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Carlisle: Honoring the Past, Growing for the Future

Small businesses are the backbone of a thriving economy, and they play a crucial role in creating jobs and contributing to the growth of local communities. Opening a local business in a small downtown area can be an exciting and rewarding venture. While there are many challenges to face, there are also many benefits, including playing a vital role in the region’s quality of life.

Carlisle has served as the seat of Cumberland County since 1751, and its rich history is reflected in the architecture of its buildings. It was recently voted #4 in USA Today’s 10 Best Historic Small Towns. Visitors will find a mixture of local shops, restaurants, museums, agencies, entertainment venues, art galleries, government offices, and residential neighborhoods with larger industries located on the outskirts of town.

The appealing and walkable downtown is an ideal location to establish a small business thanks to several economic drivers, including its proximity to the Interstate 81 corridor and the Pennsylvania Turnpike, prominent attractions such as Carlisle Events, and the presence of higher education institutions such as Dickinson College, the Penn State Dickinson School of Law, and the U.S. Army War College on the grounds of Carlisle Barracks.

The welcoming character of businesses reflects the town’s friendly, hometown atmosphere. However, this neighborly charm goes beyond greeting visitors and extends to support for up-and-coming companies. The strength of this business community lies in its willingness to foster valuable partnerships through collaboration and cross-promotion to help grow the downtown area.

Nicole Deary, President & CEO of the Carlisle Area Chamber of Commerce, notes that the town has a “supportive and established business community. 102 businesses have been members of the Chamber for over 25 years, with 32 more for over 50 years.”

Celebrating its 110th anniversary in 2023, the Carlisle Chamber provides invaluable essential resources for entrepreneurs looking to establish or grow their businesses, including networking opportunities, advocacy efforts, and educational resources.

The Chamber seeks to “honor the legacy of these established businesses while also attracting the next generation of entrepreneurs. In the coming years, an exciting opportunity for growth in Carlisle, and the surrounding region, is to help minority-owned businesses establish and sustain themselves,” notes Nicole.

In addition to the Chamber, current and future business owners and stakeholders are supported by the Downtown Carlisle Association and Destination Carlisle. The Downtown Carlisle Association (DCA) provides an array of programs to assist and market the C-1 business district, while Destination Carlisle is a merchant-led organization dedicated to raising awareness of downtown Carlisle and advocating for its success.

Carlisle is also a non-profit rich community. Nicole notes that the Carlisle Chamber has 70 non-profit members – almost 10% of their membership. These organizations support a diverse demographic and play a crucial role in building and sustaining the town and region. In addition to addressing various social issues, non-profit organizations promote community engagement and social cohesion and act as economic engines, providing training and education and addressing community challenges. All these actions benefit small businesses and contribute to the region’s quality of life.

Cumberland County’s vibrant downtowns, including the county seat of Carlisle — combined with scenic landscapes, abundant outdoor recreation, ample job opportunities, and a low cost of living – have helped to make Cumberland the fastest-growing county in the state for several years. Learn more about how CAEDC – supported by our four area chambers of commerce and other local partners – can help you start, expand, promote, redevelop, or relocate your business in Cumberland County.

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