Lancaster City Alliance has been asking people what the city needs, and one of the answers has been “more help for businesses.”
That is, some respondents think more support would be helpful for startups and established businesses alike, in the form of financial assistance, education and mentoring.
However, quite a few local organizations already are providing such services and have been for some time.
“The last thing we want to do is reinvent the wheel or duplicate services,” says Marshall Snively, LCA’s executive vice president and COO. The study isn’t finished yet, but he thinks connecting people to existing services will be a significant part of the resulting strategic plan for economic development in the city.
As Lancaster’s economy has picked up steam, Snively says, proximity and common interests have brought some people together outside the community’s traditional business channels.
“There’s almost this underground entrepreneurial movement,” he says.
For example, The Candy Factory is now well known as a co-working space, but people there aren’t just working side by side. Many of them, Snively says, are working together.
“I don’t know if that was intentional from the beginning, but it seems that a lot of partnership and collaborations came out of The Candy Factory, which in essence almost an incubator,” he says. And indeed, one of the members who joined The Candy Factory this year is Kate Gallagher with coLAB, a startup offering support and guidance to local community benefit organizations.
Another example is Lancaster Transplant, a group of people new to the area who want to form a community and get to know the locals. Snively says it has been meeting for about a year, and a lot of its members are involved in small businesses and the arts.
Lancaster Transplant founder Jocelyn Park says the city is “a vibrant, supportive community.” She’s aware that efforts are already underway to help small businesspeople, but “it’s just not enough people know they exist or they are only serving a specific demographic.” But, she says, she hasn’t looked into many of the resources because she’s not sure where to start.
“It would be fantastic if there was a centralized resource for all of us grasping at straws,” Park says. “Whether this be a community center or a place with free business advice and classes, a mentoring program, I’m not sure.”