Lancaster is a manufacturing and commercial center in the heart of Pennsylvania’s Amish country. The city has dealt with unemployment issues at times, as some of its manufacturing base has disappeared, but a large hospitality industry and a diversified food processing industry remain. Downtown is older and has some historic interest. The area has also been helped by location, as it is close enough to major East Coast cities to attract small businesses, the self-employed and telecommuters looking for lower living costs and a small town lifestyle.
Surrounding areas are generally prosperous and remain a diversified center for light manufacturing of consumer and industrial staples, such as lighting and clothing products. The purest agrarian Pennsylvania-Dutch communities lie immediately east, giving an attractive countryside dotted by old farms and picturesque barns. While they also support a sometimes-gaudy tourism industry, they add some entertainment value, cultural and historic interest. Amenities lacking in this region are available in the three bigger cities all less than 100 miles away.
As one might expect, crime rates are low, but locally practiced culture also reduces educational attainment and brings values too traditional for some. Cost of living has been rising slowly, but incomes are keeping up and buying power is high. As with other areas of Amish influence, modern agricultural economics challenge the sustainability of small family farms.
The area contains mainly level to gentle rolling hills with fertile soil. The climate is humid continental with some influence from mountains to the northwest and water to the southeast. Summers are warm and humid with occasional thunderstorms. Winters are not too rigorous. With the exception of occasional long warm spells in summer and fall, the weather is variable. First freeze is late October, last is mid-April.