Columbia has often had a negative image, but there are positive things happening there. How would you describe the borough's revitalization efforts?
For years Columbia did not do a good job of marketing itself and did not join with other municipalities and Lancaster County organizations to create collaborative efforts. We now are part of the Lancaster County Inter-Municipal Committee, work closely with county agencies like the Lancaster County Planning Commission, Lancaster County Economic Development Company and the Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Therefore, the only thing people outside Columbia heard or saw were problems reported in police logs or news stories of negative activity in Columbia.
Today, Columbia is embarking on a very aggressive marketing strategy, downtown revitalization and neighborhood-improvement campaign. Columbia is open for business and homeownership.
What is the key to continuing this renaissance and what, if any, projects are on the horizon?
Today we have a shared vision in Columbia among elected officials and residents. We want to maintain a balance that serves both residents and outsiders who want to locate business or residence in the borough. We want to build on what we have to offer.
Columbia Borough is embarking on a planning effort for construction of Phase 3 of our River Park — that is, the 10 acres of land between the bridges; we have identified downtown sites that we see development and we are willing to assist with those development efforts. We are seeking the best use for our historic market house, increasing parking availability, and joining forces with the school district to reduce costs and duplication of operations.
What would you say is the biggest challenge facing Columbia?
The biggest challenge facing Columbia is to make the right investments at the right time by increasing opportunities for homeownership and business growth, thereby creating more employment opportunities for residents. There are so many opportunities before us that we must look closely at which ones to concentrate our finances and efforts on.
What is Columbia's greatest asset?
I cannot name just one, but several like the Susquehanna River, our people and our large inventory of historic downtown buildings.
What encourages you the most about the future of Lancaster County? What concerns you the most?
For the future, I am most encouraged by the strength of our small towns and the desire to keep Lancaster County as we know it, a diverse community with the city and towns scattered throughout our rich farmland and open spaces.
What concerns me most is the ability to keep this balance while planning for the growth that will come. We must keep growth confined within our urban growth boundaries, improve our infrastructure and plan for transportation increases that surely will follow the growth.