Whenever you drive along Rt. 19, you can’t help but see “now hiring” signs on stores and restaurants up and down the road. What you don’t see as readily is that the Township’s advanced B2B technology and service companies are also looking for talent. But in their case, it’s for people with training in areas such as software engineering, robotics and CAD design, as well as for those with financial and other specialized business skills.
I was put in mind of that recently when I attended the open house of a company, Omnicell, which was dedicating its office in Cranberry Woods. Omnicell, which last year acquired the pharmacy robotics company formerly known as Aesynt, is a West Coast company that specializes in automating the administration of medicine in hospitals, clinics and other settings. They have offices in a handful of U.S. cities as well as overseas. And now Cranberry is their single largest operation with 500 full-time employees.
Back when I started as Manager of the Township, the economy of Cranberry was still largely agricultural, along with some light manufacturing built around the intersection of two Interstate highways in our southern tier. That was in the early ‘90s. But by then two things had already become clear: one was that the Township was destined to grow rapidly, particularly with the opening of I-279 which sharply reduced travel times to Pittsburgh. The other was that with the rapid advance of technology, knowledge-based industries were destined to surpass more traditional ones as the foundation of our economy.
That was the point at which Cranberry’s Board of Supervisors made a courageous decision: they would step up and do whatever they could to guide the Township’s inevitable growth in constructive ways. Specifically, they wanted to shape Cranberry into an attractive and welcoming place for people to live. By offering residents a high quality of life, they reasoned, high quality companies would want to locate somewhere that could help them attract and retain talent. The Board also wanted to create a physical environment that would appeal to advanced technology companies looking for a home. And for that, they found a strong partner in Mine Safety Appliances Company, now MSA Safety, which had purchased a 332-acre tract of wooded land formerly used as a church retreat. That retreat is now Cranberry Woods Business Park.
In hindsight, that seems like a natural decision for the Board to have made. But at the time, it was a real struggle, meeting with considerable resistance. However, the Supervisors understood the importance of expressing their vision clearly and then holding everyone accountable for fulfilling it. Over time, using a series of partnerships, ordinances, and strategic investments, we were able to transform Cranberry from an abstract vision into a tangible community that enjoys a high quality of life where residents and businesses alike can flourish.
It is particularly gratifying because, back when I started here, one of the complaints I kept hearing was that so many children of Cranberry residents would leave here to find work once they had gone through college; there really weren’t any jobs here where a well-educated young person could start a career. Now it’s just the opposite.
There are approximately 27,000 jobs in Cranberry today, including many well-paying professional positions. Most of them are filled by people who commute here from all over Western Pennsylvania and beyhond. At the same time, however, young people who grow up here now have a wealth of options to work, play and live – right in their own home town.
I would love to hear your thoughts about Cranberry’s growth. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org