We might be underestimating Lancaster, Pennsylvania’s ‘digital capital’

     In a word cloud, the larger a particular word is, the more it was mentioned. (Word cloud by Penn Project for Civic Engagement)

    In a word cloud, the larger a particular word is, the more it was mentioned. (Word cloud by Penn Project for Civic Engagement)

    Here at Keystone Crossroads, we’ve been hearing a lot about Lancaster.

    In case you hadn’t read, Lancaster is sexy. It’s also, unrelatedly, ranked third in Pennsylvania when it comes to the value of freight imports and exports. The top two cities are Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

    And Lancaster was recently named a Google “eCity,” a designation based on “the online strength of local small businesses in U.S. cities.” Google hired an independent research firm to grade cities in all 50 states. The firm looked at whether local businesses were listed in online directories, had their own websites, had a social media presence, and other qualifiers. It also scored local business websites on user experience.

    Google gave the title to one city in each state. That means Lancaster beat out Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and other Commonwealth cities.

    Lancaster is killin’ it.

    Not sure if the rest of the state has gotten the message.

    Keystone Crossroads has been hosting forums throughout Pennsylvania. At the forums, we ask residents what they think of other cities. Here are some words that came up when we asked Philadelphians about Lancaster.

    lancaster word cloud1200

    Caption: In a word cloud, the larger a particular word is, the more it was mentioned. (Word cloud by Penn Project for Civic Engagement) 

    No surprise, participants noted the area’s sizeable Amish population, as well as its excellent food. But there’s nothing about sexiness, freight trade, or digital proficiency! The city is also labeled “slow-paced,” and “trying to hold on.”

    Participants at other forums had similar observations, even calling Lancaster “Philadelphia’s bedroom.” (There were a few other responses, like “successful downtown projects,” “fun,” and “good food.”)

    Personalized Pennsylvania maps drawn up by people who came to Keystone Crossroads’ public forum either don’t mention Lancaster, or they simply label the area “Amish.”

    The Amish community is undoubtedly an important part of Lancaster. But if the city’s recent awards are any indication, there’s a lot more to Pennsylvania’s “digital capital.”

    What are your associations with Lancaster? Does the city deserve the accolades it’s getting?

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