The city of York, which recently elected its first black mayor, remains by far the county's most diverse and populous municipality. One-quarter of its residents are black, and 28 percent are Hispanic. The white, non-Hispanic population has dropped by one-fifth in the past 10 years, making whites a minority there. The city has grown 7 percent since 2000, to about 44,000 people.
Meagan Feeser, 29, commutes to a job in Owings Mills from her home in Spry in southern York County. Though the city of York has a reputation for crime and poor schools, Feeser said, there has been a resurgence of interest among young professionals. A group calling itself "I Love York City," with which Feeser is involved, has launched a marketing campaign with social media and merchandise to share recommendations for things to do in downtown York.
William Swartz, a developer and property manager in downtown York, said former Marylanders do not hold the same stereotypes about urban areas that some native York County residents do and may help to further drive growth. "These people do not have that stigma against the city," Swartz said.
But some say the sheen of York living may lose some of its luster for Maryland residents. Property values dropped substantially in the Baltimore metro area after the housing bust, and rising gas prices might make a Baltimore-York commute too expensive for some.
And residents say stark differences remain between York County and the neighborhoods that Marylanders left behind. Grocery stores and other retail options, though expanding, still cannot compare to what is available in Baltimore's older, more established suburbs, said Brandon Jones, who owns Southern Penn Real Estate.
"If you're the person who's used to going to Towson Town Center, you don't have that here," he said.
The migration to York from Maryland appears to have slowed in recent years, observers say. Now, only about one-third of Sites' clients are moving from Maryland, she said. She often finds that her clients maintain their connections to Maryland, refusing to attend church in Pennsylvania or to switch hairstylists, for example.
"A lot of them still have deep ties to Maryland," Jones said. "Some people don't make that transition."
Russell, for one, plans to move back to the Baltimore area as soon as her children graduate from high school. And she said she has expanded her business into a new niche in the last two years: helping clients move from York back to the Baltimore area, primarily after foreclosures or divorce force them to move.
Menzer said York's growth likely won't continue to primarily depend on Maryland transplants. He hopes the next census shows more growth in the county's older communities and expects former Marylanders to begin to take jobs in new businesses in the York area.
"What we want is smart, controlled growth that's a net contributor to our overall economy in a sustainable way," Menzer said, "not just residential growth in that we become more and more of a bedroom community to Baltimore."