As longtime director steps down, Lancaster eyes new path for economic development
Lancaster city's economic development department will undergo a face lift as its longtime director retires this June.
When Randy Patterson was hired as director of the department in 2006 by then-Mayor Richard Gray, his focus was to strengthen the city's economy by carrying out large-scale projects, such as construction of the downtown convention center.
As Patterson prepares to retire, the city plans to refocus the department. It is changing its name from the Department of Economic Development and Neighborhood Revitalization to the Department of Planning and Community Development and will focus on developing the city's first comprehensive plan in 25 years.
Matt Johnson, Mayor Danene Sorace's chief of staff, said that when Patterson moved into this position, work was needed in the downtown to attract visitors into the city.
"A lot of economic growth starts from the downtown out," Johnson said. "You want that tax base and somewhere people want to go. People weren't coming into the city from outside of it."
Now, finding how to help people outside of the downtown is crucial, according to Johnson.
"We are seeing thriving businesses but we also have a 30 percent poverty rate," Johnson said. "Part of the planning effort is how do we build on the economic strength we have so that everybody is receiving that value?"
Patterson will have been director for the department for 13 years when he retires next year. As director, Patterson oversaw a growing number of projects in Lancaster which included: designating 130 acres of downtown Lancaster as a City Revitalization and Improvement Zone, finishing the city's convention center and financing Clipper Magazine Stadium.
Economic development in Lancaster city has grown over the years as businesses opened and tourism increased. Johnson said that could partly be attributed to Patterson, who was responsible for the city's development and investments.
Patterson said that the work his department has done over the past 13 years was a team effort. Looking back he said that he felt ties to the department's neighborhood-oriented work, such as the city's efforts to address issues with led paint, an increased focus on property maintenance and dealing with vacant properties.
"When I really look at the city and its residents, the issues that impacted neighborhoods are the most personal to me," Patterson said.
Both Johnson and Patterson agreed that the city's next step will be to make sure the entire city is feeling the economic growth that has been most prominent in downtown Lancaster.
"Now that we've built that economic development, we want to make sure that people from all over the city are benefiting from that," Johnson said.