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York's ranking among 'worst places' on Forbes list draws criticism, introspection

Written by Brett Sholtis, York Daily Record | Sep 10, 2015 3:30 PM

(York) -- York took a punch this week when Forbes magazine released a "best and worst cities" list looking at places to have a business or career. 

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York was ranked low on a list of places for careers and businesses by Forbes. (File - Daily Record/Sunday News)

The list examined jobs, cost of living, cost of doing business, income growth, quality of life and education. York's ranking? 199th of 200 greater metropolitan areas -- beating only Atlantic City, N.J., the worst on the list. Across the Susquehanna, Lancaster didn't fare much better, ranking 195th, while in Berks County, Reading ranked 198th.

For Reading and Lancaster, Forbes staff writer Kurt Badenhausen cited an unhealthy mix of high business costs and below-average education levels.

For York, however, the low ranking was also due to its negligible 1.6 percent gross metropolitan product growth, meaning few new jobs and less money being spent.

"The York employment outlook is anemic and ranks eighth worst in the U.S. over the next three years," Forbes said.

Leaders react

Officials and business leaders met the ranking with a mix of criticism and acknowledgement that York has room to improve. State Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York, said the Forbes report highlights the need for York and other cities to continue to evolve their economy and to have an educated work force.

Schreiber, a former economic development director for York city, said that in the wake of an "exodus" of large manufacturers in York County, smaller manufacturing companies have opened.

"We need to recognize that our economy continues to evolve, and we need to evolve with it," he said.

Josh Hankey, president and CEO of Royal Square Development and Construction, said York's location and work force have the potential to make it "one of the best cities, one of the most sought-after cities for companies."

But to get there, York needs to have "a vibrant downtown," said Hankey, whose company is developing a number of retail and residential projects in the city.

Mandy Arnold, president of Gavin Advertising, said York has been fertile ground for her company. The Baltimore native started the public relations and communications firm in 2011, and the company now employs 18 people and is projected to earn $1.25 million in sales this year.

Arnold said the Forbes list failed to capture the city's recent momentum.

"It's not about going to a market that's really succeeding," Arnold said. "If you're a smart business owner, you're thinking about ... opportunity."

But Matthew Bupp, who owns Lenders Group, a commercial development company, said York County has a way of missing out on opportunities for job creation. As one example, Bupp said, one township recently killed his deal with a well-known regional brewing company to build a brewing operation because of a disagreement over who should fix a sewer line.

"Instead of getting mired down in obstacles, they should be working toward the end goal," Bupp said.

York County Economic Alliance President Darrell Auterson said the list did highlight some of York's challenges. However, he pointed to other recent rankings by The Boyd Company, a Princeton, N.J.-based firm that advises companies on where to relocate, which said York was a desirable location for distribution centers and food processing locations.

"Overall, we're very happy with the strength we have in our local economy, and we're not going to get too bent out of shape when we get compared to larger metros like Denver or Raleigh that we don't really have a lot in common with," Auterson said.

Residents weigh in

Area residents also took to Facebook to talk about the ranking, with low wages topping their list of complaints.

"There is a huge gap between low wage jobs and professional positions, with almost nothing in between," said Teresa Myers of Dover Township. "The low wages impede growth in the housing market, as well as the retail establishments willing to invest in York."

Tony Cate of Windsor Township said he enjoys living in York, but is thankful he works in Maryland, where he said wages are higher. He said that when his wife transferred to a York branch of a preschool chain, she discovered that her contemporaries, teachers with bachelors' degrees, were earning only around $10 an hour.

Dover Boro resident Rob Morris said York may lack a diverse job market, but the list failed to mention the county's low cost of living and quality of life.

"If you want a place that offers steady work and (a) great place to raise a family then York is a good place to be," Morris said.

Staff writer Gary Haber contributed to this report.

Related

Forbes: the best places for business and careers

Study ranks York area as high for distribution centers

York and Lancaster should team up to fight Forbes' negativity (YDR opinion)

Mike Argento: Take this, Lancaster: A response to one city's bullying (column)

Lancaster's downtown is not better than York's (YDR opinion)

Lancaster Newspapers responds to YDR's editorial on downtown comparisons


This article comes to us through a partnership between York Daily Record and WITF. 

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