In Butler County, Pennsylvania, the Community Development Corporation (CDC) has vowed to promote skilled trades and develop a great local workforce, promoting growth and providing new business and established industry with professional, skilled labor. It’s working already.
The feeling of regeneration is palpable in Butler County. Since the baby-boomer era, this friendly region in the northeast of the country has blossomed into a place of opportunity as new industry settles here, creating a growing demand for HVAC experts, electricians, plumbers, and so on.
The influx of people and business has spurred a flurry of activity over the past few years, with townships being spruced up and infrastructure upgraded throughout the county. This process has seen roads, bridges and storm sewers newly upgraded and extended to everyone’s benefit.
Thanks to its diligent and planned approach to growth, Butler County’s economic vitals are stronger than ever and rising. Growth is steady at 1.6 percent for jobs, while its economic output growth rate is at a comfortable 2.8 percent. And its people are happy to extend a warm-hearted welcome to industry and retail enterprises from across the United States. Working hard has always been part of the county character. This is reflected in an impressively low unemployment rate of 3.7 percent.
The goal of the CDC and supporters is to grow and retain the workforce of Butler County and they are investing in high school programs that will educate students about growing job opportunities as older generations retire. “There are opportunities out there besides college. Technical degrees right now are a better way to go. There are good-paying jobs [that are] ready to go,” says Joseph Saeler, Executive Director.
60 years of service
The CDC was founded in 1959, the brainchild of Butler County entrepreneurs and industries who wanted to create growth and swell employment. “We achieve this through teamwork between our business owners, the municipality, the county and other pivotal role players in both local and national government,” says Joseph. Part of this drive toward economic growth through building the workforce is education.
Several institutions in Butler County provide top-quality training. Butler County Area Vo-Tech gives students comprehensive training in electric studies, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), Automotive Technology and a whole lot more. The county’s community college offers a range of courses that include training in professional trades.
Slippery Rock University offers courses in the fields of petroleum, civil, mechanical, and chemical engineering, to mention a few. A local component-and-assembly facility, Penn United Technologies, generously offers in-house manufacturing training both for its own teams and trainees from other companies.
Moreover, the town of Harmony is home to Steamfitters Local 449’s Technology Center, a multi-million dollar, 75 000 square foot educational facility where practical learning is taken to the next level. Its state-of-the-art learning spaces adjoin laboratories and over 60 welding stations are fully kitted out for optimal, hands-on learning.
In addition, Butler County’s officials earlier this year made a commitment to expanding the county’s workforce through other new initiatives. The first – known as the Empowerment Initiative – focuses on empowering folks who need to re-enter the workforce post-incarceration, after overcoming addictions, or after divorce.
In the same vein, the second initiative, known as the Expungement Program, serves to clear non-violent charges from residents’ records in order to allow them access to employment that would otherwise be denied them. These are two of the many socially-positive ways in which the county is supporting industry, helping meet its demand for labor.
March this year saw the announcement of the Butler County Growth Collaborative by the County Commissioners at the CDC’s annual meeting: Taking hands, the CDC, Butler County Chamber, Butler County Community College, Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau, the Housing and Redevelopment Authority of the County of Butler, Slippery Rock University and others. Together, they give their support in prioritizing and streamlining projects that will benefit the economy and people of the county by speaking with a single voice, nationally and at the county’s state capital, Harrisburg.
Jobs, jobs and more jobs
While many of the jobs that are available are in manufacturing, it is not the traditional scenario of going to work in clean overalls and finishing the day covered in grime. The majority of these modern opportunities involves clean manufacturing that offers many office positions as well as clean facilities. ”They’re not dirty, dusty jobs. [Staff members are] dressed in casual business wear. These are good job opportunities for people,” says Marcie Barlow, communications director.
One of Butler County’s strongest features, apart from natural beauty, is its central location. The nearest airport is 30 minutes away, with easy access. Two other airports for light aircraft are situated nearby. In addition, interstates 79 and 80 cross its borders and route 224 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike are really close by, too.
A beautiful life
Going back 219 years through history, the county was named after General Richard Butler, a Revolution hero, and founded on 12 March 1800. The City of Butler is centrally located along Connoquenessing Creek and is the county’s main town and county seat. It is the pulse of the county, as all the county’s administrative offices, many businesses, and the county festivals are established here. Butler County’s many small, family-owned farms, its villages and towns, are scattered across a verdant landscape that is as welcoming as it is lovely.
There is a lot here that makes for a great quality of life. “Butler County is a great place to live, work and play. We have an affordable cost of living, job opportunities with family-sustaining wages, great places to shop, eat and enjoy the outdoors,” says Marcie.
In this lush county, strangers quickly become friends as the locals are relaxed and hospitable. While the north is known for its fertile farmlands and rural charm, the south is urbanized and home to a variety of shops that include local and chain stores, restaurants, sports facilities, and tourist attractions.
As downtown Pittsburgh is only a 30-minute drive away, many young families are moving from Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh, buying property and creating lives here while working in Pittsburgh. It means that residents can enjoy great convenience and a reasonable cost of living.
The people of Butler County play with the same enthusiasm as they work, with community get-togethers a favorite. “Our communities love getting together. Food-truck nights are as popular as dining out and so are yard sales in the south. Soccer, softball, Friday night football and similar sports are all a wonderful opportunity for communities to gather,” says Marcie L. Barlow, Communications Director. From heritage societies to cultural gatherings and festivals, the county offers a cornucopia of fun.
In mid-June, the Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival is celebrated, followed by the Butler Fair on the 4th of July and many other smaller festivals through the year. Oktoberfest has its moments too, thanks to the county’s strong German heritage.
The outdoors is on the doorstep. Moraine State Park stretches over 16,725 acres and offers pristine beach along its 42 miles of shoreline on Lake Arthur. Over 70 miles of trails criss-cross the park, which is open to visitors from sunrise to sunset. More than a million visitors come to enjoy its beauty every year. The lake hosts the county’s annual Regatta every August.
In a bid to encourage residential and commercial development, the county’s initiatives continue to be supported by new infrastructure, as mentioned earlier. Apart from civil works, this includes manufacturing facilities opening in the area.
One of these is GaDova, whose 2.3-acre facility at the Pullman Center Business Park Expansion (PCBPE) will soon be home to its new medical manufacturing plant, where medical imaging equipment and patient monitors will be produced. GaDova is transferring its operations from Allegheny County, present site of its headquarters.
The City of Butler also recently became home to Allegheny Health Network’s cancer treatment center, a 34,000 square foot facility in the Pullman Business Park that opened on March 8, this year. The $30 million investment in this modern oncology unit will give locals access to dread-disease treatment that was not available before, adding significant clout to the area’s medical status.
With much more to come, Butler County’s future looks promising. Butler County says it will remain committed to assisting prospective and existing local businesses in every way possible so as to ensure uninterrupted prosperity for the entire county and its people.
And with a visionary largesse that few small counties display, the CDC’s focus will stay firmly fixed on the continuing growth of the county’s workforce and the infrastructure in the region.