County unemployment rate at the lowest level in 10 years


Jim Hook, Updated 12:28 p.m. ET May 1, 2018

CHAMBERSBURG — Franklin County’s unemployment is at its lowest level since before the Great Recession.

The county’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for March was 3.8 percent, the lowest the rate since 3.7 percent in April 2008, according to data released Tuesday by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

“We are at full employment now,” said L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp. “The availability of labor is impacting companies’ opportunities for expansion. The economy has been vibrant over the past year.”

More: More people than ever had jobs in Franklin County in January

More: FCADC highlights economic growth, future development at annual breakfast

The county’s joblessness rate spiked during the Recession and peaked above 9 percent in early 2010. The rate has steadily declined since. In March 2017, the county’s unemployment rate was 4.6 percent.

The nation’s 18-month Recession began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009, according to the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research.

Five of the county’s seven “supersectors” — manufacturing, trade, professional services, health services and hospitality — added jobs during the past year. Two were the biggest movers: Trade – which includes warehousing, transportation, and utilities – and hospitality both added 600 jobs. The number of jobs in two supersectors — construction and government — were unchanged over the year.

“As we grow, the two things I think we are most in need of are infrastructure and workers,” Ross said. “If Congress is successful in passing an infrastructure bill this year or next, we’re going to need construction workers of every trade. Infrastructure is the genesis of development. Without infrastructure, the other doesn’t happen.”


The counties in the Cumberland Valley from Harrisburg to Winchester, Va., are at full employment, Ross said. Industries like the location and continue to look for sites in the region.

“The reality is: It’s a numbers issue,” he said. “That’s something we need to be aware of. It’s not solely about people being trained. We simply don’t have enough people available for the job openings.”

That means changing public policy to transition more people into the workplace, he said.

“I think you get into welfare reform,” Ross said. “I think looking at ways we can reform the immigration system is absolutely necessary. We are a microcosm of what is going on nationally.”

More: Jobs coming to small companies staying in Franklin County

More: Hardwood manufacturer to bring over 40 jobs to Franklin County

More: Tenants bring nearly 500 jobs to Wharf Road Industrial Park

Franklin County’s total non-farm jobs, seasonally adjusted, was a record high 61,300. Over the year, jobs increased by 1,800, or 3 percent. Jobs grew statewide by 1.4 percent.

Pa CareerLink on Tuesday listed 777 jobs available in Franklin County.

The March seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for Pennsylvania and the nation were both unchanged over the month at 4.8 and 4.1 percent, respectively. March was the tenth consecutive month that Pennsylvania’s rate was at 4.8 percent.

Franklin County was tied with Lebanon and Susquehanna counties for the 10th lowest unemployment rate among Pennsylvania’s 67 counties in March. Unemployment rates and rankings of neighboring counties were: Fulton (4.3 percent, tied 24th); Huntingdon (5.5 percent, t-59th); Juniata (4.2 percent, t-21st); Perry (3.6 percent, t-seventh ); Cumberland (3.5 percent, t-fifth); and Adams (3.3 percent, t-first). Unemployment rates across Pennsylvania ranged from 3.3 percent in Adams, Centre, Chester, and Lancaster counties to 6.5 percent in Forest County

Herbruck’s celebrates Franklin County warehouse in anticipation of new egg-producing facility


By Jennifer Fitch


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch has not yet started construction of its nearly $100 million egg-producing facility in Montgomery Township, Pa., but it is already storing and shipping eggs from a former warehouse in Greene Township, Pa.

For now, the cold-storage plant on Sunset Pike near Chambersburg serves as a waypoint for eggs that the fourth-generation family business produces in Michigan. The eggs coming into Chambersburg are shipped across the East Coast.

Eleven people are employed in Chambersburg.

“Our next step, of course, is to build a farm. We own the property, and we’re committed to the Mercersburg project,” said Greg Herbruck, company president.

Herbruck said he’s not sure when construction will start for eight poultry barns on Corner Road south of Mercersburg.

The company plans hire 190 people to work at that site, where 2 million hens will produce organic and cage-free eggs.

The eggs, like their Michigan counterparts now, will be stored between 34 and 40 degrees in the 15,000-square-foot Chambersburg warehouse previously occupied by VETTER Forks, which moved.

Jim Byrum of the Michigan Agri-Business Association traveled with the Herbruck brothers Wednesday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the $2 million cold-storage plant.

Byrum praised the family for its excellence, creativity and innovation, particularly in terms of the methods they developed to manage manure and reduce the odor associated with it.

Byrum said the company essentially has millions of employees because it treats its chickens like employees.

“When you talk about a family farm, here it is,” he said.

Tenants bring nearly 500 jobs to Wharf Road Industrial Park


Jim Hook,

Published 5:27 p.m. ET April 9, 2018

WAYNESBORO – A manufacturer in Hagerstown, Md., intends to move some of its operations to the Wharf Road Industrial Park in Washington Township.

Jamison Door Co. plans to move its roll-up door operation to the park. Initially the plant is to employ 18 and 25 when fully operational.

“We’re approaching 450 to 500 people working in that industrial complex,” said L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp. “It’s allowed us to meet the demand for small and mid-sized companies in the area. It’s a development that has worked.”

With the arrival of Jamison, just a few acres remain to be developed in the 122-acre industrial park located off Pa. 16 near the village of Zullinger.

The Franklin County Area Development Corp. is to deliver in nine to 12 months a 50,000-square-foot building for Jamison, according to Ross

“Time is of the essence,” Ross said. “It’s an aggressive time table when you’re starting from scratch.”

FCADC expects to close on the 6-acre lot within 45 days and is designing the building and seeking approval of a land development plan, according to Ross.

“We have great respect for Jamison CEO John T. Williams and the Jamison team, and we welcome the opportunity to keep them in the area,” Ross said. “Logistically the Wharf Road location works well for them.”

Jamison, founded in 1906, makes a variety of doors for industrial freezers and refrigerators. The company employs about 120 people in Washington County, Md. Its high speed roll-up, fabric door was developed through a partnership with Italian manufacturer BMP.

“It’s given businesses in the region a place to grow,” Ross said. “Now our next challenge is: Where do we go with Jamison-like projects.”

One of the largest potential employers in the Wharf Road Industrial Park has yet to get going.

Hadley Farms Bakery announced in August a $10 million project and bought a lot in the industrial park. The industrial bakery will employ more than 120 people. The company is not announcing a start up date, but remains committed to moving its operations from Smithsburg, Md., Ross said.

Another of the final building lots in the park is under a purchase agreement, Ross said.

Ross said the park was created to host companies that would supply original equipment manufacturers in the county such as Manitowoc and JLG Industries. Pro Tube Inc., a maker of hydraulic and mechanical tubes, is the lone supplier to move to the park.

Many of the companies building in the park a have relocated from Maryland.

Jim Hook, 717-262-4759

Jamison Door to move part of its operation to Franklin County, Pa.



By Mike Lewis

Jamison Door confirmed Monday afternoon that the company plans to move one of its three Washington County facilities to Franklin County, Pa.

The decision to relocate the company’s roll-up door operation, which employs eight to 10 people, came after several failed attempts to find a suitable site in Washington County where it could expand that part of Jamison’s business.

The move also comes after the county commissioners did not act on Jamison’s offer to pay $3 million for a county-owned building on Tandy Drive near the detention center.

“Our level of frustration (with the commissioners) is pretty high,” said John T. Williams, Jamison’s chairman and chief executive officer.

Terry L. Baker, president of the five-member Board of Washington County Commissioners, said the company’s proposal was not placed on an agenda for public action because “we didn’t have three votes.”

“It’s heartbreaking,” Baker said. “They’re manufacturing jobs. In every community across the country, they’re begging for manufacturing jobs.”

Phone calls to the other four county commissioners were not returned by deadline Monday evening.

  1. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp., confirmed that the company and his organization have reached a deal. Under the agreement, Jamison will acquire a $3.5 million, 50,000-square-foot building FCADC will build in the Wharf Road Industrial Park near Waynesboro.

“We were the backup on this one for them, I think. … We’re pleased to be in a position to be able to help them and keep them in our part of the world,” Ross said.

Baker confirmed that the company offered $3 million to buy the former Phoenix Color building near the county detention center. He said he supported that idea and the company “bent over backward” to work with the county.

Williams said the company would have preferred a Washington County site.

“We’ve looked at 15 or 20 sites (in Washington County) and have not been successful at finding anything that met our needs,” Williams said. The Franklin County option “is much less expensive than any proposal we have for a similar facility in Washington County.”

Jamison was founded in Hagerstown in 1906 and employs more than 100 people. The company makes cold-storage and specialty doors and has three operations in Washington County.

The main facility and headquarters is at 55 JV Jamison Drive in Hagerstown, near Prospect Avenue, off Forest Drive. A second operation near Williamsport employs eight to 10 people making fiberglass doors.

The third facility — the one the company is looking to move and expand — makes high-speed roll-up doors in a building off Sharpsburg Pike, near the Conservit metals recycling business.

“We’re completely out of space where we are out by Conservit,” Williams said, and the company “desperately needs to add” roll-up door production capacity. He anticipates employment in that operation could double to 16 to 20 people within in the next few years.

He said Rob Slocum, the Washington County administrator, and Kassie Lewis, the county’s director of business development, “have been very, very good” to work with during the search.

When the search efforts came up empty, Williams said, the county brought up the idea of the company leasing some space in the former Phoenix Color structure. That building houses the day reporting center offices, a maintenance area for Washington County Sheriff’s Office vehicles and a warehouse for the county election board. But about 46,000 square feet “is used for nothing,” he said.

Williams said the company prefers to own a building for the manufacturing operation, but it liked the Tandy Drive facility. It offered $3 million to buy the building, as well as terms that would provide rent-free space to the county for a period of time.

“We liked the idea of being in the building with the sheriff,” he added.

Baker said the issue has been the subject of discussions during the past couple of months. During a closed meeting, the commissioners reviewed the company’s offer and the concerns of Sheriff Doug Mullendore. Attending were four commissioners: Baker, John F. Barr, Jeffrey A. Cline and Wayne K. Keefer. Baker said the fifth commissioner, LeRoy E. Myers Jr., owns other property Jamison rents and did not attend.

“Our mission was to make the sheriff whole,” Baker said. “He has some operations in that building.”

On Monday night, Mullendore said, “I certainly urged them not to sell the building, because I think it’s the wrong thing to do.”

He said the county paid some $5 million for the structure and property, and that it is used for critical operations. He said the county bought it with the idea of expanding the detention center when that becomes necessary.

Baker said the county found options for most of the sheriff’s concerns. But he said the five-member board of commissioners lacked the votes necessary to take action.

Slocum said county officials have “worked very diligently” with Jamison on the site search.

“We’ve just been trying to bring options to the table. … It’s just unfortunate we haven’t been able to find them a suitable location,” he said.

Wages rise in Franklin County; tight labor market squeezes employers


Jim Hook, jhook@publicopinionnews.comPublished 12:32 p.m. ET March 8, 2018 | Updated 3:50 p.m. ET March 8, 2018

CHAMBERSBURG — Wages have been going up in Franklin County thanks to a tight labor market.

The average manufacturing wage is up 8 percent from a year ago, and the average overall wage is up 4 percent. Both are greater than the increases seen nationally and in Pennsylvania.

Low unemployment, continued growth and more job postings than unemployed workers comprise Franklin County’s economic outlook, according to Jesse McCree, CEO of SCPa Works Inc.

He said: “This is the question that keeps me up at night: Will we have the skilled workforce to keep up with future growth, changing industry needs and shifting demographics?”

McCree was the keynote speaker Thursday at the Franklin County State of the Economy Breakfast hosted by the Franklin County Area Development Corp. About 175 attended the event held at the Chambersburg Country Club.

The county has 2,600 people unemployed and 3,400 job postings, McCree said.

Most county employers plan to hire in 2018, and a handful plan to bring on more than 50 employees.

“We have everybody recruiting the same folks,” said L. Michael Ross, FCADC president. “It’s not just a training issue. It’s a numbers issue.”

Manitowoc Grove is looking for 450 workers, JLG Industries a similar number, Ross said. Volvo Construction Equipment too will be hiring. They are competing in the same labor pool as Procter & Gamble Co. The company needs 900 workers to make toiletries in its new Martinsburg, W.Va., plant.

The county’s unemployment rate is around 4 percent, and near 3 percent in nearby counties on the Interstate 81 corridor.

The county’s major manufacturers are counting on a long-term federal infrastructure bill. Manitowoc, JLG and Volvo make the machines that build the infrastructure.

Companies also have been returning to the U.S. following a federal tax reform bill.

“We don’t have the infrastructure (to support growth,) and we don’t have the people to support it,” Ross said. “That’s why immigration is not a black-and-white issue. There are a lot more nuances to the issue.”

Pennsylvania has more than enough workers with low skills and workers with high skills, but the state has a shortfall of middle-skill workers compared to the jobs available, McCree said. Within two years 65 percent of all jobs will require some post-high school training or education.

Bridging skill gaps will be a key to developing the workforce, according to McCree.

Factory workers increasingly are required to program, repair or work beside “a collaborative robot,” McCree said. In five to 10 years technology too may dramatically change the transportation system with self-driving cars.

The manufacturing sector anchors a diverse local economy, he said. Health services/social assistance is right behind and growing.

Over the next 10 years 80,000 jobs in county health services must be filled, McCree said. Baby boomers are retiring, and the sector is growing.

SCPa Works, the regional workforce development board for southcentral Pennsylvania, operates six PA CareerLinks.

FCADC recently surveyed 61 local businesses:

  • 84 percent planned to hire up to five people in 2018.
  • Seven companies planned to hire more than 50.
  • Nearly half plan to spend more than $100,000 on equipment or building improvements. Twenty percent will spend more than $1 million.
  • The three top challenges were related to hiring skilled workers.

One respondent said that if the workforce issue is not resolved, businesses will start leaving the area.

“I don’t know where they’ll go,” Ross said. “This is a national issue.”

Jim Hook,  717-262-4759

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