Article featured on Lancaster Online.
Newsweek includes Lancaster in its 50 Best Places to Live. Forbes puts Lancaster in its Top 10 Coolest Places. Kiplinger’s recognizes Lancaster in its Top 9 Best Places to Retire and New York Times columnist Tom Friedman writes a lengthy piece hailing Lancaster as a model for civic coalitions driving successful revitalization.
In some cases, the focus is on Lancaster city and in others, the geographic reference is Lancaster County. Either way, in just the past few months, national publications have picked up on Lancaster’s successes and have put this community in with good company across the country.
Some of this recognition is data-driven, with different quality of life and economic factors reviewed and weighted to help generate the lists.
Additionally, at least in the case of Friedman and with Kiplinger’s, site visits and discussions with locals also helped to shape their positive views.
As a community, we should be thoughtful about what this recent spike in national recognition means.
We’re doing something right
First, it absolutely means that Lancaster is doing some things right. The recognition by these publications isn’t the result of this community pitching itself just to get on the list.
Instead, it is an organic outcome of decades of work that is shaped by strong community values and a sense of identity. And while it isn’t necessarily in Lancaster’s DNA to celebrate its successes, it is worth pausing to acknowledge that outsiders are holding Lancaster up as an enviable model.
The work is not done
Second, just because Lancaster landed on several prominent national lists doesn’t mean this community is perfect or that efforts to strengthen its economic health and quality of life are done.
In fact, for many community leaders, these articles and lists offer insights into new peer sets and provide a lens into the types of data others are reviewing to assess community health. Across business, government and the nonprofit sectors, this moment in time recognition generates healthy discussion on what is being done well, current areas of focus as well as future threats to the community’s well-being.
It’s not the whole story
And third, locally, we are our own harshest critics, which is an element of what gives this community the drive to tackle tough and broad economic and social challenges such as workforce development, transportation and infrastructure, housing affordability, poverty and diversity.
There is always a small set of vocal voices who struggle to find something positive to say on any topic. Yet, not all in this community have experiences that align with what is captured in a few paragraphs in a national publication. Those are important voices to hear.
The recognition Lancaster has received over the past few months is something most communities only hope to achieve.
Let’s celebrate that accomplishment and use that momentum to take Lancaster to the next level.
• Lisa Riggs is president of the Economic Development Co. of Lancaster County.