Buffalo (WNY) has been my home since I was 6: 1985. I moved away after highschool graduation in 1997, because that’s what you do as the son of a travel agent whom exposed you to the rest of the world while you grew up. I also have been hyper-entrepreneurial since age 7, when I began selling my drawings to family members from the bedroom wall of my room at my father’s house. At age 8, I was setting up at flea markets to sell sports cards and comic books. Fast forward to my highschool years and this thing called the “world wide web” was opening the doors to vast opportunity.
Those opportunities were reluctantly available in Buffalo. I lived in 10 cities in about 10 years- Boston, Austin, Denver, and more. At the end of 2006, nearly 10 years after leaving, I decided to come home to plant my flag in the ground and be apart of something big — the revitalization of a city that once was the world’s envy, a booming center of commerce and innovation, a pioneer in the fields of power, capital and manufacturing.
But Buffalo has long been the underdog. One might say it has been since our run of 4 straight SuperBowl losses, but it’s been since the early 1900s. Though we were boosted by WWII industry, some say we never really recovered from the Great Depression. Our position as a shipping and logistics hub was obliterated with the 1959 opening of the St. Lawrence seaway, the rise of long haul trucking and a decrease of railway usage. A city built for a million people, we peaked to 600,000 residents in the 1950s and have been a 260,000 person shell of our former self.
As others like me have had to learn the long way, it took leaving for me to realize – despite past decades of decline – how unequivocally GREAT my city is. But recently I have never seen so much positive national attention to Buffalo in my thirty-five years of living. There are many cogs in this wheel of local and national “Buffalove” at play here, with the largest ones being undeniably Terry & Kim Pegula’s massive financial commitment to this city (owners now of both our pro sports teams; brand new $200mm HarborCenter), our waterfront becoming a year-round attraction for residents, Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” initiative, SolarCity (and the, to date, $750mm movement to make Buffalo the center of the solar-power industry), 43North $5mm business competition (attracting global businesses), Z80 Labs (first capital fund for web/mobile startup entrepreneurs), and a flurry of private investment being spent to update our city’s great historic buildings. (Don’t forget that in the early 1900’s, Buffalo had more millionaires per capita than any other city in the United States, spending their money on mansions and commercial architecture — these massive historical treasures simply do not exist anywhere else in the world.) Buffalo has shaken off its post-industrial past and, after a slow start, is quickly remaking itself as a leader for the new millennium.
The days of every conversation with Buffalo outsiders starting with their obligatory snow jabs are coming to a close.
Thank you to Anthony Armstrong of Make Communities for input and editing. Image credit: Douglas Levere, University at Buffalo.
Below are a list of national articles and blog posts about Buffalo. Please share others I may have missed in the comments section.