The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


May 24, 2013

Economic news good for Somerset

DeVilbiss expanding, Route 219 ‘moving’

— Mix in hard work and unwavering persistence with a healthy splash of hope and prayer and you have the ingredients for good economic news on two fronts for Somerset County:

* DeVilbiss Healthcare announced last week that it’s expanding its Somerset manufacturing facility to accommodate bringing back production lines it shipped to China in 1997, leaving workers and a community shocked and anxious. Nearly two dozen jobs are expected to be added.

* The 11-mile Somerset-to-Meyersdale Route 219 project finally is expected to get underway soon, culminating many years of efforts by groups and individuals to get funding in place and bureaucracy hurdles cleared.

Both announcements are truly welcome to a Cambria-Somerset region that has had more than its share of bad economic news over the past two years as hundreds of jobs have disappeared.

Two major factors apparently played mightily into DeVilbiss’ plans to return its lines here: The miles between China and its Somerset facilities and a $1.8 million loan guarantee from the federal Department of Agriculture. 

“DeVilbiss is always trying to improve our production pro­cess,” company spokeswoman Stephanie Murray said. “Moving pro­duction back to Somerset will allow us to more quickly make improvements in the process.”

We expect it will. About 200 employees currently work in Somerset.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster initiated a telephone press conference on Monday to announce that the $300 million road project would be advertised for bids in the coming weeks, and that, if all goes well, construction could begin this summer.

Additional good news is that “it’s going to mean hundreds of construction jobs on site, as well as locally to supply (those workers) – whether its aggregate or pipe or other materials,” Shuster said.

“It’s all going to have a positive impact on the economy here ... This will be an area that will see growth over the next generation.”

And while state officials in Maryland continue pressing for completion of the remaining 4-mile stretch of Route 219 to Maryland and Interstate 68, officials are being more vocal in extending four-lane 219 to north of Carrolltown in Cambria County.

Who knows? Those who for two decades have been saying a four-lane Route 219 from our region to Maryland will not happen in their lifetimes might be proven wrong.

Especially when our area is blessed with dedicated, driven people like those who are bringing the Meyersdale project to fruition.

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