Local Manufacturers see Rebound

Chambersburg Public OpinionPublished 5:45 p.m. ET Aug. 14, 2017

 

CHAMBERSBURG — The local factories that make road rollers, lifts and cranes are seeing brighter prospects.

Their recent financial reports offer hope for more local manufacturing jobs in the near future. Also looming in the background are expectations for a major infrastructure investment from the federal government.

“We’re seeing a rebound, albeit, I think it will be a bigger rebound when we see a federal bill investing in infrastructure – transportation or telecommunications or utilities,” said L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp. “That will really create a boon for Volvo, JLG and Manitowoc. This year has been better than the last several years.”

Volvo Construction Equipment in Shippensburg makes machines that build roads. JLG Industries in McConnellsburg makes machines that lift people and materials. Manitowoc Co. in Shady Grove makes cranes for heavy construction.

Their most recent financial reports foreshadow an improving economy.

That’s good news for the community and the thousands of local workers linked to the cyclical nature of the construction industry. Manufacturing jobs pay good wages. A manufacturing job generates three other jobs in the economy, according to the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation.

The economy of the eight-county region of south-central Pennsylvania, including Franklin County, relies heavily on manufacturing. Manufacturing has the greatest economic impact on the region’s economy, according to SCPaWorks, the South Central Workforce Investment Board that focuses on regional workforce issues. Workers likely are commuting into the region to work for manufacturers.

“We feel very good right now about what is taking place in Franklin County and throughout the region,” Ross said. “There’s a lot of economic development now. I think we’re in a turnaround.”

The FCADC is fielding inquiries at a pre-recession level, according to Ross. Banks are lending money, and real estate agents are showing commercial properties.

The Associated General Contractors of America, however, is concerned about the government’s most recent numbers on construction spending. Public-sector spending on construction declined from May to June.

“There has been a steep decline in public investment in nearly all types of construction over the past year,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Private nonresidential construction is still rising overall, but generally at slower rates than was occurring a few months ago.”

Association officials urged Congress and President Trump to fund upgrades to the nation’s aging infrastructure. The investment would protect against further deterioration of the nation’s public works and offset a slackening demand for construction.

 

“Washington officials need to act quickly to rebuild our public works before bad roads, unclean water and unreliable power systems begin to serve as a drag on broader economic growth,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer.

Joey Brown, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, did not indicate when Congress might act. Shuster, chairman of the House transportation committee, represents Pennsylvania’s 9th Congressional District, including Franklin County.

“During this Congress, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has held hearings on opportunities to reform and invest in the nation’s infrastructure, and Chairman Shuster is currently working with the Trump administration to craft an expansive infrastructure package that will include all the transportation modes to build a modern, 21st century infrastructure system, including an effort to reform and modernize the FAA, the 21st Century AIRR Act,” Brown said.

Improving the nation’s infrastructure has been one of Shuster’s top priorities, he said.

A local factory supplying parts to original equipment manufacturers has already taken the plunge.

Vetter Forks Inc. has moved to a larger location and bought its own building. The German-based company makes steel forks for forklifts.

“They have a solid foothold in their industry,” Ross said. “This is another arrangement where the supply chain for Volvo and JLG is a driving factor for them to be in the U.S. and specifically here.”

Vetter recently purchased 1711 Opportunity Ave. from FCADC for $1.8 million, Ross said. The building in the Cumberland Valley Business Park had been empty for more than a year after the bankruptcy of Edge Rubber.

Vetter in 2014 leased space at 5785 Sunset Pike to be closer to its customers, Ross said. The plant employed nine people. At its new location, Vetter’s employment is expected to rise to 30 in 12 to 14 months.

“Sales are up,” Ross said. “They have more confidence in the future. It was more optimism before.”

Their customers’ business is improving and their orders were increasing, according to Ross.

Here’s the financial outlook in a nutshell from major local manufacturers as taken from their most recent quarterly reports:

  • Volvo CE reported that quarterly sales increased by more than a third and orders for equipment rose by 54 percent. Demand increased in most major markets – China up 65 percent, Europe up 14 percent, North and South America both up 4 percent. There was a clear recovery in mining in many parts of the world.
  • Oskosh Corp., the parent of JLG Industries, reported that sales of access equipment increased about 3 percent from a year ago, primarily because of more sales of aerial work platforms. Oshkosh President and CEO Wilson R. Jones said the results were “stronger than expected.” The company anticipates delivering higher earnings for investors.
  • Orders improved 9 percent for the Manitowoc Co. Inc., although net sales were off 16 percent compared to a year earlier. The company shipped fewer crawler cranes in the Americas and fewer rough-terrain cranes, primarily in the Americas and the Middle East, mainly due to continued weak demand in oil and gas market. Both cranes are made in Shady Grove. The company recently moved its crawler crane production there.

“Considering our year-to-date performance and future market outlook, we have improved our full year 2017 guidance,” said Manitowoc President and CEO Barry L. Pennypacker. “This underscores that our team can deliver improved results using the principles of The Manitowoc Way. The relocation of our crawler crane production is complete, on time and under budget.

“In the second-quarter we have seen order improvement in most product categories except lattice boom crawler cranes. We have experienced pockets of improved demand in specific markets like the Permian and Eagle Ford basins in (Texas) North America. European markets continue to experience moderate growth, mainly in residential and non-residential construction markets.”

 

“Cautiously optimistic” Pennypacker said Manitowoc is positioned to achieve double-digit operating margins by 2020 and to become “the leading global crane company” as the market recovers.

Industry giant Caterpillar recently raised its expectations for the year. Annual sales for the maker of construction equipment should end at more than 6 percent above its original outlook.

Although jobs in manufacturing are declining in the region, the regional manufacturing employment remains 53 percent above the national average, according to SCPaWorks. And during the economic slump, manufacturing layoffs have accounted for 14 percent of unemployment, much higher that the state average (8 percent.)

As a whole the counties of Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Juniata, Lebanon, Perry and York have seen job growth in health services and warehousing/transportation.

The region has more jobs than prospective workers. The eight counties currently have 55,000 job openings with just 30,000 people unemployed, according to Ross.

Jim Hook, 717-262-4759

Warehouses, health care drive local economic growth

Jim Hook , Published 11:04 a.m. ET July 3, 2017 | Updated 1:33 p.m. ET July 3, 2017

CHAMBERSBURG – Franklin County is home to more trucks and more elderly.

The growth of jobs in warehousing and in health care is assured for the immediate future. Warehousing/transportation has been fastest growing sector of the county economy. Summit Health recently surpassed Letterkenny Army Depot as the county’s largest employer.

The nation’s love of buying online is driving the construction of big box warehouses along Interstate 81, the main truck route to the Northeast. About 12 percent of the nation’s economy travels I-81. Franklin County is within a day’s drive of half the population of North America.

“As we move more retail into warehouses you’re going to see more pressure on I-81,” said Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corporation. “The biggest infrastructure challenge we have is I-81. We’ve got to get to six lanes, and we can’t get there fast enough.”

About 8 million square feet of distribution warehousing is on the drawing board for I-81 from Greencastle to Shippensburg. A decade ago the county had just 11 million square feet of warehousing.

The planned warehouses would add another 1,600 daily truck trips to I-81, according to industry standards. About 14,000 trucks a day currently use the highway through the county, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

The other growth sector of the county economy is health care.

“We have a naturally aging population in Pennsylvania,” Ross said. “Because we don’t tax retirement income, we are a haven for beltway retirees. The aging population will continue to grow.”

Summit Health, owner of the two hospitals in the county, broadened its plans for a lot at Interstate 81 Exit 3 (U.S. 11).

“We originally planned to place an urgent care in Greencastle,” spokeswoman Allison Schuchart said. “We decided we want to plan a facility similar to the Waynesboro Medical Office Building so we can provide convenient, accessible health care options to the Greencastle and northern Washington County communities.”

Construction should begin in the late summer or early fall, she said. Staffing at the Greencastle Medical Office Building will depend on the services offered. Summit Health has yet to decide what services will be offered.

Intermodal Park, formerly Antrim Commons. Blaise Alexander Chevrolet Volvo is also building in the park. What will be one of the area’s largest car dealerships is to open before the end of the year.

Three warehouses, averaging 1 million square feet each, have approvals for construction in the park.

Ten miles to the north, WCN Properties has begun construction on a 370,000-square-foot warehouse on WCN Drive. Plans are pending for a 725,000-square-foot warehouse across the street.

Drive another 12 miles north, three more major big boxes are approved to put 2.7 million square feet under roof in the United Business Park near Shippensburg.

The county currently has an unemployment rate of about 5 percent, a number that Ross considers to be full employment.

With thousands of warehouse jobs to be filled, where is the workforce coming from?

“It’s going to be a numbers problem for the region,” Ross said. “We’re growing, and we’re essentially at full employment now. The opioid issue affects those who are unemployed and affects their employability. That’s a challenge we have to address.”

Kurt Fuellhart and Paul Marr of Shippensburg University cautioned in their 2006 warehouse study: “While in the medium and longer term in-migration may alleviate some of these issues, one of the characteristics of the existing workforce that has been linked to the success of trucking and warehousing to date is the strong blue-collar work ethic and culture of work that it has bred. There is no guarantee that this can be sustained as the composition of the workforce changes.”

Fuellhart and Marr also wondered about sprawl — how long can the logistics/transportation industry be confined to the I-81 corridor when land there becomes more expensive compared to land farther away.

“Because the two industries are so visible on the landscape and impact local residents in their daily activities,” they said, “it will be critical to manage future growth so as to maintain the high quality of life the region is known for, while providing good jobs for the area’s residents.”

Franklin County is one of Pennsylvania’s leading agricultural counties with dairy, livestock and poultry leading the way. Several of the county’s small towns also have revitalization plans to preserve their individual flavors.

Chambersburg, the county seat, has garnered investment of about $10 million for downtown improvements. The Coyle Free Library is undergoing a major reconstruction. The long vacant former Chambersburg High School will see new life as urban apartments and offices.

Franklin County Commissioners are preparing to invest in a judicial center downtown.

“You hope that we’re attractive for folks looking for employment,” Ross said. “Hopefully we strengthen the quality of life. We can create more diverse job openings. Supply and demand for labor will drive wages up, and hopefully create more disposable income.”

Ross hopes to diversify the economy beyond the big boxes popping up on I-81 and expanding services for the elderly. He wants to strengthen other facets of the county economy – the defense industry at Letterkenny Army Depot, manufacturing, tourism and professional services.

Jim Hook, 717-262-4759

Manitowoc adds 80 jobs with crawler crane production

Jim Hook , jhook@publicopinionnews.com Published 2:22 p.m. ET May 26, 2017

SHADY GROVE – The Manitowoc factory in Franklin County will officially welcome crawler crane production at 1 p.m. on Wednesday with a flag raising.

Manitowoc Co., a leading global maker of construction cranes, consolidated its U.S. manufacturing operations in August by moving its crawler crane operations from Manitowoc, Wisconsin, to Shady Grove. The local plant previously made hydraulic cranes.

More than 80 experienced employees at Shady Grove have already been called back to work for extensive training on the crawler crane line.

“These are good jobs that pay family-supporting wages,” said Brian Smith, director of human resources in Shady Grove. “They require skills such as the ability to weld tubular, heavy plate, and high tensile steel. But we need to hire more than just welders, too.”

The first 300-ton capacity MLC300 crawler crane built in Shady Grove came off the line in February, and the first 650-ton capacity MLC650 crawler crane rolled off in March. While some Manitowoc brand crawler cranes have been assembled in Shady Grove for several years, preparing the plant for a full line of crawler cranes has been a major undertaking.

Smith sees a potential for adding jobs through 2018, depending on regulatory reform and infrastructure legislation along with the return of cyclical market demand. The heavy machinery industry has suffered through a historic downturn since 2012.

Since 2008, Manitowoc lost as many as many as 2,000 jobs partly because of market demand and legislative policy that created significant advantages for imported cranes. Since the company has never off-shored crane manufacturing jobs, Manitowoc plans to reverse these losses by rebuilding America’s infrastructure with American-built cranes made by American workers, according to Smith.

Over the past five months, as many as 10 trucks a day have been moving machines, materials, and parts from Manitowoc and Port Washington, Wisconsin, to Shady Grove.

Favorable winter weather allowed an aggressive schedule for, not only the equipment move, but also for the large-scale building modifications and hundreds of tons of concrete poured for foundations to accommodate large machining tools and automated welding equipment needed to produce crawler cranes. In just 16 weeks, an existing production building in Shady Grove was emptied and fortified to accommodate crawler crane production. The larger space allowed production to flow efficiently from assembly to paint to testing.

A 1947 Manitowoc brand SpeedCrane, an antique crawler crane recently moved from Wisconsin, is displayed at the front of the 303-acre campus. Two Grove mobile cranes flank the crawler crane on a 300-ton concrete pad. Together they symbolize the resiliency of crane manufacturing at Shady Grove and the past and future of Manitowoc, according to Smith.

If steps proposed by the current administration in Washington D.C. become law, it will also be a boon for the local economy, he said. An infrastructure bill, coupled with regulatory reform legislation, will allow the company to add good-paying manufacturing jobs and help grow the economy.

The details of the Trump infrastructure plan are unclear, but at least $200 billion is proposed to be spent in the next decade. Congress must weigh in.

Manitowoc, founded in 1902 in Manitowoc, separated its food service business from the crane business in early 2016. The standalone crane manufacturer had the freedom to restructure its business to meet the demands of the domestic and international crane market.

Manitowoc in 2002 acquired the Shady Grove campus, known as Grove Worldwide. The local company had its roots in a farm wagon business started by John and Dwight Grove and Wayne Nicarry in 1947.

Leg Up Farm shares vision for Franklin County therapy center

Jennifer Fitch

May 11, 2017 Updated 1 hr ago

 

FAYETTEVILLE, Pa. — Twenty years ago, Louis Castriota dreamed he essentially would drop a comprehensive therapy center onto a York County, Pa., farm to help children with special needs and families such as his own.

He succeeded in developing Leg Up Farm, and now is planning a similar facility in Franklin County, Pa.

Leg Up Farm on Thursday morning unveiled plans for its new center in Guilford Township, Pa.

The developers of the Penn National community are donating 14 acres, where the center can offer equine-facilitated, occupational, speech, nutrition, aquatic and other therapies.

“We start design next week,” said Gregg Thompson of Brechbill & Helman Construction Co.

More than $145,000 worth of in-kind contributions of services already have been committed to the project by architects, engineers and construction contractors.

A capital campaign is being formed to support development of the center over the next year and a half.

“This campus will begin to address the needs of these challenged children and their families,” Thompson said.

More than two years ago, Thompson attended an economic-development breakfast in which Franklin County (Pa.) Area Development Corp. President L. Michael Ross and Leg Up Farm Executive Director Tom O’Connor talked about creating a new therapy center in the county.

Thompson shared the idea last year with Penn National developer Patrice “Patti” Nitterhouse.

Nitterhouse and her husband, Dennis Zimmerman, visited Leg Up Farm in Mount Wolf, Pa., on May 13, 2016. The couple said they saw smiles on the faces of everyone they encountered there.

“On the way home, Patti and I looked at each other and said: ‘We want in on this project,'” Zimmerman said Thursday.

“Leg Up is going to be an amazing asset to our community. It’ll be an amazing asset for our county,” Nitterhouse said.

The site will be off Mont Alto Road about a half-mile from Penn National Drive.

Castriota described for donors and the news organizations how he questioned what activities would be available to his daughter, Brooke, when she was diagnosed at a young age with a mitochondrial disorder and pervasive developmental disorder.

He and his wife sought to create a medical center on a farm that they envisioned as “the ultimate therapy center.”

Castriota highlighted the efforts of volunteers who tackle myriad tasks at the center, which also seeks to simultaneously serve parents and siblings of children with special needs.

“It’s always a toss-up about who gets more out of the programs — the volunteers or families,” he said.

The Mount Wolf center has a miniature “town,” a public market featuring freshly grown produce and foods for people with special dietary needs, a koi pond, a therapy dog and a “barrier-free” playground.

“Our vision would be to one day have all these things in Franklin County,” Castriota said

JLG shutters Ohio plant; jobs due in Pennsylvania

Jim Hook , jhook@publicopinionnews.comPublished 4:44 p.m. ET Feb. 1, 2017 Updated 19 hours ago

HAGERSTOWN, Md. – JLG Industries is closing its factory in Orrville, Ohio, and moving all North American telehandler manufacturing to its plants in Pennsylvania.

The company on Jan. 26 announced the closing along with changes to its European operations. The changes may affect up to 525 employees, 279 of them at Orrville.

“We are trying to determine what the impact will be,” said L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corporation. “We’re hoping to offer what assistance is needed for recruitment and training, which we think they will need.”

The work coming to Pennsylvania would be spread among JLG plants in McConnellsburg, Shippensburg and Greencastle, Ross said. He is unsure of the impact on the Bedford plant.

JLG will continue to offer the same telehandler products in North America. Telehandlers are designed to lift materials with telescopic booms, pallet forks or buckets.

Engineering services in Orrville will continue normal operations. Manufacturing in Orrville is to end by Sept. 30.

After evaluating its global manufacturing footprint and product offerings, JLG also decided to close its manufacturing and pre-delivery inspection facilities in Maasmechelen, Belgium and its engineering center in Bruntingthorpe, United Kingdom.

“These actions, although difficult, are the right ones for our business,” said Nerenhausen. “Simplifying our product portfolio and operations aligns with our long term vision and strategic direction, positioning JLG to deliver an enhanced customer experience and improved return on investment moving forward. These planned actions allow us to improve performance to maintain our position as an access equipment leader around the globe.”

Ross said, “It gives them an opportunity to reduce costs through operational efficiencies. That has a ripple effect through the supply chain.”

JLG, an Oshkosh company, is one of the area’s largest manufacturers. Smaller shops supply parts to JLG factories.

“This is one of the deals where we have a great empathy for the community of Orrville,” Ross said. “In this case we welcome these decisions and the positive impact it will have here.”

It’s the second time in six months that a major manufacturer of construction equipment announced closings elsewhere and consolidation to Franklin County. Manitowoc Cranes announced in August that it was moving its crawler crane production from Manitowoc, Wisconsin, to the local plant at Shady Grove.

“In both cases we’re fortunate to be the beneficiaries of the change,” Ross said.

The JLG plant on Walnut Bottom Road, Shippensburg, employs about 450 workers.

Jim Hook, 717-262-4759

Page 3 of 3412345...102030...Last »