Lancaster County's appeal as a place to live is on the upswing, as are some of its educational and business trends, but real income is down, as are air quality and some health trends.
Those are some of the results from the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Industry's first full "Prosperity Indicators Report," released today at the chamber's "State of the County" event at the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Lancaster at Willow Valley.
The indicators are intended as benchmarks to measure the county's standing in six key areas, chamber President Tom Baldrige told the audience:
• People's well-being
• The economy
• Health and safety
• Community and culture
• Physical environment
He briskly highlighted statistics in each area, then joined six other community leaders for a panel discussion of the issues raised in the report.
Among Lancaster's strengths are its quality of life and its diverse mix of industries, Baldrige said. School reading and math scores are trending upward, though greater improvement is needed, he said. Challenges include early-childhood education — ensuring children enter school ready to learn — and stabilizing the purchasing power of Lancaster households relative to inflation.
During the panel discussion, moderated by Nell Abom of WITF-TV, county Commissioner Scott Martin said he sees the comparatively low cost of local government as a key strength. Don McNutt, administrator of the Lancaster County Conservation District, touted local farmers' pollution reduction efforts, which he said have cut their runoff into the Chesapeake Bay by 50 percent since the mid-1980s.
Cynthia Burkhart, executive director of Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13, implored the audience to support public funding for early-childhood education. State budget cuts are undermining school districts' ability to help at-risk children, she said.