Even a casual observer quickly realizes that Lancaster City has made economic and cultural strides in recent years, and Franklin & Marshall alumni and students have contributed to those changes.
Since 2010, unemployment has been on a consistent downward trajectory and F&M students are more commonly considering Lancaster as a home after graduation. Last year, the New York Post article, “This town in Amish Country is the new Brooklyn,” praised Lancaster for its thriving cultural and small-business scene and cited specific businesses such as Luca and The Lancaster Arts Hotel, each of which is about a quarter mile from campus.
“It’s the attention to the arts and it’s (the city's) attention to social progress and equal opportunity that have helped propel Lancaster into the place it has become and will become,’’ said Peter Barber '90.
Barber embraces Lancaster’s changes as they contribute to the flourishing city. Barber, owner and president of Two Dudes Painting Company, has been running his company since the winter break of his freshman year 30 years ago.
Barber and his wife, Kara, had a child just a week before their sophomore year at F&M, forcing him to find ways to support his family while managing his course load. After graduating with a degree in history and art, Barber settled in Lancaster to pursue teaching, but he still painted on the side. Eventually, he decided to devote his full time to his painting company.
Once a two-man operation, Two Dudes Painting Co. now employs about 50 people. Their work is seen all over Lancaster and F&M. This summer, Two Dudes helped renovate Thomas Hall and the new Blue Line Cafe.
As a businessman, community comes first for Barber. Two Dudes is one of four businesses in Lancaster that is a B corporation, and the only painting business among more than 2,000 B corporations in the country considered one. B corporations are a type of for-profit corporate entity, authorized by 33 states and the District of Columbia. They have a positive effect on society, workers, the community and the environment. Barber has been recognized by the YWCA Lancaster's Race Against Racism for the last decade for continuously helping nonprofits in the city.
Will Kiefer ’14 also has been active in improving the Lancaster community. A public policy and Spanish major, he came upon his idea for a nonprofit during his senior year at F&M while doing community service.
The Bench Mark Program, which Kiefer began in 2014, helps to advance the lives of at-risk youth. The mentoring program now focuses on providing a safe and productive space for Lancaster youth who don't want to engage with typical government-mandated programs such as therapy and parole meetings. With the help of F&M Trustees and other monetary awards, Kiefer has helped 117 mentees in his program. “Since we got started four years ago, we have been helping more and more kids each year, and with the support of the F&M community as well as Lancaster, we’re only going to be helping more,” said Kiefer.
Kiefer, who plans to make a career out of helping Lancaster’s troubled youth, is getting ready to transform his spaces into social enterprises with the goal of funding his philanthropic endeavors. This year, The Benchmark Program has partnered with both F&M’s I.M.P.A.C.T. and S.I.S.T.E.R.S organizations for volunteering. Kiefer praised the commitment of both organization to helping Bench Mark’s mission.