Major employers forecast
great prospects for 2008
By Marvin Jones
President and CEO
Two top executives of Ross County’s largest employers predicted they will have record numbers of employees by the end of 2008. A third reported that his operation plans to add to the record of seven straight profitable months that started last summer.
The three gave a look back at 2007 and a look ahead through 2008 at the chamber’s second annual Economic Forecast Luncheon at the Chillicothe Country Club on Jan. 9. Scott Blue of the Kenworth Truck Company, Mark Shuter of Adena Health System and John Blind of Glatfelter provided the more than 70 people attending the luncheon a glimpse into their crystal balls.
Blue predicted “that by the end of 2008, Kenworth will have record employment.” The Chillicothe operation “really has a bright future,” he said. He noted employment hit a high of around 1,800 about a year ago this time and now is down to 1,250 after a couple rounds of layoffs.
He also noted that the Kenworth plant has about 300 employees age 60 or more who will be retiring in the next five years with good pensions and benefits to further fuel the local economy, not to mention the 300 new employees who will take their places.
Shuter said the continued expansion in the local health system will mean 110 additional full-time equivalent employees in 2008, including 18 more physicians. That’s on top of the 120 additional employees hired last year, including a net 12 new physicians. Adena now has more than 1,700 employees.
That expansion includes $70 million in new projects such as $45 million on the northeast corner of the main facility, $10.5 million at the Western Avenue Primary Care facility, $6 million for information technology and $1 million in the Financial Services building. This is on top of the $15 million Paccar Medical Education Center that’s expected to open later this year.
Shuter said plans for 2008 also include taking on more complex and minimally invasive surgical services, such as in neurosurgery as well as beefing up the Adena OneCall program that should mean more referrals to Adena from other providers in the region. He said Adena is “working hard to engage physicians in thinking ahead.”
Glatfelter’s Blind said last year’s initiative to solicit ideas for improvement from employees resulted in 4,000 submissions and the adoption of about 600 which helped the paper-making company exceed the financial expectations of the analysts on Wall Street in the fourth quarter.
“2008 is all about continued improvement,” he said. “Overcoming energy costs will be one of our biggest challenges this year. But we are very excited about 2008.”
Chris Manegold, CEO of the Economic Development Alliance of Southern Ohio, said trips to the main headquarters of local companies are on tap to thank the top officials for their continued commitment to Ross County and to let them know we’re here to help them succeed. He reminded the audience of an economic development axiom: If you don’t take care of what you’ve got, then you don’t deserve to have anything more.
In other remarks, yours truly noted that construction continues at USEC’s American Centrifuge Plant in Piketon as well as cleanup efforts that will keep employment levels stable there.
At the VA Medical Center, Director Jeff Gering provided information noting that employment is now more than 1,000 and his crew also is out recruiting physicians, nurses, social workers and pharmacists in addition to administrative staff.
On the capital spending side, Gering said the VA plans a $16 million renovation of a former patient building into a nursing home. On the equipment side, he said $1.7 million will go for a permanent MRI machine and $5 million will go toward a new chest x-ray machine. Another $11.9 million is going for 29 non-recurring maintenance projects.