Photo: Fauxels (Pexels)
Livability has become a buzzword over the past decade, but it’s never been as apropos as it is today. A recent NPR story reports those who find themselves working remotely are decamping to small cities to ride out the pandemic, choosing to continue their jobs in a place where they want to be, somewhere with “lower prices and a more relaxed vibe, without sacrificing vibrant culture, decent restaurants and other conveniences.”
In other words, they are slowly figuring out what professionals in Happy Valley have known for a while—it’s possible to have both a cutting edge job and a great place to live at the same time.
Here’s how Happy Valley does that:
Happy Valley is situated in the epicenter of the “Brain Belt,” which is what The Smartest Places on Earth: Why Rustbelts Are the Emerging Hotspots of Global Innovation calls the cluster of some of the world’s smartest cities that runs from Upstate New York to North Carolina’s Research Triangle.
Thanks to visionary thinkers, local universities, regional government initiatives, startups and big corporations, these cities have become part of this vital Brain Belt that is transforming industries by integrating IT, sensors, big data, new materials, new discoveries and automation. Happy Valley is located in the middle of these transformative cities, both geographically as well as ideologically. It’s a place where research isn’t stuck in academia; it works on the frontlines of homeland security with the Applied Research Laboratory, leads to global weather prediction with Accuweather, fuels pharmaceutical testing with Quantum Bio and even creates sensors for making better beer at TZero.
Image: Penn State
Happy Valley boasts a culture of learning and ongoing research. Penn State’s research continues to break records among other universities in the country, and Applied Research Laboratories at Penn State recently earned a U.S. Navy research contract worth as much as $2.1 billion over the next 10 years.
This culture of continual research and learning draws business to Happy Valley. When Morgan Advanced Materials was looking for a North American destination for its Carbon Science Centre of Excellence (CoE), it chose Happy Valley, saying one of the reasons was the vast amount of research happening in the area (two other main reasons were the centralized location, and livability).
What does that mean for you?
If you choose to work in Happy Valley, it’ll be the very opposite of career stagnation. You’ll be part of an ever-evolving place of learning, both within your company and greater community. (You can even learn while you’re having fun, at places like Rivet, a makerspace that teaches new skills like CNC machine operation and laser cutting classes.)
Happy Valley is home to large-scale employers — after all, Penn State alone employs 22,000 people — but it’s also the home to many small companies doing groundbreaking work. These companies offer opportunities to be on the front line of Industry 4.0. You can join a company like Xact Metal, which has made headlines for its affordable metal 3-D printers (they’re hiring!), or Actuated Medical, a woman-owned company that was recently part of a million mask initiative in Pennsylvania. You have the chance to be part of big initiatives from the ground up.
In 2019, Forbes named State College one of the best college towns in America, ranking it highly for business and careers, noting its below-national-average cost of living. Josh Helke, founder of Happy Valley-based Organic Climbing, a niche climbing supply company with worldwide fans, says that exact thing. “It would cost twice as much to have a similar lifestyle with such instant access to the outdoors anywhere else.” He says that because of the low cost of operations, his company can offer a good living wage, and also sell their high-quality products at a good, mid-range price. “It would be harder to be this good of an employer somewhere else,” he says.
Image: Penn State
Reader’s Digest calls it ‘one of the best places to move to before it gets too crowded,’ and Niche.com lists several Happy Valley neighborhoods in their top five picks for the whole nation.
Why? It all goes back to finding that work-life balance. After all, why choose between a great place to live and a great place to work when you can have both? You can live in a place that’s low on crime but high on world-class culture, good food, good schools and some of the best outdoor fun you’ll find anywhere … and where you can have a world-class Industry 4.0 career.
“It’s not hard to recruit here,” says Phil Armstrong, lead at the Carbon Science Centre of Excellence located in Innovation Park. “People want to raise their families here, buy houses here. The region is a big attractor.”
Want more? Local business leaders told us about the best things about basing their companies here in Happy Valley.