A $15 million grant to Columbia County will help protect two major businesses, and nearly 1,000 jobs, from flooding, a federal official said Wednesday.
“This means saving 900 critical manufacturing jobs and guaranteeing businesses stay and grow and create new jobs to invest in future support of American manufacturing,” said Matt Erskine, U.S. deputy assistant secretary for economic development in the Economic Development Administration.
Speaking in Autoneum of North America at 480 W. Fifth St., he said the flood control system will protect that company along with nearby Windsor Foods.
The grant, to Columbia County, will help build flood control systems, which will include flood walls, possibly moving utilities, moving a waterway, if necessary, and installing pumps.
Erskine said the grant was the largest amount awarded in the Economic Development Administration’s Philadelphia region. The money, from fiscal year 2012, was appropriated for disaster recovery projects.
He lauded U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta as a “long a champion of this great project.”
‘A long road’
“It’s been a long road to higher ground,” Barletta said.
“This makes it extra special for the jobs and to save jobs that will come in the future,” Barletta said. “We were able to make sure Washington knew how special this business and Windsor Foods are to the community and to the country.”
Autoneum makes carpets for vehicles and employs more than 700.
Saying “it really was a team effort,” Barletta commended Gov. Tom Corbett, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, Bloomsburg Mayor Dan Knorr and the Columbia County commissioners.
Representatives of the offices of Toomey and of U.S. Sen. Bob Casey also spoke.
“I cannot thank you enough. We were facing a community shrinking or keeping a job base and the ability to grow,” Knorr said.
Saying flood protection has been decades in the making, Knorr thanked Autoneum and Windsor employees for helping their companies to quickly recover from the September 2011 flood.
Barletta also thanked state Sen. John Gordner and state Rep. David Millard for their help with the project.
Autoneum has a connection to Montour County. It leases 60,000 square feet at the Iron Town Commerce Center in Danville, said Tim Hockney, vice president of manufacturing. The company recently began storing products there.