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COVID-19-Related Small Town Population Growth

Aerial view of downtown Mechanicsburg PA

In early 2020, COVID-19 ushered in a new era of living, from telecommuting to ordering groceries online. While this shift put an incredible amount of strain on our lives, it also brought some unforeseen positives. COVID-19 has fostered a newfound appeal for small towns like those in the Cumberland Valley. Why is this population change happening, and what can we expect for towns like Mechanicsburg and Carlisle?

As social distancing becomes an average characteristic of our lifestyles, living in big urban centers poses a problem — space. City residents once viewed the bustling activity and proximity of everything as a positive, but it’s become a hindrance. Now, people can see the value of a small town like Lemoyne because there’s enough room to live comfortably.

Much of the desirable space in small towns comes from the outdoor recreational spaces that many big cities lack. Hiking trails, parks, state forests and other outdoor areas offer an engaging way to fill time in a socially distanced manner.

On top of the additional space, small towns offer a certain charm that is unique to these areas. Locally owned shops, distinctive architecture and friendships with neighbors may feel like new experiences to those familiar with more urban settings.

With the rise in remote learning and working from home, moving to a small town is easier than ever. Moving no longer requires a new job, and people are taking advantage of this freedom.

A New Era for Cumberland Valley

While these big moves give city people a fresh environment to enjoy, they’re equally beneficial to small towns. In the wake of COVID-19, maintaining a small business feels like a monumental task. With populations increasing, local business owners can drum up business with a new crowd. The fascination with small-town charm brings people to locally owned shops looking for unique trinkets and home-cooked food.

Businesses that thrive on outdoor activities are finding a massive increase in sales. In fact, adult bicycle sales skyrocketed by 121% in the past year, to a point where stores experienced shortages from the buying craze. There was also a significant increase in sales for camping, golf and paddle sports equipment.

When the outdoor adventures are over, people can enjoy some famous downtown spots. Whether people make a stop at the thrift shop on the corner or they take a break at the town’s best pizza place, small business owners will see the benefits of this population boom.

Growing Communities in Our Small Towns

Cumberland Valley towns represent the small town ideals that people are searching for amidst the chaos of COVID-19. With historic sites, unique shops and excellent food, people can take a break from busy urban centers as visitors or new residents. Once people become enchanted with Cumberland County’s small towns, they share their knowledge of these hidden gems with their friends and return to visit again.

While the fascination with small towns may not carry on forever, this population boom could support the Cumberland Valley’s growth for years to come.

CAEDC not only promotes our towns as a great place to visit, but we also play an active role in community development and revitalization.

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