Cranberry Township named best place to raise children in the state according to Businessweek
By Natalie Beneviat
Published: Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 8:56 p.m.
It's now official.
Cranberry is the best place to raise children in Pennsylvania, at least according to the seventh annual Businessweek.com America's Best Places to Raise Kids for 2013.
Businessweek and Bloomberg Rankings evaluated more than 3,200 places nationwide with populations between 5,000 and 50,000, according to www.businessweek.com.
Cranberry ranked first in the state and 39th in the nation, according to the article.
“We're excited about it,” Jerry Andree, Cranberry Township manager, said. “It's always been our public policy to make it the best place to live. It's an external validation of (it).”
With public safety and schools as the most important factors, also taken into consideration were housing costs, commute time, poverty, adults' educational attainment, share of households with children, and diversity, according to the author. Researchers for the article also reviewed median income and county-level unemployment.
Andree said Cranberry officials didn't know they were even being evaluated, so it was good news.
“We have a total package for young families,” Andree said.
Cranberry's population of 27,708 has a median family income of $106, 510.
The article states housing costs as a percentage of income was 19.6 percent, and the county's unemployment rate was 5.7 percent. It scored a nine out of 10 on GreatSchools.org.
Susan Balla, executive director for The Chamber of Commerce Inc., which represents north Pittsburgh, north Allegheny and Cranberry corridors, said the appreciation for Cranberry is evidenced in its growth, both in business and residential.
“It's very busy. New businesses keep coming on a daily basis,” said Balla. “The infrastructure that Cranberry Township officials provide is very conducive to building business here,” she said.
Along with growth in the area, high levels of income help keep business economy healthy here, said Balla, of Gibsonia. And about 50 percent of their membership comes from Cranberry.
Andree said it's not hard to see how Cranberry did well in those categories, including recreatio, because Cranberry is home to multiple parks, a public golf course, a municipal center and even its own water park.
Valerie Eckley agrees. The mother of Gage, 9, Garrett, 7, and Brooke, 2, said the township's recreation programs are diverse and plentiful.
“They're phenomenal. They have excellent programs for all ages throughout the year,” said Eckley, 37, who has lived in Cranberry with husband Luke, 40, and their children for almost seven years.
Gage and Garrett, who are in third and first grade, respectively, in the Seneca Valley School District, attend Camp Cranberry every summer, and there's even programs for moms, babies and toddlers, she said. Eckley said she appreciates the many other young families who are also in the area.
“For us, it's a perfect fit,” Eckley said.
Amy Mrkonja, a 14-year resident, said her sons Cole, 10, and Eric, 16, enjoy the area and do really do well at Seneca Valley. Cole is in fourth grade at Haine Elementary, and Eric is a sophomore at the intermediate high school.
“The teachers seem to know your children … despite the size of the school district,” said Mrkonja, 41, who is married to Mike, 43.
Andree said an important focus for township officials is to work closely with local schools, such as Seneca Valley.
Linda Andreassi, spokesperson for the district, agreed on the importance of the joint effort.
“Our students and staff work hard to be a top-notch educational system, and we have always believed we're an asset to this area — to have it confirmed is a tremendous validation of our efforts,” said Andreassi.
She added that Seneca Valley Middle School was recently named a 2012 National Blue Ribbon Middle School, the only one to receive this designation in Western Pennsylvania, one of only eight in the state and one of 269 in the nation.
Andreassi not only works with Cranberry Township, but is also a resident since 1991, when her parents moved here when she was in college.
“I think they knew then it was blooming and becoming a coveted place to be. I'm glad I stayed, established roots for my family and enrolled my children at Seneca Valley,” said Andreassi, who is a member of the Cranberry Rotary Noon Club.
In addition to Seneca Valley schools, students can attend St. Kilian's Elementary School in the area, opened by the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh in 2008. And the Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School is currently under construction across from that school.
Andree said anyone looking to live or work in the area can find a host of resources on the township website, including the Cranberry Business Hub, which keeps abreast of the latest business news.
Andree said large companies like Westinghouse International Headquarters keeps the community vibrant and livable.
Mine Safety Appliances has also had a strong business presence in Cranberry since the 1980s when it opened a manufacturing plant for gas detection instruments and a research and development facility, said Mark Deasy, director of Global Public Relations and Strategic Communications.
Just two years ago, MSA moved its corporate staff from an O'Hara Township location to Cranberry Woods facility to reduce expenses and better fits its staff of approximately 300 employees, said Deasy.
“It just made good business sense for us to make that move, including cost savings and to have our people co-located at one facility, which reduced travel time back and forth from Cranberry to O'Hara,” said Deasy, who has been with MSA since 2004.
And smaller businesses often thrive as well. Sean Pregibon is owner at Sports Grille at Cranberry, which opened in October, and he's seen positive results in just the short time frame.
“Cranberry has been very open arms and welcoming us to the community,” said Pregibon.
Pregibon said the sports-themed restaurant is a popular venue for local sports teams, coaches, and their families. It features a play area for children, staying open until 2 a.m. for the older crowd.
“I just thought it was an ideal location for our next restaurant,” said Pregibon, 39, who previously had a site in Youngstown.
Natalie Beneviat is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.
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