Lancaster Hit by Bad Economy, But Surviving

  • Kelly Farrelly '10 and Christopher Healy '09  

With less debt and better credit than the average American, Lancaster County residents are better equipped to weather the economic storm facing the nation, according to the Lancaster Economy Report produced by the Franklin & Marshall College Local Economy Center.

The 2009 edition of the Report looks at key indices of economic performance, painting a picture of how Lancastrians are faring in the economic downturn.

Seachrist Public Entrepreneurship Undergraduate Fellows Kelly Farrelly ’10 and Christopher Blaise Healy ’09 wrote the 2009 report, under the guidance of Antonio Callari, the Sigmund M. and Mary B. Hyman Professor of Economics and director of the Local Economy Center.

The fellows are named for two years, so each year there is a junior and a senior fellow, responsible for researching and developing the report.

The report shows that Lancaster County has not escaped the economic downturn.

Particularly telling, Farrelly added, “is how closely everything is connected. The unemployment rate has increased dramatically, which has increased the average debt load, the percentage of the population using food stamps and the number of borrowers that are late on their debt payments.”

Yet, the study highlights certain positives about the Lancaster County economy, Healy added.

“Lancastrians tend to have lower debt levels, approximately $20,000 less than the national average. Consequently, residents have less mortgage debt and better credit scores. A lower percentage of the local population has debt payments that are at least 60 days overdue. All these indicators tell us that Lancaster County is better situated to ride out the recession,” Healy explained.

Farrelly and Healy agreed that the report has given them an opportunity to put theory in action.

“In the classroom, we study economic models, but working at the Local Economy Center has connected these graphs to real life to show that every shift of a line affects people individually,” Farrelly said.

Another result of the Lancaster Economy Report has been that Healy will join the staff of the Consumer Specialty Products Association after he graduates. The Washington D.C.-based trade association saw the report and offered Healy a job. He will research the economic effect that the 204 manufacturing and distribution companies that make up the association have on customers and the local economies where the companies are based.

“Working at the Local Economy Center is an unparalleled opportunity to see how theories taught in class work out in the real world,” Callari said.

“It is a good preparation for further academic study and the world of work,” he said.

The Seachrist Fellowship is sponsored by the Seachrist Entrepreneurial Fund, established in 2000 by the late William E. Seachrist ’52 and his wife, Marjorie, to provide students and faculty with opportunities to study entrepreneurship. Its emphasis is on public and social entrepreneurship and the encouragement of entrepreneurial approaches to solving pressing civic problems.

Read more about the report in a recent article in the Lancaster Sunday News.

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