT services. We are very thankful for the success we have cultivated over the last 20 years and look forward to building a stronger Pennsylvania as our company continues to grow in the decades to follow.”




Gov. Tom Corbett announced the state’s involvement on Friday. The project was coordinated by the Governor’s Action Team, a group of economic development professionals who report to the governor.

“We are building a stronger Pennsylvania where businesses are growing and creating jobs,” Corbett said. “We are thrilled to partner with Global Data Consultants to bring new jobs and save existing jobs in the region.”

The company will maintain its other locations, Ross said. GDC has satellite offices in Cumberland County and in Appleton, Wisc.

“We are very excited about the partnership with the Department of Community and Economic Development,” Courtney said. “The additional funding allows us to maintain our corporate presence in Franklin County and bring highly desirable and diversified employment options to the region,”

GDC provides services in application development, networking and infrastructure, desktop support and project management. Its customers include JLG Industries, Manitowoc, WellSpan, Blue Cross, Bloomsburg Area School District, ABC Computers and First Education Credit Union.

GDC is to buy the 27,000-square-foot facility that it currently leases and turn it into a corporate headquarters.

“This is a project every community in the country would like to see,” Ross said. “It’s evidence that the technology explosion has incorporated all of us at this point. What we’re seeing now is a homegrown company that has proven it can attract and retain highly educated talent. It’s one of the more significant projects in which we’ve been involved.”

GDC employed 97 people in in 2006 when it expanded with the help of state-guaranteed loans.

Less than two months ago, GDC acquired the assets of LAM Systems of Mechanicsburg, one of the largest builders of IT systems for original equipment manufacturers in North America. LAM built computer hardware, software and technology furniture and provided custom hard drive imaging and asset tagging.

For more information on Global Data Consultants, LLC visit www.gdcitsolutions.com.

Jim Hook can be reached at 717-262-4759

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