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The Story

York, PA

Project Type
Outdoor and Cultural Economy Asset Mapping and Impact Analysis


York County Economic Alliance, York County Cultural Alliance

Client Type



Founded in 1741, York County is a part of the larger Harrisburg–York–Lebanon combined statistical area of the Susquehanna Valley. York County Economic Alliance (YCEA) was created in 2012 as it grew out of York County’s chamber and economic development organizations. YCEA drives economic growth in York County by leveraging regional collaboration to create sustainable prosperity. The Cultural Alliance of York County is South Central Pennsylvania’s only United Arts Fund, powering the artists and organizations essential to York's cultural soul.

York County, Pennsylvania, has an abundance of quality of place assets that contribute to its vibrancy and unique character. From world-class musicians and performing artists to multi-talented muralists and artist collectives, intentionality and passion consistently shine through across York County’s cultural programming. However, there are limited resources available to support the arts and culture sector, as well as other quality of place assets like outdoor recreation amenities, that are available on a sustained basis. The Cultural Alliance was interested in learning more about how other communities across the country have implemented a sustainable public source of funding that can continuously support this important contributor to quality of life of York County.

Art Gallery

Establishing a Baseline

Through a combination of desktop research, surveying, and targeted interviews, York County’s cultural and outdoor assets were accounted for and classified, along with their impact and level of service, their financial model and levels of support, and their interconnectivity. We developed an ecosystem map documenting the relationships between interviewed organizations using a tool called Kumu.

Planning for Success


Next we documented how communities similar to York County support their quality of place amenities with dedicated public funding. Six communities were identified, researched, and interviewed. The selected communities share similar characteristics to York County, such as geography, population, and area median income. Research consisted of interviews and desktop research to understand the history and public approval of funding mechanisms, as well as their impact on quality of life indicators, talent attraction and retention, overall community wellness, and economic growth in the arts, cultural, and outdoor recreation sectors.

People in Park

Tools for Enacting Change


Finally, we developed a scenario to visualize the impact – present and future – of a cultural asset strategy and accompanying financial support, to demonstrate how the community could benefit from a dedicated funding source for Cultural and Outdoor assets within York County.

The Cultural Alliance and YCEA have begun sharing the ideas presented in the report with local philanthropists, foundations, and municipal funders, to gauge interest in setting up a sustainable public funding model, discuss structure, and determine next steps. 

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