Towns take pride in top 20 suburbs listing

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Nine times out of 10, when a reporter doesn't try to get his side of the story, Greg Smith might fume about a bad-news moon rising over the township.

But, then, there's always a time like this, when the Moon manager's reaction to not being contacted about a story involving the township results in a happy surprise.

"They didn't ask us anything," Mr. Smith said, as happy as can be about Moon and neighboring Coraopolis being named one of the 20 most livable suburbs in the Northeast by BusinessWeek.com.

"They got it on their own. We saw the article on the Web. We had no idea what was going on. We had no clue."

In neighboring Coraopolis, borough Manager Tom Cellante said he, too, didn't know the story was being written, but he was not shocked.

"As a resident of Coraopolis and a past resident of Moon, I feel that the West Hills area offers affordable housing, ample shopping and a safe environment without the congestion that you find in other areas," Mr. Cellante said.

Toss in their proximity to interstate highways and Pittsburgh International Airport, he said, and a Business Week chart-topper was overdue.

Mr. Smith came across the April 30 story by accident a couple of weeks ago. He was researching economic data for the township Web site, he said, when he searched "15108," the ZIP code Moon shares with Coraopolis, on the Internet.

Within seconds, reference to Top 20 this or that caught his eye.

After weighing ZIP code-based socioeconomic data on schools, crime, home prices and cost of living, BusinessWeek.com said, it settled on ZIP codes close to Northeast cities that offered the best value.

"Most of these places have better-than-average schools and lower-than-average crime rates. What these places don't have are blocks lined with million-dollar homes," the article reads.

The cost of living index among the Top 20 was 131, the median home price was $377,635, the secondary test score index was 111.4, and the violent crime index is 55. An index of 100 represents the national average, while a place like New York City has a cost of living index of 256.

Even when compared with the other most affordable suburbs, the area often came out ahead. The cost of living index was 95.2, the median home price was $165,500, the secondary test score index was 124 and the violent crime index was 32.

Mr. Smith said one of the key factors in Moon's selection might have been its strong corporate presence. Moon is home to a number of large corporations, including FedEx Ground, the consumer division of GlaxoSmithKline, Nova Chemicals, Michael Baker Corp. and ATS Chester Engineers. It also got points for being home to Robert Morris University's main campus.

"It appears that the nation is finding out what a great place our area is to live, raise a family and do business. We have noticed a significant uptick in interest by businesses seeking to locate their business in Moon," Mr. Smith said.

What made the study's approach a bit different is that it included ZIP codes extending as far as 60 miles from a major city, which is how Fruitville, Lancaster County, 55 miles from Baltimore, made the cut. It also was not bound by state lines.

Five places with Pennsylvania ties made the list: In addition to Moon and Fruitville, there were Arden and Brandywine, Del., and West Chester, near Philadelphia; and York, near Baltimore. The story did not rank the top 20 ZIP codes one by one, choosing instead to list them alphabetically.

"Does it all sound too good to be true? Ask the residents of Coraopolis and Moon Township, Pa. (they share the same ZIP code), located just 15 to 20 minutes outside Pittsburgh," the article by Maya Roney said.


David Guo can be reached at dguo@post-gazette.com or 724-375-6815.


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