Chester County is one of the fastest growing areas in the region according to new U.S. census figures. It has shown a population increase of 18 percent between 2000 and 2014, even higher than Montgomery which came in third, at 14 percent. The growth comes from a mixture of births, immigrants and a lack of departures, as well as strong economic incentives for people to stay, as more and more businesses choose to set up shop nearby.
The most obvious signs of this growth are on and around the route 202 corridor, which has had to undergo a significant widening project to cope with the increase in traffic. This has not always appreciated by commuters, who rely on this route for their livelihood. Despite the growing pains, things could not be better. The region now has strong universities, well known and respected health care institutions, and a lot of new professional services organizations calling the region home.
The fact that Chester and Montgomery are the driving force behind this increase in prosperity should come as no surprise. Both counties boast an enviable unemployment rate and plenty of job opportunities. “We have been a popular destination for people to come for a long time” echoed Jake Michael, a senior demographer with the Chester County Planning Commission.
The growth is not without its drawbacks, as the increasing number of residents has slowed the average total daily commute time in Montgomery to 54.8 minutes, almost 10 minutes slower than it was 20 years ago. Chester County has already recognized that there are issues from this strong growth and created several new initiatives to cope, such as the Community Revitalization Program in 2001. In total, it has allocated over $50 million in county and federal funds to nearby townships, to help ease the burden.
“Many of these towns are really taking advantage of that to shore up their infrastructure and set the stage for development” said Patrick Bokovitz, director of Chester County’s Department of Community Development.
However, some of the additional development that comes with the growth has caused concerns. In particular, the construction of two apartment and retail buildings on East King Street, made nearby residents lament the loss of some of the small town feel in their neighborhood. With this in mind Chester County has developed a 10 year plan to keep the balance between preservation and development which should set the stage for an extended period of economic growth.
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