Gallery Row

NPR’s The Indicator from Planet Money podcast highlighted the renewed interest in downtown Lancaster as an example of the strength of the local economy. 

The producers of NPR’s “The Indicator from Planet Money” podcast series recently spent some time in Lancaster County.

They came to try to understand what makes the county’s economy special.

The program’s website describes Lancaster as a “heavily rural county with a lot of manufacturing jobs and a low share of college-educated workers ... economic traits that have devastated the economies of other, similar counties ... .”

“And, yet, Lancaster County is doing great.”

Hosts Cardiff Garcia and Stacey Vanek Smith were joined by Lancaster County resident and Upwork economist Adam Ozimek.

In a segment that aired Friday, Garcia and Smith pinpointed the county’s population growth as a key to its economic success, saying a high birth rate and an influx of immigrants are powering economic growth.

Lancaster County ranked happiest, healthiest place in Pennsylvania and No. 8 in US

“The size of Lancaster County’s population has been growing steadily for decades, which is the exact opposite of what’s happening in most Pennsylvania counties and also about half of the counties in the U.S. whose populations have been falling, especially rural counties,” Smith said.

Ozimek said a declining population is a red flag for any entrepreneur since it fundamentally signals there could be fewer potential customers.

As an investor in Decades, a restaurant that opened in Lancaster in March with a bowling alley and an arcade, Ozimek himself is among those who see opportunity in the area.

Garcia pointed out how the county’s households make more money than people in the rest of the U.S. He also said a higher shared of county adults have jobs than the rest of the country.

Garica added that an index published earlier this year by Gallup found that Lancaster ranks eighth out of 156 U.S. counties it surveyed for well-being of its residents, “and that includes things like good career paths, social lives and the health of those residents,” he said.

The second part of the program’s look at Lancaster County’s economy airs next week and will focus on the way immigrants to the county contribute to its economy.