By Holly Riddle
Springhill Suites by Marriott and Holiday Inn Express are two of several Shaner hotels in the area.
In last week’s edition of the HappyValley Industry newsletter, we discussed the brain drain phenomenon and how Happy Valley makes up for brain drain by bringing lost talent back to the area at a later date, when older employees are more appreciative of the area’s amenities, high quality of living and relatively low cost of living. Today, we’re looking at entire companies with global reach that have been attracted to the area for many of the same reasons.
Here's what two of those companies told us about their experiences in Happy Valley and what they’d tell other companies that might be considering relocating to the region.
Shaner Hotel Group relocated to State College in 1993, moving its headquarters from western New York and never looking back.
According to Plato Ghinos, president at Shaner, “The company was growing at a fast pace and, at the time, western New York was not an attractive place to grow a company, financially. It was hard to recruit and relocate people in western New York.”
Shaner Hotel Group president Plato Ghinos
Decisionmakers at Shaner looked at potential new homes around the East Coast, from North Carolina to Georgia to Pennsylvania, and finally settled on State College for a few key reasons, including quality of life and Penn State.
“I can tell you from personal experience, it was a great decision,” said Ghinos. “It all boils down to quality of life.”
We all live here. We travel for work, but it’s always great to get back to State College
Today, Shaner operates in 18 states and three countries, but the State College headquarters, with its approximately 200 employees in the corporate office and another approximate 300 across Shaner’s local properties, is the heart of it all. This headquarters location doesn’t just benefit current Shaner employees, though. It’s also advantageous to up-and-coming talent within the hospitality industry who might be graduating from The Penn State School of Hospitality Management and looking for career opportunities closer to home.
“The Penn State [School of Hospitality Management] is one of the top in the country, with great faculty and students … Throughout our portfolio, we employ multiple Penn State alumni,” said Ghinos.
As Shaner marks 30 years of business in Happy Valley, Ghinos noted that the team considers their move “a success story.”
“We all live here. We travel [for work], but it’s always great to get back to State College,” he said.
Stan’s NoTubes moved a location from New York to Happy Valley.
Much like Shaner, Stan’s NoTubes, the inventor of tubeless bike tires and outfitter to Olympic bikers and World Cup racers, likewise relocated one of its offices to Happy Valley from New York (while retaining a warehouse and support facility in Big Flats, New York). However, while Shaner focused on offering its employees a high quality of life with its move, Stan’s NoTubes’ needs were a little more niche.
President Mike Bush explained: “The biggest problem with the [New York] location is the lack of quality mountain biking. There's one spot about 20 minutes away that's quite small. There's another location an hour away — and that's it for the area. There's very limited mountain biking. Having gone to Penn State, I knew what was here. I can see Rothrock State Forest right out my window. It has 290 miles of combined trails and forest roads. It connects to Bald Eagle State Forest with another 200,000-plus acres and countless trails and gravel roads. The riding here is classic East Coast, technical, rock-filled trails. It’s an amazing testing ground for our product.”
Once someone’s here, they identify with the area. The school system is obviously quite good. The resources of Penn State are nearby. The cycling communities are pretty active. Once people are in the community and realize what it has to offer, they tend to stick around.
Stan’s NoTubes serves the high-performance cycling and competitive mountain biking sectors, providing a range of products that help alleviate what Bush called the single biggest problem riders have with their bicycles — flat tires. Products like a liquid sealant that repairs tires on the fly, as well as high-end performance wheels, give competitors an edge in a race environment, but also make hobbyists’ experiences more enjoyable.
When Bush pushed to open the Pine Grove Mills office, he initially received some hesitation, and that’s something that still exists today when recruiting. Stan’s NoTubes’ team requires talent that’s passionate about its industry — an industry that’s by and large focused on the western portion of the country. However, once team members get to the area, they’re often sold.
“There’s always been a good cycling scene here, which was part of the motivation [to open the office]. We thought we could source some talent locally,” Bush explained. “I’ve also had folks relocate here from [the West Coast], but it’s always a hard sale. You have to do the job of a tourism bureau to sell people on the idea that the riding is just that good.”
He added, “Once someone’s here, they identify with the area. The school system is obviously quite good. The resources of Penn State are nearby. The cycling communities are pretty active … Once people are in the community and realize what it has to offer, they tend to stick around.”
For other companies considering making the move to Happy Valley, Bush noted multiple other benefits that they can expect, including easy access to major East Coast cities, lots of available talent and ample entrepreneurial resources.
Need more? Businesses (and employees) looking to relocate to Happy Valley can also check out the HappyValley Industry Relocation page, for more info on what to expect.