Chamber moves to bring out the good side of the county
They're not in Kansas, but Butler County Chamber of Commerce members agree with Dorothy: "There's no place like home."
So the chamber has launched a campaign — complete with a logo bearing the famous line from "The Wizard of Oz" — to instill pride in the community.
"There's so much bad news out there about everything anymore. But one of the best things that we do have is our community," said Alan Offstein, chairman of the chamber‘s board of directors. "Butler County is a wonderful place, really."
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and recent news of heroin-related problems in the county helped spur plans for the campaign, chamber President Linda Harvey said.
The campaign comes just as officials review a comprehensive plan in which the need for a sense of countywide unity is mentioned, a "happy coincidence," Harvey said.
Consultants hired by the Butler County Planning Department advised community officials more than a year ago to promote a unified identity within the county.
Because of the county's mix of urban, suburban and rural areas, people do not feel a strong countywide identity, planner Rick Grossman said.
The plan, the county's first since the 1970s, is scheduled to be approved later this year.
Residents have emphasized the need for unity since the 1990s, when his firm began working for the county, according to Grossman, a lifelong county resident, and a partner in the Grove City-based planning firm, Graney, Grossman, Ray, Colosimo and Associates.
The chamber campaign could help, Grossman said.
It unofficially was kicked off in July during the seventh annual Cruise-A-Palooza car show in downtown Butler.
T-shirts, hats and other items bearing the "There's No Place Like Home" campaign logo were sold at the event attended by more than 25,000 people.
The logo is available for free for businesses to use in mailings and other publications, chamber communications director Bobbi Jo Cornetti said. Shirts, hats and other items featuring the logo also are available, she said.
Because the campaign aims at something intangible, it will be difficult to gauge its effectiveness, Harvey said.
"It's hard to measure anything like this when you're trying to get people to feel good about where they live," she said.
Chamber members nonetheless are committed to the effort, particularly in light of recent news. A sweep last month netted 35 street-level drug dealers, and 14 heroin-related deaths have been reported in the county since last year, according to District Attorney Tim McCune.
"You hear a lot of negative news, especially with the heroin problems," Harvey said. "This campaign, I think, is one of those efforts to try to make people realize that there are some problems here and there are some challenges, but it's also a really great place to live and raise a family …"
Yet some people, as consulting planners acknowledged, feel "disconnected," Harvey said, because of the county's diverse nature — it includes urban Butler, suburban areas in the south and a largely rural northern section.
"We've got Cranberry, and then you've got northern Butler county. The two of them are just totally different," she said.
The county's proximity to Pittsburgh also might affect the lack of a sense of unity, Harvey said.
"A lot of people are more focused on going (to Pittsburgh) instead of maybe thinking about driving to Slippery Rock University to see a performance or going to a restaurant in Slippery Rock or northern Butler County," she said.
Although it doesn't appear to be a problem now, Offstein hopes the campaign will lure new residents to the county.
The county's population increased by 14.5 percent between 1990 and 2000, according to census data. It continues to be the fastest growing county in western Pennsylvania, according to state statistics.
For more information about the "There's No Place Like Home" campaign and campaign items, call (724) 283-2222 or send an e-mail to email@example.com .