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County Hall Corner: Grass is Greener Where?

Lycoming County Commissioner Tony Mussare made an interesting comment at a recent meeting stating that it is not unusual for him to be contacted by Lycoming County natives who have left the area, but still follow what is happening back here. It is not a great surprise, however. A rather unknown fact about Pennsylvania is that if you were born here, you would probably die here. Census studies show that Pennsylvania has historically been one of the highest percentages of “population born in current state of residence” in the country. That does not mean, of course, that Pennsylvanians stay in the same town or city all their life. They just seem to like to stick around the Keystone State.

On more than one occasion, the Lycoming County Commissioners have openly lamented the steady state of population decline in the county. They note that it does not just impact the tax base, but also presents challenges for school districts, businesses, volunteer organizations — especially fire and emergency services — and the general quality of life in a vast number of ways.

Unfortunately, they are right. Outside of a brief spike in 2010 (undoubtedly related to the natural gas boom), Lycoming County has lost population every year for the past ten years. Pennsylvania at large has indeed suffered from a decline in population, but the county’s depopulation percentage has been higher.

The commissioners are also astute that the steady exodus is largely related to limited employment possibilities. The unemployment rate of 4.2% does not sound bad, but it does when compared to the statewide average of 3.8%. In May of 2019, 2,400 individuals in the county were officially unemployed.

However, those who are contemplating greener pastures over the horizon should stop and consider what they are going to be missing. Yes, employment has indeed been slow, but there are some encouraging signs on the horizon. Anecdotally, it appears small businesses are hiring again, and a finger-in-the-wind prediction is that there could well be a noticeable uptick in job opportunities by the end of the year with larger enterprises entering our region.

There are other strong reasons for sticking around. As it turns out, Lycoming County has a very high quality of life compared to the rest of Pennsylvania and even the nation. featured an article recently citing a national rating agency,, which ranked all the 3,142 counties in the United States. Drawing data on air quality, weather, natural amenities, outdoor recreation, population density, and much more, only three Pennsylvania counties (Montgomery, Chester, and Bucks), ranked in the top 100 counties in the nation. Lycoming County fared quite well, ranking 18th in Pennsylvania and 388th in the nation. What this translates by way of comparison is that Lycoming County ranks in the top 27% of all PA counties, and in the top 12% of all counties in the United States.

One factor that was not considered was regional events, and if that were considered, the addition of the influence of Little League Baseball would certainly be another strong plus for the county. There are also a number of festivals and celebrations throughout the year that also offer diverse, enjoyable yet inexpensive entertainment. The agricultural richness of this region also is inviting to those who like farmer’s markets and homemade products. It is quite common to hear of those who move away and discover how much they miss the beauty of the parks and forests and overall natural beauty that we have all around us in Lycoming County.

So, for those with itchy feet to live elsewhere may think twice before doing so. Even in the enchanted, wonderful Land of Oz, Dorothy Gale knew that there was no place like home.

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