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Rochester offers a perfect balance for go-getters

Roderic Burrill admits that if his wife had not grown up here, he might never have known about Rochester. But once he learned about all it has to offer, he decided it would be his home, too.
 
"I view Rochester as one of America’s best-kept secrets," says Burrill, director of business development at Logical Images Inc. and a 2012 Forty Under 40 honoree.
 
Burrill, who met his wife while working in Philadelphia, grew up in the Washington, D.C., area. Newly married and enjoying their jobs at Fortune 500 companies, they began thinking about starting a family when moving to Rochester became a possibility.
 
"We were really starting to think about the complete picture," Burrill says, "finding a place where you could work and live and be successful and happy in both areas."
 
The couple took a leap of faith and moved to Rochester, even before they had new jobs lined up. It was a move they have not regretted, Burrill says.
 
"Rochester represents the perfect balance. It truly is a great place to live and to work," he says.
 
Not long after relocating, Burrill’s wife took a position as a business analyst with JPMorgan Chase & Co. and he began work at a pharmaceutical company before joining Logical Images. The Burrills now live in Pittsford with their two school-aged boys.
 
"A key factor in our decision to move to Rochester was the educational system. The public schools are top-ranked both statewide and nationally," Burrill says. "This is important."
 
He also decided to take advantage of the higher education system here, enrolling in the executive MBA program at the University of Rochester’s Simon School of Business, earning his degree as part of the 21-month program. His wife also is back in school, attending classes to become a registered dietitian.
 
Another quality Burrill sees in Rochester is its ability to grow and adapt.
 
"It is evolving," he says. "I think Rochester has made great strides at re-energizing the city itself, but this is probably the single most important task of the near future in terms of retaining and drawing in more young professionals."
 
He points to companies such as ESL Federal Credit Union and Windstream Corp. as examples of the growth needed to bring jobs downtown, and he notes the role small businesses like Logical Images play in the economic development of the area.
 
"We need to build on the work being done now so that the city is even stronger," Burrill says. "A strong center city is the hallmark of the most prosperous and stable communities in the country."
 
For Filippa Santiago, Rochester is an outstanding place to live, especially because of the medical community here. Santiago, 38, is a vice president at Vargas Associates, a company that specializes in relocation and design services.
 
She manages major accounts such as the recent Rochester City School District project to relocate a million square feet of the schools to allow renovations to occur.
 
"This is a wonderful community to have work and be a mom at the same time," says Santiago, a 2012 Forty Under 40 alum.
 
Rochester became especially dear to her when her son was diagnosed with a serious medical condition.
 
"The Golisano Children’s Hospital helped save my son’s life," she says. "He was born with a neuromuscular disease, and we didn’t know it. At 11 months old we gave him Tylenol and he ended up in the ICU. He’s been back to the hospital three times a year until he was 8. That’s why I feel so strongly connected here."
 
Today Nicolas is a strong 13-year-old.
 
"The doctors and nurses were so helpful, and I know the medical services here are second to none," Santiago says. "When you are faced with mortality and you see your child at risk, it really changes you. It connects you more to your community."
 
To help others navigate the harrowing experience of a child’s medical trauma, Santiago volunteers as a mentor for parents who need help. She says her husband was also changed by the experience and became motivated to help children. He recently earned a graduate degree in social work from Roberts Wesleyan College.
 
For Philip Yawman, it is not easy to decide whether the professional or personal reasons are the best explanation for why he is glad he made Rochester his home. He had two job offers coming out of graduate school-one to work in Rochester and another in Washington, D.C.
 
"Once I got into telecom, Rochester was a great market," Yawman says. "A lot of successful companies were born out of deregulation."
 
Yawman, vice president and general manager for Greater Rochester at Frontier Communications, grew up in Fairport and has traveled extensively for work to places such as Boston, New York City and Pittsburgh. The 2000 Forty Under 40 honoree still sees Rochester as the best place for business and pleasure.
 
"Generally speaking, Rochester has a highly educated workforce, with actively growing companies in the midsize space and growing in areas from manufacturing to education to health care," he says. "There is a good quality of life here with a short, 20-minute commute from almost anywhere in the county, and the cost of living is affordable."
 
There also is more opportunity for professional growth and development at a younger age, he says. Yawman lives in Perinton with his wife, Cheryl, and two daughters.
 
"Since we grew up here, we have lots of friends here and all four grandparents," he says. "Having them involved is a blessing that definitely adds."
 
As a big sports fan, Yawman also counts it a blessing that so many minor-league and major-league teams play close to Rochester.
 
"Just an hour down the road we have the best in major college basketball with Syracuse University, and then an hour the other way there is NHL and NFL, on top of the Red Wings, soccer, Amerks-not to mention world-class golf comes here," he says.
 
Even when he feels the need to get away now and then, Yawman says, he does not have to go very far for that. He has a cottage in Sodus.
 
"It’s just a 35-minute drive from here," he says. "How many cities have lakes so close, where people can get away for the weekend?"
 
Coming home to Rochester was a decision that Elayna Bittner, a 2012 Forty Under 40 honoree, had wanted to make so she could be close to her mother when her father passed away. She had been living outside Boston for three years after graduating from Cornell University.
 
"I grew up in Pittsford and wanted to experience a bigger city," Bittner says. "I didn’t love living around Boston, though, so when my dad died, it felt right to come home. Actually, four of my five high school friends who moved away have also come back. One never left."
 
The closeness of family and personal ties is not the only draw. Bittner says she has enjoyed a career change from corporate marketing to real estate.
 
"We’re pretty steady-eddy here," she says. "We don’t have the volatility other markets have. I won’t make a boatload of money when the prices go up, but I won’t have to worry about going broke either."
 
She also feels her age gives her an advantage.
 
"What’s interesting is the average age of real estate agents here is getting older-between 57 and 64," Bittner notes. "From my perspective, I’m coming at it with an advantage. I can do the technology. It puts me in a unique position to build a long-term position."
 
Also, Bittner says, she probably would not be selling as much real estate in other cities as she does in Rochester.
 
"My dad said I always wanted to help people, and I truly look at my work here that way. I’m helping people, right here at home," she says.

Lori Gable is a Rochester-area freelance writer. 

11/15/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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