The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

April 26, 2014

We’re not No. 1, but No. 5 is a nice feather in our caps

By Lynn Saternow

- — Why do we still live in western Pennsylvania? That question was on the minds of a lot of people in the Mercer County area last winter which still seems to be dragging on.

Just maybe the answer came on the front page of last Monday’s Herald.

Forbes magazine ranks the Youngstown Metropolitan Statistical Area – which includes Mercer County – as No. 5 on the list of “Best Cities for Raising a Family.”

And get this, this locale ranks No. 1 in housing affordabilty.

However, this can be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. Part of the reason for housing affordability could be that the price has to be low because houses are difficult to sell.

Some houses have had “For Sale” signs in their yards for years. And part of the problem at times is high property taxes in some areas, such as Sharon.

And not to knock the fact that this is a good area to raise a family, the question has to be: Can you afford to live here to raise your family?

This area has lost so many jobs during the past few decades that young people have had to move their families just to find good-paying jobs.

One of the telling statistics concerning that is that on the same Forbes rankings, this area is only 96th out of 100 on median income. So even if it is a good place for families, how do you support them?

I never put a lot of stock in statistics because they don’t tell the whole story. I remember years ago when this area was ranked last in the country in culture.


Come on! At that time we could have been in Pittsburgh or Cleveland in a short time to take in all the big-city culture we needed.

However, this area has come a long way regarding culture. From music, to stage plays, to art, etc., Mercer County has a lot of offer. Look at how the arts have received a boost just from the start of WaterFire last year in the Shenango River in Downtown Sharon.

People came here from Pittsburgh and Cleveland just to see it.

I had to chuckle a little when I read the comment from Bob McCracken, executive director of the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce, about the ease of vehicle travel in this area.

Bob said, “People get upset if they are four vehicles back at an intersection.”

How true. I find myself complaining just like everyone else. But traffic problems here are so minor compared to waiting at lights in big cities.

We complain about how long it takes to get through Hermitage because of the number of traffic lights, but compared to other areas the wait is minimal. But still, it’s human nature to complain when you have to sit at a red light.

OK, we don’t have the climate that people in Florida or western states have to offer. But if you can find a job, it’s obviously a good place to raise a family.

And just maybe the positive ranking in Forbes magazine will help attract more businesses to this area to provide those jobs. Let’s just hope that when new businesses do move in, we don’t have to add more red lights.

The Herald’s Lynn Saternow writes this column each Saturday for the Opinion Page. He can be reached at