Forbes deemed it one of the “coolest” places to visit in the U.S. And according to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, it is a model for societal innovation in America.
What has Lancaster been doing to gain so much attention?
For Lancaster City Alliance President Marshall Snively, it’s all about collaboration.
Snively believes Lancaster is setting a precedent on getting things done between the private and public sectors, nonprofits and corporations, and that is why the city is in a national spotlight.
“We continue to see enormous growth in the city and more investment,” Snively said. This includes projects like the expansion of the Marriott at Penn Square, as well as other growth in retail, restaurants and entertainment venues.
For many, growth comes in the form of revenue. But for Jonathan Coleman, co-executive director of nonprofit economic development group Assets, it is about growing businesses and the community together in an ethical way.
Assets, based in Lancaster, works with companies that are trying to adopt more ethical business practices and eventually become benefit corporations, or B Corps.
Assets guides businesses through the B Corp Impact Assessment, which measures a company’s strengths and weaknesses from an ethical standpoint. The assessment, for example, could show that a business needs to improve how it treats employees, which may prompt the business to increase wages. Though the increase may mean a hit to a company’s bottom line, it could raise the standard of living and help the community overall.
Lancaster is currently home to 15 B Corps, or 25 percent of all B Corps in Pennsylvania, according to Coleman. In addition to B Corps, there are about 125 businesses in that are taking part in Assets’ “Measure What Matters” program, which helps businesses see where they can improve.
With ethical business practices in focus, Coleman expects the number of B Corps and Measure What Matters participants to grow substantially in the coming year.
Warfel Construction, fifth on the list for top private companies in Lancaster County, boasted a 73 percent increase in revenue this year and attributes the growth to its company culture.
“Our employees, at every level within the field and office, push each other to achieve more and perform to higher standards through constant collaboration and teamwork,” said Matt Hartzler, president of Warfel.
Coleman said Lancaster is blessed with a diverse business community and an economy with a potential for both maximizing profits and positive social impact.
Hartzler and Snively said that in order for Lancaster to continue to grow, workforce development has to be a priority. The county has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, 3.6 percent as of June, but there are around 7,000 job openings downtown and a 5.3 percent unemployment rate in the city, as of March.
Lancaster City Alliance will be working to make sure there are resources in the city to train, develop and maintain a workforce in Lancaster, as well as establishing more affordable housing for residents and easing poverty.