Residents already knew the secret, but it’s out now: State College is the best town in Pennsylvania. In the 2015 rankings from Niche, State College topped the state list for “best towns” and came in at 14th in the nation.
Niche is an online service that ranks towns, cities, suburbs, colleges, and more using a number of criteria. Those include things to do, ease of commute, education, community, housing, jobs, crime/safety, health/fitness, outdoor activities, and weather.
Mayor Elizabeth Goreham already knew she lived in a great town, but was still pleasantly shocked by the town’s high ranking. “I’m surprised and delighted,” she said. “I see that we’re number one in Pennsylvania and I like that a lot. It’s a great place to live.”
State College edged out DuBois, Huntingdon, Bloomsburg, and Spring Township in the ranking for best Pennsylvania town. Ferguson Township and Patton Township did well in the rankings as well, coming in as the fifth and eighth best Pennsylvania suburbs respectively.
State College regularly ranks high on lists of top college towns or the safest towns in the nation, but Niche gave the town a “B” for crime and safety. While Goreham generally agreed with the individual criterium grades, she took issue with the relatively low mark for safety.
“We pride ourselves especially on safety, and I saw that our police department didn’t get a great rating,” she said. “We are normally very highly ranked as a safe place to live. I hate to let the secret out, but some people who lived here a long time don’t even lock their doors and they do it with impunity.”
Goreham adds that State College is one of the safest towns in the nation and that borough police are known for being humane when dealing with unruly people in town, particularly those under the influence of “alcohol or maybe the other shrub” as Goreham put it.
When it comes to the town’s two lowest grades, a “B-” for both jobs and housing, Goreham had no choice but to agree.
“They appropriately said that job opportunities were not ranked that high,” Goreham said, “and I think that is an issue we’re trying to address now with a new burst of enthusiasm for entrepreneurial encouragement and trying to create companies that offer jobs to the intelligent workforce we are creating here.”
As for housing, Goreham says the town has rebounded nicely from a lack of student housing in the past, but it’s now time to address affordable housing for working professionals.
“The real shortfall is workforce housing for people who want to live in town or close to town,” Goreham said. “They’re not able to find an affordable place. Housing is available but it’s relatively costly because of the competition with student housing. That’s a problem that we share with other college towns.”
But in the end, Goreham says that State College is an extremely attractive place to live. She cites the Knight Foundation’s Soul of the Community report, which ranked the borough highly in three categories that are particularly resonant with people deciding where to live.
“First, we have a lot of social offerings,” Goreham said. “Secondly, it’s a beautiful place. And thirdly, and I like this one very much, is our willingness to change.”
She cites the town’s emphasis on green initiatives and its work to leave a smaller carbon footprint in response to global warming. Another area where the town has accepted change, she said, is the implementation of more bike paths in lieu of parking.
“In this town, like Garrison Keiller once said, everybody’s above average, and I think that’s true,” Goreham said. “I’m very heartened to see this recognition because much of it doesn’t come easily.”