What was once a dream—the Adams Commerce Center—is now a thriving reality. And just as parents raise a child, there were countless people for many years who nurtured the idea of a commerce center and participated in the development of the full-blown, successful economic hub that it is today. employing more than 1,000 people, that today is the Adams Commerce Center.
The Adams Commerce Park evolved from a string of meetings, task forces, committees and studies. The first such meeting was in 1986 when Med-Ed sponsored a community-wide session to talk about the state of economic development in Adams County. The Adams County Board of Commissioners, The Chamber of Gettysburg and Adams County, neighboring York and Franklin County Industrial Development Corporations, and many community leaders, were all instrumental in this process.
The Board of Commissioners then commissioned a study—which became the basis for the Comprehensive Plan—and what resulted was the beginning of formalized economic development in Adams County. The study’s focus was truly about survival—what Adams County needed to do to stay relevant, viable, and prepared for her future.
In 1988, the Batelle Memorial Institute of Columbus, Ohio was hired to engage the community in a strategy for planned growth. Great things came out of this milestone assessment including the recommendation to establish the Land Conservancy of Adams County, as well as the organization today known as ACEDC. One of the most valuable recommendations was to create a commercial/industrial business park in an effort to diversify the industry base. Adams Commerce Center. In preparation, the county purchased numerous parcels of land at the critical intersection of routes 30 and 15.
I give all the credit to my predecessors for identifying the need and doing something about it, which is not always popular in an area that reveres its history and rural nature. Many thanks to Directors Frank Sapp, Robert Hendricks, Tom Collins, Cathy (Cresswell) Washburn, Paul Reimel and Steve Renner.
Within the business park, Harley Davidson was the first to build. We were pleased because it meant we had to run the utilities to the farthest section of the commerce center.
But the next milestone took the efforts of the entire board, commissioners, township supervisors, Pennsylvania CareerLink and staff, Adams County legislators including Senator Terry Punt, and many others. The hard work paid off and Pella became the commerce center’s second tenant. This was a major coup, as Adams County became Pella’s first location outside of Iowa.
The rest of the park took shape over the years. Adams County Motors found a new home at the commerce center when the National Park Service reclaimed its property. Then came Colonial Chrysler, WellSpan Health, ACNB Bank, Mark Cropp/ProLine Investors, Dr. Satish Shah and the Gettysburg Cancer Center. ACEDC shares its building with Pennsylvania CareerLink and the Financial Consulate.
Some criticism of the park is that we didn’t accomplish what the plan intended, i.e. attracting technology. At the time, in the 1980s, technology was “the thing.” As The Today Show’s Carson Daly would say, it was “trending.” But tech companies need infrastructure that we simply didn’t understand at the time.
Another criticism is that we relocated business from one spot in our county to another. However, in Adams County Motor’s case, they would have closed, meaning a loss of jobs, without the commerce center. WellSpan’s offices were an expansion, not a relocation; ACNB Bank’s operations center allowed for a sizeable expansion plus completely upgraded technology.
Today, we see an incredible, diverse mix of business, thanks to the efforts of many. Growth does not come without challenges. If you do not already drive through the Adams Commerce Center on your regular Adams County travels, I encourage you to do so, the next time you’re nearby. Take a look for yourself!
There is still a final chapter to be written at the center–there are several available lots remaining, located within the 305-acre campus, nestled into the crossroads of Routes 30 and 15. (For details, see our website at adamsalliance.org/site-selection/adams-commerce-center.) I have no doubt the remaining lots will be secured soon to bring the Adams Commerce Center full circle, to capacity and maturity.