When asked for the primary reason why they live in Rochester, nearly half of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll chose family ties.
Roughly 18 percent of readers picked their jobs or careers. The cost of living, business opportunities, cultural assets and friends each got 4 percent of the responses.
Last week was a huge week in Rochester, with the 95th PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club shining a bright spotlight on the area. All week, PGA officials, players and visitors had praise for Oak Hill and Rochester as host city.
This positive impression stands in contrast to the view some Rochesterians have of their own city. These critics cite factors such as a lack of strong job growth, high property taxes and the difficulty of keeping young people here.
In fact, the Rochester metropolitan population of slightly more than 1 million has been stable in recent years, with a small increase from 2010 to 2012. In any given year, census data show, the vast majority of local residents choose to remain here.
Roughly 815 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted Aug. 12 and 13.
What is the primary reason you choose to live in the Rochester area?
Cost of living: 4%
Business opportunities: 4%
Cultural assets: 4%
Affordable housing: 3%
Natural resources: 2%
Colleges and universities: 2%
Sports/recreation opportunities: 1%
Commute time: 1%
I relocated from Boston almost two years ago and selected Rochester because of the overall quality of life that it offers-cost of living, commute times, schools, colleges/universities in the area, business opportunities and leisure pursuits. When asked about my relocation, I often find Rochesterians underrate their city.
I moved back to be near family and am finding that I love Rochester more than ever, and much more than I expected to at this point in my life-having lived in other great places. I work at the Hochstein School of Music & Dance, so I am particularly enjoying the arts and culture scene here.
Rochester has the total package: affordable cost of living, great weather (yes, even counting winter), world-class culture, natural beauty, history, friendly people, easy and quick to get around in, etc. I moved here for a job years ago but have fallen in love with the place and wouldn't want to live anywhere else. The absence of hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, forest fires is a plus. As is having plenty of clean drinking water-the petroleum of 2050. All in all, a terrific place to live!
—John Messenger, Fibertech Networks
It really is all about family. While I was born, raised and schooled here, I have lived in other places. Family, culture and natural resources are what keep me here.
—Tom Sargent, Penfield
What brought me here was to go to school at Rochester Institute of Technology. What kept me here for 22 years is the quality of life: the Erie Canal, cultural events, job opportunities, short commutes, affordable living and stable climate. By the way, I have lived in West Virginia, Florida, Alaska and North Carolina prior to metro Rochester.
For those of us who are not native-born Rochesterians, it was the opportunity available at the time; you go where the opportunities are. After that decision, it is the family ties, the high quality of education, living and friends you develop while in Rochester!
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield
Grew up in Rochester and lived in the Baltimore/Washington area for 11 years. Returned for the family business, but also for better schools, much shorter commutes, less dense population and a better environment to raise the kids. Only wish we could have brought the Maryland taxes with us (and while not great, they are far less than New York)!
—Peter Short, Pittsford
The Rochester community is highly educated and has evolved with a strong science and engineering focus. As such, this community is tolerant and affirming of new ideas. Embracing new ideas has spawned tolerance for difference, which has created a community that embraces civil rights for all. In addition, the Rochester community is very philanthropic. This philanthropy was begun by Bausch and Lomb, Eastman and the Wilsons. These leaders founded or endowed our colleges and universities to grow our community that would create the wealth to care for those less fortunate.
The Rochester area is a great place to live. Affordable housing, business opportunities, colleges, the Finger Lakes, commute time and good friends makes Rochester my home. High taxes and long winters are certainly the big negatives.
—Mike Hogan, Information Packaging
My wife and I moved to Rochester last year so we could raise our son closer to family. It took a few years to find the right career opportunities, sell our house back in Binghamton and buy a house out here, but it all worked out in the end. We're so happy to be here!
—Mike Kennerknecht, Tipping Point Public Relations
I love living in the Rochester area because it fits me. See, I believe in the philosophy, "Wherever you go, there you are." Some people say things like, "I need to move, because I need a fresh start." But if you move to Raleigh, you're still the same person you were when you lived here. I grew up on Long Island in the shadow of NYC; I went to Geneseo; I lived in the Phoenix area for five years. But of all the places, I love it here. I figured out who I am, and that has allowed me to see all that this town has to offer. I love all the choices provided in this poll: my wife's family lives here; cost of living is great; I have many good friends; I love the Red Wings, the RPO and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. My only disappointment is the evaporation of good jobs. There are many smart and talented people here in Rochester. They deserve a better fate than the layoffs they've received, while their former employers receive tax breaks and golden parachutes. You can love all Rochester has to offer, but a good-paying, reliable job is required; otherwise it's all for naught. We're a community of good people. I guess that makes us all good neighbors.
I stayed in Rochester after attending the College at Brockport (I grew up on Long Island) and never looked back. Rochester has the right combination of livability, natural resources and employment opportunities for me.
—JoAnne Sims, College at Brockport
If you have a job, Rochester is a great place to live and raise a family. Great schools, recreational opportunities and a philanthropic business community that cares. Despite the fact that our elected officials let us down on a daily basis, we work hard to make Rochester a great community.
—Dave Iadanza, Farmington
Many small-business owners who are older than 50 established their businesses when regulations, taxes, bureaucracy and other fees were much lower. As an example, I started my business in March 1981 at age 29, and there were not a lot of impediments, as there are in 2013. Aspiring young entrepreneurs will have a much easier time in business-friendly states versus the overbearing New York State.
—John Rynne, president, Rynne, Murphy & Associates Inc.
If not for family, I would leave in a heartbeat for better business opportunities, culture, jobs, schools, sports/recreation opportunities, weather and taxation.
The reason I chose to come to Rochester—education—is not the reason I chose to stay in Rochester, family. I came due to a fellowship in consultation-liaison psychiatry at the University of Rochester. I had moved four times in the past eight years, and I didn’t want to move again. I love water, and Rochester has Lake Ontario, the Finger Lakes and “A River Runs Through It.” And then there is always Wegmans.
—Clifford Jacobson M.D., Vanguard Psychiatric Services
Having lived in Pittsford all my life (which is over a half-century), I can easily say it is almost impossible to choose one of the above as each contributes to the reason for loving my home town. From family and friends to short commutes, cultural richness, beautiful topography and natural resources, the cost of living, as well as business opportunities. Even the weather is a plus when you consider the trade-off in other states in the U.S. Our state tax is our biggest downfall (in my opinion), which is a valid complaint. Consider the fact you don’t have to send your children to private schools (that is a choice) and your county services are superb.
—Michele Williams, community volunteer
Unmatched beauty and a great place to raise a family. However, the negatives of a tax-and-spend government and freedom-suppressing laws like the SAFE Act have our extended family looking to exit New York as soon as logistically possible.
I am a third-generation Rochesterian. We are a family of entrepreneurs doing our best to build a foundation and leave a legacy for the next generation. We hope to be able to accomplish these goals here. This is why it’s so important that our government—on all levels—provide the infrastructure and resources small businesses need to thrive, even in the most challenging economic environment.
—Nakiya T. Wyatt-Chambers, CPA
I have had opportunities to travel, yet I always love coming home to Rochester; I wouldn’t trade it (OK, maybe for Hawaii, and I’ve been there several times). We have it all: the change of seasons, the cultures, the food, seasonal activities (yes, even shoveling snow—to keep in shape), continuing education at colleges, BOCES, and independent educational/business entities, and our rich inner-city neighborhoods. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Though the weather is not ideal, there are great summers and a lot of things you don’t need to worry about in Rochester. No hurricanes, few tornadoes, no major earthquakes, no big bugs, few dangerous animals and plenty of water.
Let’s face it, Rochester has everything: boating, water skiing, snow skiing, wineries, mountains, farmland, fresh water supply, low cost of living, great food and great people. Rochester does not have: hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes. In 20 minutes you can get just about anywhere, including the country!
A job I love, a wonderful city home with warm and friendly neighbors, a wealth of cultural opportunities and wonderful restaurants, a wide array of beautiful outdoor places to explore. But there’s so much more—the Public Market on early Saturday mornings, the carousel and a leisurely stroll on the pier at Charlotte, a boat ride on the river, an ice cream cone along the canal.
—Janet Ekis, Monroe Community College
Rochester is a vibrant community focused on faith and family. The community’s potential for growth and the potential for the growth of the individual is unbounded. With a diversity of faith practices, county parks, academic institutions, sports venues, entrepreneurial ventures and business opportunities. this is the perfect area in which to reside and call home.
—Doug Reed, McElveney & Palozzi Design Group Inc.
I have lived in other states and other communities in New York State. I find that Rochester has the benefits of a small-town feel, with some of the big-city amenities (theater, festivals, museums). Property taxes may be high, but other areas have higher rates and fees, so it balances. I rarely consider relocating, although I would like my grandchildren closer. (They should move to the Rochester area!)
Although family is central to this answer, many of the other options are too critical to ignore: affordable housing, colleges and universities, commute time, cost of living, cultural assets and natural resources. I’d add religious and cultural diversity, too.
Spring, summer and fall are glorious—ever-changing colors, warm and sunny days, cool nights, crisp autumn days, great weather to enjoy hiking/biking/swimming and the beauty of area waterways and countryside.
Truth is that many of these reasons factor into the decision to live here. Certainly job/career is part of it, but I’ve had the chance to leave for a higher-paying job and chose not to. The cost of living (including housing) is a factor, but so (are) the cultural assets. I actually like the weather because it gives me four true seasons a year and allows me to enjoy my winter sporting activities. In the end I don’t think that it is one reason; it is the combination of all of these factors that makes it a great place to be.
—Lee Dame, CooperVision
I was born and raised in Rochester so family is what keeps me here. But I have also been blessed and fortunate (thus far) to remain gainfully employed since the age of 16. Although our major companies have dwindled in size and/or were sold, there are still a lot of great opportunities here and a number of wonderful things to do and attend. And for me living in the city, the commute is fabulous! (Takes about eight, 10 minutes tops.) I travel periodically, but after about four or five days, I am ready to come home, which I believe says a lot about this city and community.
It is impossible to reduce the rationale for living in this area to a single aspect. Everything in the list contributes to the positive experience of living in the Rochester area—and so many more reasons which are not on your list.
I sold my house in Florida to move here. Everyone tells me I’m crazy, but weather isn’t everything. Rochester offers a unique blend of culture, social life and a family setting. It’s convenient to get around, and the entertainment is accessible. I would move here just for the Jazz Festival, but life by the lake, the local restaurants and the friendly people would be enough by themselves.
—John Calia, CEO coach, Vistage International
Rochester, NY, is a great city with great people. I received my degree from RIT in 1981, met my wife here and lived in six different cities and ended up back in Rochester. We have great over-the-top schools/universities, great medical, sports from minors to nearby pro teams, a beautiful lake to the north and the central NY Finger Lakes region and breathtaking views and of course wines. Our weather is "normal” (if you like winter)—no hurricanes, earthquakes, mudslides or tornadoes. Activities are off the chart in the summer with festivals, Geva, RAPPA, great golf, hiking, boating and in the winter great ski resorts here and close by. Our economy is steady with small ups and downs but nothing based upon other markets that shoot up and then fall even faster. You can raise your family here and be confident. Traffic is minimal comparatively speaking and there is opportunity for working with large companies, small ventures and in between. Our city is on the mend with rebuilding the central downtown area. The ONLY problem with Rochester is it’s located in New York State where it makes it difficult to impossible to run your own business based upon the our democratic loser in Albany ... taxes, insurances, red tape and gun laws are also major issues. But that's not the (city’s) fault. If NY politics/government would just get out of the way and let capitalism do its thing, our local businesses/developers would grow this economy making it even better than it already is instead of selling and moving out.
—David Topian, Westminster Real Estate Advisors
I could have answered all of the above except for schools. I am concerned about the quality of education at the city public high school level on down. WE NEED CHANGE since the current system isn't working. Education needs to be instilled into our young ones that it is a priority, not merely a social function. It's the way to get ahead and make a better life for one and their families.
I really like Rochester, I wish the winters were shorter (nothing I can do able that). The taxes are too high in Rochester and NY; if I lived in my home state of Pa., the savings in taxes would allow me to purchase that Dodge Durango pulling the nice boat while taking a family vacation like the family on the Dodge commercials. You want to stimulate the local economy, cut my taxes and I WILL SPEND THE SAVINGS.
I have a lot of "no" reasons for living in the Rochester area. No floods. No fires. No hurricanes. No earthquakes. No tornadoes. No mudslides/landslides. No sinkholes. No bugs the size of your fist. No fire ants. No long commute times. No traffic jams nor thousands of people. No horn honkers. No high-cost housing. No extremely high nor low temperatures. The list goes on. Instead it snows sometimes which you can skate, ski, sled or play in. If it weren't for the onerous taxes in New York State, our north coast would look like San Francisco (without the fires, floods, earthquakes, etc.). So make sure you tell everyone how miserable and freezing cold it is here or how the sun hardly ever shines. Maybe they’ll all keep shaking and baking in Texas, Arizona or California. And leave us in our state of denial.
—Bob Fischl, president, TCC
I was born and raised here and lived in New Mexico for seven years. I returned because I needed four seasons, great schools, the Thousand Islands and all of the other items I would check except the last two. I love our area.
—Daniel Mossien, architect
I love Rochester's weather! I have hobbies for every kind of weather and for every season. As long as you have something to do during the colder seasons, the time will fly by. Being inactive during the coldest months isn't an option for me. (The only weather I don't like is 35-45 degrees and rain.) Most importantly, my family, friends and career are all here.
—Rich Calabrese Jr.
I really wish that I could have chosen more than one. I choose all of these reasons: colleges and universities, commute time, cost of living, cultural assets, family, friends, job/career, natural resources.
—Meg Colombo, Memorial Art Gallery
I have begun to look for work outside of Rochester and will relocate for the right opportunity despite any positive feelings I have for Rochester. I am discouraged by the lack of employment opportunities that allow for career transition in Rochester.
—Julia A, Wright
There are so many wonderful things to do here. We have many parks and museums which are world-class attractions. I cannot imagine living anywhere else. I love it here.
—Kim Pandina, Panda Wear designer and owner
For all Rochester's many and varied assets, few cities, if any, offer so much culture, per capita. Arts, in general, run deep and fast. However, in particular, and from admittedly biased perspective, Rochester's music community, perhaps more harmoniously than its sister-arts, sings (and plays) most loudly with such glimmering, glorious gusto.
Rochester has many positive attributes including few natural disasters, a reasonable cost of living, Wegmans, top-notch colleges and universities, and many human and community services. Personally, the top-notch medical care is my primary reason for staying here. I grew up in N.Y. City and I find Rochester has most of the positive aspects of a big city, and easy access to NYC and Toronto, with none of the negatives. I do think that school taxes in the city are too high for the level of student graduation and level of academic achievement.
—Frank Orienter, Rochester
I live on Seneca Lake and own and operate a bed and breakfast on Seneca. Prior to moving to the lake, we lived in Webster for 27 years. My husband still works part time in Rochester. The Rochester area is a wonderful place to live and to raise a family.
If and when our children leave Upstate NY, we're gone! Looking for warmer, snow-free weather, freedom from state income taxes, more rational moderately conservative politicians. Perhaps the Lone Star State, eh?
—Tom Shea, Thomas P. Shea Agency, Inc.
8/16/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.