Op-Ed: Growing Pains in Franklin County
By Stephen Christian, President, Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce
When I was in elementary school, there were a few years when I sprouted up past my classmates. At those times my legs, arms, and back were in so much pain that my mom took me to the doctor to find out what was wrong.
The doctor simply explained: “Your son is going through growing pains. His muscles and joints are having a hard time keeping up with how fast he’s growing.”
His message was reassuring.
“It’s going to be painful for a while, but the good news is, he’s going to grow up to be a strong, tall young man someday soon.”
Franklin County’s Growing Pains
Those words of wisdom strongly compare to what’s happening here in Franklin County right now.
Drive around Chambersburg and Franklin County and you will see the signs: dozens of “Hiring Now” signs.
Then there are the billboards too. Billboards on Interstate 81 are advertising starting salaries of over $18 per hour.
In the last two weeks alone, we‘ve seen articles highlighting major employers hiring thousands of new employees. Yes, that’s thousands.
The official unemployment rate in Franklin County is just under 3.5 percent. A quick glance at the popular job posting website Indeed.com shows over 6,000 job openings within a 25-mile radius of downtown Chambersburg.
While much attention is paid to the tons of jobs created in our burgeoning logistics and transportation industry, we have an equal number of demands for many other jobs:
Manufacturing, medical services, professional services, banking and finance, engineering, technical support and any other type of skilled or semi-skilled work that you can imagine.
This is a veritable job seeker’s paradise.
Economic Growth Pains Bring Challenges
This great economic climate presents our businesses and employers with their own set of growing pains. It’s become much harder to find people for all these jobs.
As they grow, local businesses are looking everywhere for employees to fill their needs. They are competing with higher pay, better benefits packages and more flexible hours. That’s great news for our workers, but it can also present challenges for businesses trying to budget for the upcoming years.
This strong economic growth also strains the infrastructure that supports our region. It brings with it special needs. Those range from a need for everything from more cars and trucks on our roads, to many more students in our school systems.
Housing construction is struggling to keep pace. We are seeing a need for homes and apartments to accommodate people moving in and moving up the economic ladder.
Planning for a Strong Future
Our growing pains can be temporary with solid leadership from community stakeholders, good public policy and planning. As well as continued investments in education and workforce training initiatives.
Public officials need to advance policy initiatives that bolster our infrastructure and ease the burdens of regulation.
Education leaders must create curriculum and programs that embrace the needs of the business community. Business leaders need to adapt and embrace this new workforce paradigm.
As Franklin County experiences our own growing pains, let’s keep our goals in mind and work hard together. In doing so, we can emerge on the other side a much stronger and better community.
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