Lancaster County’s economy is larger than that of more than 100 countries across the globe, Lancaster Chamber president and CEO Tom Baldrige said Thursday as he opened its State of the County event.
“Including Iceland,” he added, to clapping from a full house the chamber estimated at 350 attendees.
The latest U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis figures show Lancaster County had a gross domestic product of $25.17 billion in 2017. The World Bank’s figures put Iceland’s GDP at $23.9 billion that year.
Six featured speakers spent just over an hour giving rapid-fire perspectives on aspects of the county’s economy. Here are some takeaways.
Lancaster County Commissioner Josh Parsons praised the collaboration he sees in the public and private sectors here.
Among the examples he listed: “becoming leaders in reducing the numbers of opioid overdose deaths.”
The latest figures on total overdose deaths here show 105 in all of 2018, down from 168 in 2017 and 117 in 2016, according to Lancaster County Coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni.
Parsons also said the county is growing by about 3,300 people a year, which poses challenges that land efficiency and the recently approved Places 2040 plan will be key in meeting.
No news yet on Park City
Rachel Gallagher is senior general manager of Park City Center, which is working to fill two anchor positions — one for The Bon-Ton, which closed in August, and one for Sear’s, which will close on March 10.
“While I would love to announce new stores opening in our anchor spaces, we aren’t quite there yet,” she said. “We do have interest and activity in both.”
Tim Smith is manager of CNH Industrial’s local plant, which makes farming equipment.
He said the cost of steel used widely in its products was up about a third last year compared to 2017, with roughly three-quarters of the increase coming directly from governmental activity on tariffs.
Smith said that equaled “about $1 million of bad news” for the local plant, but said it was more than offset by just under $6 million in efficiency gains as the company focused on increasing its skill set.
Amid all that, he said, the plant’s production volume has been halved since 2015, as the farmers who are its customers have been struggling, but it hasn’t had to lay anyone off.
“Is there anybody here not looking for help?” said Scott Fiore, vice president and partner at Tristarr Staffing. “I doubt it. That should be a concern to you.”
He said when using job-quality categories, the Center for Regional Analysis found the biggest portion of the local workforce — 33 percent — in the lowest tier, with an average hourly wage of $14.40 and high turnover.
Experts predict wage growth of about 3 percent this year across the U.S., he said, but he expects that employers here who don’t raise wages by 5 to 6 percent for jobs in that category will start losing workers to competitors.