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Pennsylvania: A boomlet for Butler County

By Becky Ferrero, Pam George and Vickie Mitchell
All photos courtesy Bulter Co. TCB


When Westinghouse Electric Co. opened its new headquarters and nuclear complex in Butler County last year, the local economy and regional meeting planners benefited.

“This is an exciting time for Butler County,” said Jack Cohen, executive director of the Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau.

“This new facility will give us 5,000 new jobs and has helped spur the construction of five new hotels, including the Fairfield Inn in Slippery Rock and two Hiltons in Cranberry Township. They will add over 500 rooms to our 1,400-room count, which means we can accommodate larger groups.”

Totalling 800 square miles, this rural northern suburb of Pittsburgh primarily draws regional meetings because of its access to I-80, I-79 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

“Since we are located within 500 miles of half of the U.S. population, this accessibility makes great business sense for meeting planners,” Cohen said. “It’s one of the main reasons we’ve increased our meeting business by 25 percent in the past three years.”

Other factors include Cranberry Township’s proximity to Pittsburgh International Airport — 20 minutes away — as well as complimentary area shuttle service, lower room and sales taxes than Pittsburgh and free, hassle-free parking.

Butler County’s main meeting facilities include the 295-room Pittsburgh Marriott North in Cranberry Township, which has 14,000 square feet of meeting space, and the 142-room Butler Days Inn Conference Center in Butler, which has 13,000 square feet of meeting space.

Although the county doesn’t have a convention center, it does have the only conference facility in western Pennsylvania built to International Association of Conference Centers’ standards.
The Regional Learning Alliance Conference Center in Cranberry Township is a LEED-certified green facility with  28 meeting rooms and classrooms that can accommodate up to 400 for banquets and 200 in its auditorium. It is within walking distance of the Marriott.

“We also have a great working relationship with Slippery Rock University, which has a 500-person banquet room,” said Cohen. “In the summer of 2013, the four-day North Country National Scenic Trail Convention will be held at the university for some 500 participants.”

Among the area’s many outdoor activities are hikes on the North Country National Scenic Trail, which traverses Butler County as it wanders 4,600 miles from North Dakota to New York.
Another outdoor escape is the 16,000-acre Moraine State Park, which includes the 3,225-acre Lake Arthur and an amphitheatre.

“Groups have team-building options at Moraine State Park in both summer and winter, and they range from disc golf to geocaching to iceboating,” said Sandy Gadzia, sales director, Butler County TCB.

“We also have 10 golf courses, including Cranberry Highlands, the state’s top-rated municipal golf course, as well as the renovated Pullman Park Baseball Stadium in Butler and the new 13-field Dick’s Sporting Goods Sportsplex in Cranberry Township.”

For special occasions indoors, groups can relax at the new Twelve Oaks Mansion in Mars, which can accommodate 400 for banquets, or the Maridon Museum in Butler, where world-class Asian art is the backdrop for receptions for up to 200.

Although corporations, reunions, associations and sports groups are Butler County’s focus, it is also attractive to groups with special interests.

“We had 1,000 people here for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Barista Competition at the Pittsburgh Marriott North last year,” Gadzia said. “And, in 2013, we’re expecting thousands of people and lots of fireworks for the Pyrotechnics Guild International Meeting at sites throughout the county.”

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