Sunday, December 27, 2015


Despite some bumps and bruises, and despite a healthy dose of pessimism, Rochester still maintains a passionate fan base.  The obvious draw to the region is a relatively hassle-free life normally associated with a small city combined with a culturally rich life normally associated with a booming metropolis.  In many cases, the offerings of Rochester may not be immediately apparent or heavily advertised.  Yet in Rochester's usual understated manner, a small amount of exploration can lead to remarkable discovery.  A perfect example is the local architecture.  Numerous American architectural styles can be found, often in remarkable proximity to one another.  And while Buffalo has been more of an architectural destination, Rochester holds its own, even when it comes to the big names.  Here are a few examples:

  • The Powers Building in downtown Rochester was designed by Andrew Jackson Warner.  Warner, a noted architect in his own right, served as the supervisory architect for Buffalo's Richardson Olmsted Complex, designed by H.H. Richardson (think Richardsonian Romanesque.)
  • Frank Lloyd Wright graced Rochester with his work in the form of the Edward E. Boynton House.  Unlike most of his other gems, the house remains a private, single-family residence today.
  • The First Unitarian Church of Rochester was designed by none other than Louis Kahn, whose work includes must-see architectural treasures such as the Salk Institute in La Jolla (San Diego.)
  • Rochester's third tallest building, a relatively unique structure called The Metropolitan (formerly Chase Tower), was designed by John Graham & Company, best known for designing the Space Needle in Seattle.
  • As noted previously, landscape architecture in Rochester is the real deal.  Famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted designed multiple local parks including Highland Park, Genesee Valley Park, Seneca Park, and Maplewood Park.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

More on Downtown

As recently indicated, Rochester is just one of many American cities which has experienced population loss over the past 65 years.  Yet a look around the Northeast and Midwest seems to suggest that Rochester's downtown renaissance is behind the times.  While other cities hit a population nadir in the 2000 Census, Rochester's has yet to officially occur.  Obviously, the region's loud pessimistic voice (which has hopefully all moved to the Carolinas and Florida within the next few years) can take this statistic and run with it.  What if, however, a reasonable explanation exists? Could it be that Rochester's downtown decline occurred later than average? And if so, wouldn't logic have it that a rebirth would also occur later than average? Here is some evidence, albeit soft, that Rochester is actually following the standard timeline:

  • Most American cities which have undergone the cycle of growth, decline, and renewal hit rock bottom in the early to mid-1980s.
  • Most cities which nadired in the early to mid-1980s began to experience growth in the early 2000s, or about 20 years after reaching their floor.
  • Certain evidence points to Rochester's valley occurring in the early to mid-1990s.  For example, McCurdy's and Forman's closed in 1994.  Wegmans closed its downtown branch at about the same time.  In fact, Midtown Plaza didn't formally close until 2008.
  • If Rochester's low point did in fact occur in the early to mid-1990s, we would expect that its awakening should be beginning basically now.

A look around downtown might suggest that we're right on track.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Sports Factor, Gone Wrong

As previously noted, Rochester does not benefit from the free advertising which comes along with a major sports team.  To add insult to injury, it could be argued that the region's brand has actually suffered based upon mere proximity to an NFL team: the Buffalo Bills.

Buffalo, quite unfairly, is the posterchild for being reputationally challenged.  Rochester, being just one hour east, comes along for the ride.  The Bills cannot be said to have assisted in shaking this reputation. The franchise is best known for losing four consecutive Super Bowls.  (As a recent ESPN 30 for 30 notes, making four straight Super Bowls was a remarkable feat.  Unfortunately, the losses remain entrenched in sports conversation.)  More recently, the Bills have the longest playoff drought in all four major American professional sports.  Barring a minor miracle over the next three weeks, this drought does not appear to be ending anytime soon.  The Bills suboptimal performance has fueled Buffalo's suboptimal stature.  This rocky relationship has dwarfed the following features of a (hopefully) soon-to-be great-again city:

  • As per The Washington Post, Buffalo is considered a must-see among fans of great architecture.  Three of America's greatest architects, namely Louis Sullivan, H.H. Richardson, and Frank Lloyd Wright, had a hand in Buffalo's elegance.
  • In art circles, Buffalo's Albright-Knox Art Gallery is recognized as having one of the most significant collections of modern and contemporary art in North America.  Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, Henri Matisse, Paul Gauguin, Jackson Pollock, and Andy Warhol are a few of the names represented.
  • Buffalo's park and parkways system, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (think Central Park in New York City), is recognized as one of the best urban green spaces in the world.
  • In 2007, Buffalo's Elmwood Village was recognized by the American Planning Association as one of 10 Great Neighborhoods in America.  This recognition placed Elmwood Village in the company of neighborhoods in Washington, DC; San Francisco, CA; Austin, TX; Brooklyn, NY; and Seattle, WA.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Alive and Well

The city of Rochester's population loss is well-documented and often cited as evidence for the region's supposed decline.  As a consequence, Rochester has occasionally landed itself on lists identifying America's "dying" cities.  Ignored is the fact that the city represents less than 20 percent of the region, and the metro area continues to exhibit slow growth.  Also ignored is the fact that many of America's great cities have experienced a decline in population since the middle of the 20th century.  Rochester naysayers might be disappointed to note a few surprising examples of cities which experienced significant population loss between 1950 and 2010:

  • Chicago: A 1950 population of 3,620,962 had dropped to 2,695,598 in 2010.
  • Philadelphia: A 1950 population of 2,071,605 had dropped to 1,526,006 in 2010.
  • Washington, DC: A 1950 population of 802,178 had dropped to 601,723 in 2010.
  • Boston: A 1950 population of 801,444 had dropped to 617,594 in 2010.
  • Minneapolis: A 1950 population of 521,718 had dropped to 382,578 in 2010.
It should be noted that the above cities are now in the process of repopulation.  Of course, Rochester is free to follow suit. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Rochester, NY vs. Portland, OR

As may have been apparent in previous posts, I have Portland envy.  Not that Portland, ME, is any slouch, but I'm referring to Portland, OR.  Granted the Portland, OR, metro area is over twice the size of the Rochester metro area, is around 90 minutes from the Pacific Ocean, and has mountains.  On the other hand, Rochester is reasonably sized, is on Lake Ontario and very near the Finger Lakes, and holds its own when it comes to outdoorsiness.  Furthermore, Rochester is beginning to mirror Portland's beer and coffee scene, and it abuts a formidable wine region just as Portland does.  The demographics of the Rochester region are somewhat similar to those of Portland, and educational attainment is nearly identical.  Both cities have an inferiority complex, with Portland's self-doubt stemming from proximity to Seattle and Rochester's insecurity deriving from its Northeast neighbors.  Both areas have ample precipitation, with Portland actually taking the edge in terms of cloudiness.

Why, then, is Portland viewed as remarkably desirable while Rochester gets the shaft? Appearance goes a long way, and downtown Portland's appearance essentially crushes that of Rochester.  Which demands yet another question: WHY?

Many factors may be in play, but regional planning, or lack thereof, is quite possibly the key.  Portland has a directly elected regional government (aptly called Metro) which takes a broad view on metropolitan development.  Logically, the health of the core is prioritized over the health of the periphery.  Unfortunately, Rochester has opted for persistent fragmentation.  The result of Rochester's system is a wide array of geographically connected entities which are in economic competition.  Perhaps someone more informed than myself can explain the following (and correct me if I'm wrong):

  • Rochester's fastest growing suburb, Victor, is not in the same county as the city of Rochester.  Victor, in Ontario County, has attracted many young families with its lower property taxes compared to Rochester's Monroe County.  As such, Victor residents benefit from the economic and cultural assets of the region without having to contend to the same extent with supporting the urban core.  
  • Within Monroe County, Rochester's suburbs seem to compete with the city of Rochester.  A new development in a suburb is not on the city's tax roll and vice versa.
  • The city of Rochester and Monroe County enjoy bickering over who pays for what, apparently ignoring the fact that they may have a common interest or two.
Because of this fragmentation, Rochesterians have to point to data to sell the area, while better managed regions can allow aesthetics to do the talking.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Smugness and Beer

In 1957, Rochester was officially declared "Smugtown."  In that year, Curt Gerling published his book entitled Smugtown U.S.A., a scathing commentary on the business and social life in Rochester during that era.

As a transplant from the BosWash corridor over 50 years later, my initial impression has been that any smugness in the Rochester region pales in comparison to that found along the East Coast.  Rochester seems to have done quite well in combining intelligence with down-to-earthness.

Yet there is one source which suggests that snobbery in the area is alive and well.  As the local beer scene has blossomed, it appears that snootiness has come along for the ride.  Here is a list of the Top Beer Snob cities (unclear if cities or metro areas), i.e. the locations with the highest percentage of bars and restaurants that do NOT serve Bud Light, Coors Light, or Miller Lite.  The top 10 are:

  • Bellingham, WA (92%)
  • Oakland, CA (89%)
  • Washington, DC (85%)
  • Sacramento, CA (83%)
  • Los Angeles, CA (81%)
  • San Francisco, CA (81%)
  • Pasadena, CA (80%)
  • Rochester, NY (79%)
  • Berkeley, CA (78%)
  • Louisville, KY (76%)    

Sunday, December 6, 2015


Every few months, we receive a friendly reminder about the critical level of poverty in the city of Rochester.  Obviously, the issue warrants significant concern, though a recalibrated perspective never hurts.  As previously shown, redrawing the boundaries of the city such that it includes 45.8% of the metro area (as is the case in many parts of the country) would suddenly turn one of the poorest cities in the country into a relatively "wealthy" city.

Unfortunately, the probability of enlarging the land area of the city is exceedingly low.  As such, the only hope for a geographically restricted entity such as Rochester is to either (a) hope that excessively harping on poverty makes it disappear, or (b) repopulate the city with residents who are above the poverty level.

The city of Rochester had its highest rate of population loss between 1970 and 1980.  In 1970, the population was 296,233, and in 1980 it had declined to 241,741 (a loss of 18.4%.)  What if Rochester's population moved from its current 210,000 back up to the levels seen between 1970 and 1980?

  • Adding 72,857 residents above the poverty level would move Rochester's population to 282,857 and drop the poverty rate from about 33% to 24.5%, i.e. the same as Dallas.
  • Adding 56,538 residents above the poverty level would move Rochester's population to 266,538 and drop the poverty rate from about 33% to 26%, i.e. the same as Philadelphia.
Obviously such repopulation might seem like a pipe dream.  On the other hand, Boise, Idaho, has added 90,544 residents over the past 24 years.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Sports Factor

A common theme of this blog is the poor (or perhaps horrendous) branding of Rochester.  The metro area offers world-class universities, an elite music school, one of the nation's largest wine regions, seven percent of the world's fresh water supply, top-shelf public education, a history of truly iconic companies and convention-challenging personalities, and remarkable creativity and ingenuity.  Yet I have been asked ludicrous questions such as:

  1. Do they have soccer leagues for children?
  2. Do they have taxis? and
  3. Do they have Uber? (Okay, maybe not so ludicrous a question)
Such interrogation is obviously somewhat irritating, and it is also somewhat shocking.  How can a reasonably sized metro area be so misunderstood?

While many contributors are in play, one simple explanation involves the sports factor.  Similarly sized regions achieve an element of name recognition (i.e. branding) via the presence of major sports teams.  A look at some of America's biggest money makers (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, Division I college football, and Division I college basketball) illustrates why Rochester is mired in anonymity:

  • New Orleans MSA (population 1,251,849): NFL, NBA, DI football, DI basketball (2)
  • Raleigh, NC MSA (population 1,242,974): NHL, DI football* (3), DI basketball* (3)
  • Salt Lake City MSA (population 1,153,340): NBA, MLS, DI football, DI basketball
  • Buffalo MSA (population 1,136,360): NFL, NHL, DI football, DI basketball (3)
  • Rochester, NY MSA (population 1,083,393): NOTHING!         

MSA=Metropolitan Statistical Area
*Includes nearby MSAs
2014 population estimates   

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Rochester is without a doubt a family-oriented town.  Couple that quality with decent food, and one might expect that Rochester is a hot spot for Thanksgiving.

Lo and behold, it is.  I fully realize that the following ranking is rather laughable, yet I find it truly remarkable that underappreciated Rochester always seems to find itself on such lists.  The study sought to identify the Top 10 Best Places for Thanksgiving Celebrations.  The 100 most populated metro areas were analyzed based on the increase in inbound airport traffic, turkey consumption, Pepto-Bismol sales,  and a consumer poll which essentially assessed the size of celebrations.  The winners were:

  1. Akron, OH
  2. West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, FL
  3. Columbus, OH
  4. Fort Worth-Arlington, TX
  5. Las Vegas, NV
  6. Rochester, NY
  7. Salt Lake City, UT
  8. Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN
  9. Philadelphia, PA
  10. Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills, MI

Sunday, November 22, 2015


As alluded to many times previously, Rochesterians have a tendency to be hypercritical when it comes to analysis of their surroundings.  Being in the same state as New York City and just across the (great) lake from Toronto, standards are high.  Yet trying to pit Rochester's food scene against that of two of the largest cities in North America is not particularly fair.  Rochester's charm shines when the local offerings are viewed in the context of a great cost of living and generally hassle-free life.  And thus, the food scene needs to be assessed through a similar lens.  How is Rochester's culinary situation when affordability is taken into account? As it turns out, pretty darn good.

This ranking by WalletHub attempted to capture the best cities for foodies on a budget.  Affordability, diversity, accessibility, and quality were measured using 18 metrics.  (Interestingly, Rochester didn't even fare particularly well in affordability yet performed very well overall.)  While such rankings can be questionable, the presence of Portland, OR; San Francisco, CA; and Seattle, WA, seems to legitimize this list.  Here are the Top 10:

  1. Portland, OR
  2. Orlando, FL
  3. San Francisco, CA
  4. Oakland, CA
  5. Seattle, WA
  6. Cincinnati, OH
  7. Santa Rosa, CA
  8. Tampa, FL
  9. Rochester, NY
  10. Miami, FL

Sunday, November 15, 2015


I have been asked the following question several times: "Where do I fly to get to Rochester?" To which I usually reply, "Rochester."  The general surprise that comes with learning about Rochester's airport is yet another marker of the fact that the region is poorly branded and overall misunderstood.  Although the Greater Rochester International Airport is by no means a transportation hotspot, it suits the region well.  Here are a few facts that exemplify how the airport adds to an already remarkable quality of life:

  • Direct flights are available to major cities such as New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Toronto, Boston, and Atlanta.  As such, when the airport calls itself a "Gateway to the World," that's actually kind of reasonable.
  • A door-to-door trip can easily be less than 30 minutes.  That means getting from your front door to a parking lot, taking a shuttle to the airport, checking in, clearing security, buying a magazine, and reaching the departing gate can occur in under 30 minutes.
  • The airport is barely 3 miles from downtown and actually looks really nice.
  • Shuttle parking is available for $7 per night.
  • Wi-Fi is free.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Life

Rochester's reputation on a national level is less than optimal:

  1. Rochester is located in two regions which have taken a beating, namely the Rust Belt and Upstate New York.
  2. It snows from time to time.
  3. Although on the upswing, downtown can still look like this on a Saturday afternoon.

Yet the region continues to grow.  Many who move away do so with angst.  Others who move away come back.  Transplants nearly universally recognize Rochester as a gem.  Because despite certain blemishes, Rochester can truly provide the good life.

Here is another source that recognizes the beauty of living here.  Family Circle recently studied 4,500 cities and towns with populations between 10,000 and 100,000.  From that, 1,400 localities having a high concentration of households with median incomes between $60,000 and $110,000 were chosen.  Locations were then ranked based on affordable homes, quality schools, access to health care, low crime rate, and financial stability.  In their words, the ten highest rated towns "have it all - great schools, affordable housing, and outstanding community spirit." In no particular order, and with the nearest city in parentheses, they were:
  • East Grand Rapids, MI (Grand Rapids)
  • Issaquah, WA (Seattle)
  • Mason, OH (Cincinnati)
  • Matthews, NC (Charlotte)
  • Hernando, MS (Memphis, TN)
  • Waukee, IA (Des Moines)
  • Waunakee, WI (Madison)
  • West Linn, OR (Portland)
  • Weston, FL (Fort Lauderdale)
  • Pittsford, NY (Rochester)

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Youth Movement

After moving to the region, I was often force fed the "fact" that Rochester lacked young people.  Despite seeing large numbers of young(ish) residents on a regular basis, I accepted the idea that Rochester was essentially one big nursing home.  Ultimately, I realized that my sources were pushing the same old lazy story about Rochester, i.e. the one that includes a shrinking metro area (false), ongoing private sector job loss (false), and a dying downtown (false).  And thus, as part of the difficult, underappreciated, and often ignored task of depicting the true Rochester, I was curious to ascertain just how old Rochester actually is:

  • From 2007-2013, the share of jobs in the Rochester metro area performed by those aged 22-34 increased from 24.7% to 26.5%.  That was one of the largest jumps in the country.
  • 2014 estimates show that roughly 28% of Monroe County's residents are millennials, outnumbering baby boomers who account for 26%.
  • As per The Rochesterian, from 2010-2012, 59.7% of people moving to the Rochester region were 18-34 years old.  (In other words, when looking at the people moving here, a lot of them are pretty young.)  That was the second highest percentage among large metro areas.  Of course, this number is bloated due to a high concentration of universities, and many may not stay due to a lack of job opportunities.  Which gets me to the last point...
  • If, just if, employment and entrepreneurial options can grow, Rochester will have amazing access to a surprising youth movement.

Friday, October 23, 2015


Without a doubt, downtown Rochester is the metro area's most glaring weakness.  The 1980s and 1990s were not kind to the center city, and those who were around to watch it fall continue to harbor a sense of loss which translates into ongoing pessimism.  Fortunately, those of us who are either younger or recent transplants have a remarkably positive outlook on the future of downtown.  Does this optimism simply represent naivete, or is it based in fact? Here is one set of statistics which suggests that Rochester is on its way to overcoming its greatest blemish.  (Note: some would argue that concentrated poverty and urban education are bigger problems, but I would counter by saying that repopulating the city will "solve" those problems statistically much faster than any idealistic model that claims it can rapidly reverse generations of undereducation and underachievement.)

  • From 2000 to 2014, downtown Rochester's population increased from 3,239 to 6,138 (i.e. almost doubled.)
  • By 2016, downtown's population is anticipated to be 7,873.
  • If this rate of growth of 143% every 16 years were to continue (a big if, I know), downtown Rochester would have almost 19,000 residents by 2032.  That number is remarkably close to the Brookings Institution's 2 percent solution for creating a healthy and vital city.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

More on the Arts

At this point, it is pretty clear that the arts dominate the Rochester scene.  Take an inherent creativity and then substitute the rigidity of the East Coast with a partially West Coast flair, and the formula is highly supportive of artistry.  Here is yet more data which indicates just how cultured Rochester can be (with the important caveat that since this was released, Rochester has fallen out of the 100 largest cities in the country):

  • As of 2011, a study of the 100 largest American cities showed that 9.45% of the jobs in the city of Rochester were arts-related.  That was the highest percentage in the country.
  • Another way of looking at the above is that there were 60.78 arts-related jobs in Rochester per 1,000 city residents.  That was, of course, the most of any city, with #2 being Atlanta at 41.55 arts-related jobs per 1,000 city residents.
  • Despite at the time being the 98th largest city by population, only 19 other cities had more total arts-related jobs.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


After living in and around New York City for seven years, it was pretty easy to give up faith in the radio.  The music was loud and bad, and it repeated itself every hour (or so it seemed.)  Along with the expected upgrades that came with moving to Rochester such as cost of living and commute times came an unexpected upgrade: great radio stations.  While Rochester has its share of corporate stations, it takes its music seriously.  The result is some slightly off the beaten bath gems.  Here are a few examples:

  • WITR (89.7 FM) is broadcast from the Rochester Institute of Technology.  Offering a unique mix of indie, alternative, and specialty music, WITR is considered one of the best college radio stations in the country.
  • WGMC (90.1 FM), or Jazz 90.1, is listener supported and broadcast from a high school in the Rochester suburb of Greece.  In addition to providing programs in Lithuanian, German, and Spanish, Jazz 90.1 is one of perhaps 55 stations nationwide dedicated to jazz.
  • WBER (90.5 FM) is a local, independent, and commercial-free radio station that derives support from listeners and local school districts.  With an eclectic mix of music which can generally be defined as alternative, WBER serves as a much needed antidote to the mindless babble otherwise available on a morning commute.  It has been recognized (at least by some random guy) as one of the 40 Best Little Radio Stations in the country.
  • WEPL (97.1 FM) doesn't exist yet, but it illustrates an important point about Rochester.  Upstate New York is often unfairly labelled as homogeneous.  In Rochester's case, the label is particularly unjust and generally inaccurate.  WEPL will be a 24-hour Spanish radio station catering to Rochester's Spanish speaking community which is the largest in New York State outside New York City.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Red Wings

As a reasonably big sports fan, the absence of a major league sports team in Rochester was of some concern prior to moving here.  Upon arrival, it was clear that the lack of such a team was quite possibly an asset in that it allowed leisure money to flow to the thriving arts scene.  While similarly sized metro areas such as Buffalo and Salt Lake City have big time sports, Rochester has remained a major league arts town while sticking to the minor leagues in America's big four sports (not including the pre-1960 era.)  And in typical Rochester fashion, it does the minor leagues extremely well.  A great example is the Rochester Red Wings, currently the Triple A (baseball) affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.  Here are a few interesting facts:

  • Only six franchises in the history of North American professional sports have been playing in the same city and the same league uninterrupted since the 19th century: the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, and Rochester Red Wings.
  • Red Wings alumni include Bob Gibson, Stan Musial, and Cal Ripken, Jr.
  • Frontier Field, home of the Red Wings, was recently ranked as the third best minor league ballpark in the country.
  • Among over 200 communities, Rochester is considered a top 20 minor league market and at times has ranked as high as number two.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A New Rochester?

Without a doubt, Rochester has had to deal with a fair amount of adversity over the years.  The downsizing and/or relocation of many large employers has translated into the loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs.  And watching a once vibrant downtown bleed residents and businesses is an experience many would choose to forget.  Yet somehow, someway, Rochester has managed to chug along.  For those of us who don't know any better, optimism seems to come easy.  Here is a brief (and incomplete) glance at Rochester since 2007:

  • Economy: Economic indicators can be mixed, but two facts are worth noting.   In 2007, prior to the recession, unemployment in Rochester was under 5% - it is under 5% now.  And all jobs lost in the recession have been regained.
  • New Retail Options (half of which are within city limits): Hart's Local Grocers, Trader Joe's, West Elm, Benrus, Von Maur, Costco, Century Pittsford Wines, and L.L. Bean
  • New Food and Beverage Options (ALL of which are within city limits!): The Revelry, Good Luck, Blu Wolf Bistro, City Grill Rochester, Lento, TRATA, Char Steak & Lounge, Village Bakery, Tap & Mallet, Genesee Brew House, Lost Borough Brewing Company, Roc Brewing Company, Swiftwater Brewing, Three Heads Brewing (coming soon), Black Button Distilling, Joe Bean, Pour Coffee Parlor, and Fuego Coffee Roasters

Monday, September 21, 2015

Hidden Talent

Prior to learning about Rochester, my perception of the region began and ended with snow.  If I were forced to provide further description, I might have used the adjectives agricultural and gritty.  After researching the area, it became clear that perhaps the best descriptive term would be talented.  Unbeknownst to the outside world is the plain and simple fact that Rochester is oozing with talent.  Iconic companies, Grammy-winning musicians, Oscar-winning actors, and Smithsonian-recognized artists have long been a part of the community fabric.  Creativity and quirkiness are recognized, admired, and fostered.  This week, those elements are on full display at the First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival.  This multidisciplinary visual and performing arts extravaganza, which treads the line between quirky and weird, is now one of the best-attended fringe festivals in the country.

And the talent does not end there.  Here is an example of a Rochester band with immense musical aptitude that, perhaps due to the abundance of regional artistry, has somehow escaped the local radar.  In full disclosure, one of the members is our family music teacher.  The band is called Good Little Giants, and here is their first video:


Sunday, September 13, 2015


Rochester has a very strong sense of community.  Along with this sense of unity comes a heightened awareness of local events.  Potentially positive news is met with significant enthusiasm (or healthy skepticism), and negative news always seems to hit very close to home.  Undoubtedly, Rochester has its share of tragic stories, with young men killing other young men on a regular basis.  The frequency of these brutal acts has given native Rochesterians a sense that they live on a markedly dangerous plot of Earth.  Yet as a transplant who has lived in or near Hartford, CT; New Haven, CT; St. Louis, MO; and The Bronx, Rochester seems remarkably safe.  What do the statistics actually show?

  • According to one ranking, among the 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the country, the Rochester MSA has the 19th lowest crime index.
  • A list of the 30 American cities with the highest murder rates does not include Rochester.  The only city in New York State is Poughkeepsie.
  • Among America's 100 most dangerous cities, Rochester ranks 75.  St. Louis is #14, New Haven #36, and Hartford #45.  Beloved Atlanta, Washington D.C., Miami, and Philadelphia are all more dangerous than Rochester.
  • In the context of Rochester's recent spike in violent crime, I recently overheard a conversation regarding leaving the area to escape the lawlessness.  Interestingly, this rise in violent crime has occurred all over the country.  Which, of course, makes me ask: where are you going to move?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Rust Belt

This blog generally focuses on statistically based, objective evidence that shows how Rochester far outperforms its perception.  But in a deviation from the norm, this post is a completely opinionated, subjective set of reasons why living in Rochester (and other Rust Belt cities) can be remarkably fulfilling.  While we are often forced to harp on the cold weather, loss of manufacturing jobs, urban blight, and general lack of respect from the rest of the country, here are five explanations why people don't want to leave:

  1. If you have even a remote interest in American history, Rochester is extremely rich in this regard.   Rochesterians don't need to read about history to appreciate it.  We essentially live history on a daily basis.  The rise, fall, and rebirth of the past 150 years is on display...all the time.  New riverfront apartments give way to an abandoned subway.  A downtown housing revival occurs under the watch of a revolving restaurant that no longer revolves and isn't a restaurant.  Trendy eateries and breweries line a transportation corridor that is definitely not trendy...the Erie Canal.  Roads which became highways become roads again.  And new companies utilize the infrastructure of iconic companies which barely resemble their former selves.
  2. Do you enjoy being around engaged, intelligent individuals but wish they didn't think they were so important? Rochester has an uncanny ability to produce smart people who are also down-to-earth.  Couple a local culture that values education with Rochester's tendency toward self-deprecation, and the result is pretty nice.
  3. While historical job loss receives immense attention, those who can find a job that suits their taste live the good life.  Take a satisfying job and add (a) top-tier cultural and educational outlets, (b) really affordable housing, (c) really short commutes, and (d) a lot to do.  That's a solid formula for contentedness.
  4. There is nothing like a patchy city when it comes to exploration.  If willing to leave one's comfort zone even a little bit, the number of surprising finds can be astounding.  While the external facade of certain places is uninviting, the warmth, thoughtfulness, and creativity inside are what give Rochester its undeniable quirkiness.
  5. Everyone loves the underdog, and everyone loves a good comeback.  Rudy, Hoosiers, March Madness, and the 2004 Red Sox capture our imagination for a reason.  In Rochester, we're definitely an underdog, and we're definitely making a comeback.  For those of us who realize it, the energy is palpable.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

More on Walkability

As shown in the last post, Rochester is pretty respectable when it comes to walkability.  One can argue that we should have more destinations to walk to, but that argument doesn't alter the fact that the city layout is inherently walkable.  Furthermore, a closer look at more walkable cities highlights a very important point: they are really expensive.  Some of the most walkable cities as per Walk Score include New York City, San Francisco, Boston, Miami, Washington D.C., and Seattle.

Is it possible to find locations that are both walkable and affordable? Thanks to the internet, rankings are available on pretty much anything.  Here is a list of the cities which best combine walkability and affordability (keeping in mind that some of the facts about the cities are not completely updated):

  1. Buffalo, NY
  2. St. Louis, MO
  3. Rochester, NY
  4. Chicago, IL
  5. Pittsburgh, PA
  6. Minneapolis, MN
  7. Milwaukee, WI
  8. Cleveland, OH
  9. Baltimore, MD
  10. Dallas, TX
  11. Richmond, VA
  12. Sacramento, CA 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Old School

Around sixty or seventy years ago, American cities planned for the  Drivability and parking were valued, and urban planning followed suit.  Nowadays, trendy cities actually offer quite the opposite...walkability, bikeability, and access to public transportation.  Rochester is on point when it comes to craft beer, coffee, and wine trends.  But how does our disrespected city fare in terms of the new focus on old school transportation trends?

Walk Score, a private company which promotes a sustainable lifestyle, provides a walk score, bike score, and transit score for 108 U.S. cities with over 200,000 people.  Rochester, in its typical understated fashion, does reasonably well:

  • Walk Score 60.9 (22nd most walkable out of 108)
  • Bike Score 58.9 (27th most bikeable out of 108)
  • Transit Score 45.9 (22nd best public transit out of 108)

In a separate ranking of the most walkable mid-sized U.S. cities (population between 200,000 and 300,000), Rochester steps it up even more:
  1. Jersey City, NJ
  2. Newark, NJ
  3. Arlington, VA
  4. Hialeah, FL
  5. Buffalo, NY
  6. Rochester, NY
  7. St. Paul, MN
  8. Cincinnati, OH
  9. Richmond, VA
  10. Madison, WI

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

More on the Schools

Newsweek recently ranked America's Top 500 Public High Schools based on a College Readiness Index.  The local performance was, not surprisingly, very solid:

                      #49: Pittsford Sutherland High School
                      #73: Pittsford Mendon High School
                    #198: Brighton High School
                    #370: Fairport High School
                    #425: Penfield Senior High School

All 5 area schools received a star for meeting an Equity measure by helping low-income students score at or above average on state assessments.

The Rochester metro area represents about 0.34% of the American population but 1% of the Top 500 public high schools.  Therefore, the region offers 3 times the number of top public high schools than would be expected by population alone...all while providing housing that is 30% cheaper than national average!  How can such a feat be accomplished?

  1. Very high taxes
  2. Very smart people 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Inequality (or lack thereof)

As previously shown, by large metro area standards, Rochester does a nice job of avoiding the segregation of college graduates from non-college graduates.  Along the same lines, Rochester suburbs, which boast some of the highest educational attainment in the country, also provide housing that is cheaper than national average.  Despite these facts, Rochesterians somehow feel that we have a crisis of inequality.  Without a doubt, the local media's obsession with urban underachievement has fueled this perception.  Adding further fuel to the fire are the inferiority complex and hypercritical nature of the native Rochesterian when it comes to home-town analysis.

With hopes of quelling the negativity, here is yet more data indicating that Rochester does not have an inequality crisis, at least compared to other large metro areas.  The study, which looked at segregation by income within America's metros, identified Rochester as the tenth least income-segregated large metro in the country.  A naysayer might believe that Rochester's performance in this study relates to overall low wages in the region.  In reality, the study found that income segregation was only weakly associated with average wages and was not significantly related to per capita income.

One would imagine that less income segregation translates into greater social and economic mobility.  And if such mobility is not occurring, perhaps we should focus our attention on the immobile parts of the population as opposed to any perceived shortcomings of the region as a whole.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Cost of Living

Despite offering first-tier cultural and educational opportunities, Rochester is remarkably affordable.  Cost of living is largely influenced by housing prices, and when it comes to housing prices in America's large metro areas, Rochester is a standout.  Granted the dramatically high property taxes negate some of the savings, but the following statistics are still noteworthy:

  • According to Zillow, the current home value index in the U.S. is $180,100.  In Monroe County, the same index is $127,400.  In other words, housing here comes at a 30% discount.
  • As per the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, Rochester has the second most affordable housing of 52 major U.S. markets.  In fact, Rochester has the 19th most affordable housing of 378 markets in 9 countries.
  • Unlike certain large American metro areas, Rochester does not price out residents in terms of public education.  As an example, the suburb of Brighton was recently ranked as the 39th most educated place in the country.  Despite this impressive brainpower, the Zillow home value index in Brighton is $165,800...or 8% cheaper than national average!  

Monday, August 10, 2015

Equal Opportunity

Rochester, and the Rust Belt in general, are often pinned as being segregated.  Old industrial cities in America are thought to have invisible barriers which fall along racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and educational lines.  As such, the term "melting pot" is usually replaced by "Wegmans food container with separate compartments."  (That last part is not true.)  Without any doubt, in the city of Rochester educational attainment is underrepresented and poverty is overrepresented (and these statistics tend to fall along racial and ethnic lines.)

But exactly how segregated is the Rochester metro area? Here is one source that suggests not very, at least compared to other large metro areas.  The study, which addressed the segregation of college graduates from those without college degrees within America's metros, identified Rochester as the 8th least segregated large metro.  More segregated large metro areas tend to have more gentrification and high-end neighborhoods which price out certain parts of the population.  Furthermore, more segregated regions tend to have greater wage inequality.  One would imagine that these findings help explain Rochester's relatively affordable housing even in highly touted school districts.

So the next time our local newspapers insist on emphasizing the presence of two Rochesters, please feel free to remind them that the two Rochesters are much closer together than the two LA's, two Dallases, and two Chicagos.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

College Destinations Index

Rochester has the bones, resources, and intelligence to be like Austin, Texas, and Portland, Oregon.  As of this moment, however, the general perception of Rochester is nowhere near that of these trendier, younger cities.  Why? Largely, if not solely, due to the lack of a truly vibrant downtown.  While downtown is improving and can come alive during certain festivals, it still pales in comparison to the demands of today's young, educated workforce.  Because Rochester does not have this curb appeal, Rochesterians (such as myself) have to resort to data-driven analysis to prove why the region is top-shelf.  One day (hopefully soon), when Rochester's downtown renaissance is complete, sites like this one will be unnecessary.

In the meantime, here is yet more data showing the company that Rochester keeps (at least statistically.)  The American Institute for Economic Research recently published its College Destinations Index.  The premise behind the research was that the quality of a college education is strongly fortified by the community in which it is received.  In order to identify the best college destinations, metro areas were subjected to 12 measures, namely student concentration, housing costs, city accessibility, arts and leisure, percentage of international students, percentage of workforce in innovation fields, unemployment rate, entrepreneurial activity, brain drain or gain, R & D per student, educational attainment, and earning potential.

Of 271 metro areas with at least 10,000 students, the Top 75 college destinations were determined (15 large metros, 20 mid-size metros, 20 small metros, and 20 college towns).  Among the 20 mid-size metros, here is the ranking:

  1. San Jose, CA
  2. Austin, TX
  3. Raleigh, NC
  4. Pittsburgh, PA
  5. Buffalo, NY
  6. Rochester, NY
  7. Nashville, TN
  8. Columbus, OH
  9. Hartford, CT
  10. Salt Lake City, UT
  11. Portland, OR
  12. Milwaukee, WI
  13. New Orleans, LA
  14. Oklahoma City, OK
  15. Indianapolis, IN
  16. Richmond, VA
  17. Providence, RI
  18. Cleveland, OH
  19. Sacramento, CA
  20. Cincinnati, OH

Here is a link to the complete listing of all 75 metro areas.  It is noteworthy that New York, particularly Upstate, is very well represented.

Thursday, July 30, 2015


Here are a few highlights from a recent short trip to South Africa and Zimbabwe:

  1. Seeing lions, cheetahs, rhinos, elephants, buffaloes, hyenas, and giraffes on a game reserve.
  2. Visiting the former residence of a worldwide icon whose life was devoted to eradicating oppression, Nelson Mandela.
  3. Enjoying a sunset cruise along the Zambezi River.
  4. Experiencing one of the world's largest waterfalls, Victoria Falls, on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia.
  5. Drinking South African wine.

Is there any possible way that our beat up, disrespected town could offer a similar experience? Shockingly, sort of:
  1. Okay, so deer, rabbits, and squirrels don't quite match up to the above.
  2. Rochester boasts the former residence of an individual who fought against the oppression of women, Susan B. Anthony.  Although perhaps not as iconic as Mandela, her work was clearly critical.  She, like Mandela, was arrested for her passion (granted she did not spend 27 years in prison).  Rochester was also home to one of the most important abolitionists, Frederick Douglass.
  3. Cruises along the Erie Canal and Canandaigua Lake are readily available.  (I've done neither but have heard they are well worth doing.)
  4. Rochester is about 90 minutes from another one of the world's largest waterfalls, also on the border of two countries, Niagara Falls.  Closer to home, Rochester's High Falls is considered the largest urban waterfall in the country.
  5. The local wine scene is pretty sweet.

High Falls

(A tiny part of) Victoria Falls 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Rochesterians benefit from a low cost of living and remarkably short commute times.  Coupled with the fact that no sacrifice occurs from an educational or cultural perspective, the overall package is nothing short of marvelous.  We've seen that this high quality of life might explain the high rate of volunteerism.  One would imagine that it might also translate into less stress.

CNNMoney recently ranked 55 metropolitan areas with over 1 million people in terms of stress.  The methodology looked at five broad categories including the economy and money, work, family, lifestyle, and crime.  The 10 Least Stressed Out Cities (from most to least stressed) were:

  • Sacramento, CA
  • San Jose, CA
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Hartford, CT
  • Buffalo, NY
  • Richmond, VA
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • Raleigh, NC
  • Rochester, NY - 2nd least stressed
  • Salt Lake City, UT

Thursday, July 16, 2015


Even the staunchest Rochester pessimists concede one positive about the region: the summers are phenomenal.  In addition to providing a ludicrous number of cultural festivals, music events, free movies, and outdoor activities, the summers are...comfortable.  With oppressive heat being kept to a minimum, Rochesterians can enjoy the season without losing IQ and gaining irritability.

Just how pleasant are the summers? Among the country's 51 largest metropolitan areas, here is the short list of the regions with a mean June-August temperature under 70 degrees:

  • San Francisco, CA (61)
  • Seattle, WA (65)
  • Portland, OR (67)
  • San Jose, CA (69)
  • San Diego, CA (69)
  • Buffalo, NY (69)
  • Rochester, NY (69)

Monday, July 13, 2015


As noted by RocWiki, the sun always shines in Rochester (at the proper altitude.)  The reality is that a few clouds can be seen in the Rochester sky from time to time.  And from time to time, the clouds can bring a touch of precipitation.  Precipitation comes from the condensation of water vapor in the atmosphere and subsequently falls to the surface of the earth.  Aside from giving local meteorologists a challenge and causing many a Rochesterian to whine, precipitation provides one other thing...water.  Thanks to this water, Rochester does not have:

  • Extreme to exceptional drought, as is being seen in much of the country's most populated state

On the other hand, Rochester does have:
  • 7% of the world's fresh water supply

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


As seen previously, the Rochester region has a worthy (yet unbranded) world-class university as well as one of the best value public universities in the country.  But if neither of these seems appealing, perhaps yet another understated jewel might.  Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) is without a doubt one of the area's finest assets:

  • In 2012, RIT's Kate Gleason College of Engineering was ranked by Business Insider as the 27th best engineering school in the world.
  • RIT's co-op program is the fourth oldest and one of the largest in the world.
  • RIT's student business incubator has been recognized as the best in the country.
  • In 2014, RIT was ranked as the nation's Geekiest Campus.  Since geeks earn more, that's a good thing.
  • RIT is consistently recognized by The Princeton Review as one of North America's greenest universities.
  • RIT's National Technical Institute for the Deaf is the largest technical college in the world for students who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • In addition to treating students well, RIT also treats its employees with class.  It has been deemed as one of the Top 25 universities to work for in the country.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Upon arrival to the Rochester region five years ago, the sense of community was striking.  The collective emotions that are usually reserved for a small town were quite apparent despite a population approaching 1.1 million.  The metropolitan area exuded a strong awareness of place, and the populace was remarkably engaged.  But can this sensation be quantified, or is it merely an anecdotal observation?

According to 2012 data from the Pew Research Center, Rochester's local newspaper, the Democrat and Chronicle, has the largest market penetration of any the country.  This metric, which measures the percentage of metro area adults reached by print or online in the course of a week, indicated an impressive 75% market penetration.  The nearest competitor was a distant second at 68%.  As far as I know, there is little downside to an educated, knowledgeable group of people.

Monday, June 22, 2015


It's safe to say that the national perception of Rochester (if one even exists) does not include wine.  There is no way that Rochester, which can resemble the Kingdom of Arendelle in the movie Frozen, can make wine.  Right?

Actually, wrong.  As with the coffee and craft beer trends, Rochester and the nearby Finger Lakes region are kind of on fire when it comes to winemaking:

  • New York State is a top 4 wine producing state, and the Finger Lakes region is the largest wine region in the state.
  • The Finger Lakes region consists of well over 100 wineries.
  • Food & Wine magazine lists the Finger Lakes as one of the seven best Riesling regions in the world.
  • Two Finger Lakes wineries, Ravine Wine Cellars and Hermann J. Weimer Vineyard, were named Top 100 wineries in 2014 in a global ranking by Wine & Spirits magazine.
  • Despite being mislabeled as unable to make red wine, the region regularly produces Pinot Noirs with Wine Enthusiast ratings of 88 and 89.  
  • TripAdvisor has previously identified the region as the 4th best wine destination in the U.S.

Well worth a read is Evan Dawson's captivating book about the region, Summer in a Glass.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Jazz Festival

Given Rochester's healthy obsession with music, the presence of a jazz festival should come as no surprise.  What is surprising, however, is the size of Rochester's jazz festival.  The 2014 festival delivered the following:

  • 9 days of live music
  • 196,000 in attendance
  • 325 concerts
  • 20 different venues
  • 1500 artists from 18 countries outside the U.S.

According to this list, the top North American summer jazz festivals can be found in cities such as:
  • Toronto
  • Vancouver
  • Montreal
  • Washington, DC
  • San Francisco
  • Chicago
  • Rochester, NY ?!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Big Time

Rochester is not a big city.  In fact, the outside (and sometimes inside) perception of Rochester is that of a small town.  This perception is fueled by the lack of major professional sports, the lack of Division I college football and basketball, and a northeast location which forces comparisons to New York City, Boston, and Toronto.  But is Rochester really so small? Here are a few statistics to help "measure" the region:

  • The U.S. and Puerto Rico have 388 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA's).  With almost 1.1 million people, the Rochester MSA is the 51st largest.  In other words, 337 MSA's are smaller.
  • The Rochester MSA would be the largest MSA in 20 states.
  • The Rochester MSA is larger by population than 8 states.
  • The Rochester, Buffalo, and Syracuse MSA's combined have almost 2.9 million people, more than 16 states.
  • The city of Rochester, with a population of perhaps 209,983, would be the second largest city in New England after Boston.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


It's interesting to see what can occur when a metro area has short commutes and a manageable cost of living (more on that later.)  One would expect that the populace would have more time and a world view that does not revolve around finances...i.e. a perfect blend for a high rate of volunteerism and charitable giving.  But does this outcome actually occur? Here are two data points which would suggest that the answer is yes:

  • According to a report by the Corporation for National and Community Service which looked at data from 2010-2012, Rochester had the second highest rate of volunteerism (35.1%) among 51 large metro areas.  What makes this statistic even more impressive is that 2013 data showed New York State to have the second lowest rate of volunteerism among all states.  Having lived in downstate New York, it's obvious that just getting to work and worrying about what you're going to buy at the mall can be quite time consuming.
  • The United Way of Greater Rochester exceeded its 2015 fundraising goal.  For perspective, the $24.3 million raised was more than the Buffalo and Syracuse areas combined.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Health Care Revisited

As seen previously, health care in Rochester is particularly efficient.  The Democrat and Chronicle recently provided another key piece of information which solidifies the region's ability to portray itself as a model for the rest of the country.  Using data collected by the Institute of Medicine, the Niagara Health Quality Coalition identified Rochester as having the fourth lowest health care costs in the nation out of 274 regions studied.  This ranking was based upon the amount that commercial health insurers pay doctors, hospitals, and other providers.  Given the complexity of healthcare payments, many caveats exist to these findings...the more I read, the less I understand.  With that said, low payments made by the insurance company do seem to translate into reasonable premiums for customers.

The findings of this study do identify a potential downside for the Rochester community: lower payments to physicians may make Rochester a less attractive location to practice medicine.  To which I would answer:

  1. The low cost of living and access to top tier public education more than compensate, or
  2. Suck it up b#&@%! 

Saturday, May 30, 2015


This blog lasted almost three months without mentioning Wegmans, but at some point it had to be done.  As with commute times, selling a location based on its grocery store might seem like a stretch.  But just as it's impossible to not admire Lebron James at the pinnacle of his trade, it's hard to not appreciate an entity that serves as the model for all its competitors.  Here are a few reasons why Wegmans is revered:

  • Consumer Reports has consistently ranked Wegmans as the best supermarket in the country.
  • Fortune recently ranked Wegmans as the 7th best company to work for in the country.
  • Wegmans, based in the Rochester suburb of Gates, is one of the region's three largest employers.
  • Wegmans has its own organic farm in Canandaigua, NY.
  • The Wegmans Employee Scholarship Program has awarded $100 million in college tuition assistance to Wegmans employees since 1984.
  • Wegmans received the 2011 Friend of Education Award from the School Administrators Association of New York State.
  • Wegmans has received too many awards to list recognizing its commitment to working mothers, workplace diversity, employment of seniors, and employment of those with developmental disabilities.  

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Commute Times

Selling a place on commute times is a bit of a stretch...unless you actually commute, have a couple kids, and enjoy anything besides working and sleeping.  In such a case, a short commute time is the best thing ever.  Adding 10 minutes to a one-way commute can cost 80 hours over the course of a year - that's over 3 complete days.  Adding 30 minutes one-way can cost 10 complete days.  Rochester, despite offering big-city amenities, tends to offer small-town commutes:

  • In 2011, Kiplinger identified Rochester as being the best location for commuters among metro areas with over 1 million people.
  • The average commute time in Rochester was 18.7 minutes, compared to 25 minutes nationally.  That's a saving of over 50 hours (or 2 full days) per year.
  • The yearly delays per commuter amounted to 12 hours in Rochester, compared to 34 hours nationally.    
  • The yearly fuel wasted per commuter was 11 gallons in Rochester, compared to 28 gallons nationally.
  • The yearly congestion cost per commuter was $273 in Rochester, compared to $808 nationally.

                                               Not Rochester

Sunday, May 17, 2015

House of Guitars

As noted previously, Rochester tends to be quite musically inclined.  In addition to an elite music school, top-tier jazz festival, high level orchestra, and even a pretty big indie band (Joywave), Rochester also has music stores which would do just fine on either coast of the country.  In particular, House of Guitars (HOG) has established itself as an actual destination for music lovers.

You won't find the following at HOG:

  • Seminars on organizational skills.
  • Lovey-dovey customer service.
  • Design workshops.

On the other hand, HOG offers enough to have the following resume:
  • Aerosmith, Peter Gabriel, Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, and Metallica are a few examples of customers.
  • HOG has been featured by Esquire, People, and The Wall Street Journal.
  • The 2003 feature by Esquire named HOG the second stop on its "Roadmap to Musical America."  The roadmap included the top 50 record stores, radio stations, and places to see live music.
  • With perhaps 30,000 - 40,000 guitars, a massive amount of music, and an inspiring "photo gallery," HOG can be described as a music store, maze, or museum...all would be accurate.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Geva Theatre Center

Another big-city institution in the small town of Rochester is Geva Theatre Center (or is it Theater Centre?).  Geva, located in downtown Rochester, is considered a prominent regional theater.  To be honest, I have no idea what a regional theater means - according to Wikipedia, a regional theater in the United States most often refers to a professional theater outside of New York City.  In any event, it's safe to say that Geva is an anchor institution in Rochester's cultural landscape:

  • Geva is the most attended regional theater in New York State and has been one of the top 25 regional theaters in the country for ticket sales.
  • In keeping with Rochester's artistic bent, Geva has about 10,000 season ticket holders, more than any other outlet (including sports) in Rochester.
  • Kathy Bates, Robert Downey Jr., and Samuel L. Jackson have all performed at Geva (before they were famous).
  • Over 85 plays and musicals developed at Geva have been produced across America and internationally over the past 15 years.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Strong

In keeping with the theme of big-city culture, Rochester is home to several other "big time" entities aside from the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film.  As an example, The Strong National Museum of Play is widely recognized as one of the best children's museums in the country:

  • Forbes, Parents magazine, Fodor's Travel, and Reader's Digest are just a handful of media outlets that have ranked The Strong as a top 12 children's museum in the country.
  • The Strong has been distinguished as the second largest children's museum nationally.
  • The museum houses the National Toy Hall of Fame, with 56 toys having been inducted thus far.
  • The museum is now also home to the World Video Game Hall of Fame.  The buzz regarding this latest entity has been noted by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.
  • The Strong publishes its own peer-reviewed journal called the American Journal of Play.
  • As an added bonus, the museum has a year-round indoor butterfly garden. 

A warning to parents: the first three times in this museum can be fun.  After that, I highly recommend stopping here or here on the way.

Monday, May 4, 2015

George Eastman House

Several metropolitan areas that are not considered vast population centers advertise themselves as having big-city culture with small-town charm.  Rochester is one such region that has been known to lay claim to this label.  But many would argue that these metro areas are in reality heavy on the "small town" and light on the "big city." Does Rochester actually offer big-city culture?

As just one of numerous examples, the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film can suit the tastes usually assigned to regions ten times the size of Rochester:

  • The George Eastman House is the world's oldest photography museum.
  • The institution was the first photography museum to be selected for inclusion in the Google Art Project.
  • The photography collection includes two of the major photographic documents of the American Civil War.
  • The third largest motion picture archive in the U.S. is located in the museum.  The archive equals that of the Museum of Modern Art (New York City) and is surpassed only by the Library of Congress (Washington, D.C.) and the UCLA Film & Television Archive (Los Angeles).

Thursday, April 30, 2015


Perception: New York State is one of the least friendly states for business.  Rochester, being in New York (actually, even worse...Upstate New York), must be disastrous for business.

Reality: Rochester, despite being located in both Upstate New York and the Rust Belt (double whammy), might actually be a great spot to start a business.  As reported by the Rochester Business Journal, WalletHub recently ranked the 150 most populated cities nationwide with regards to relative start-up opportunities.  Thirteen unique metrics were used, ranging from 5-year survival rates to the educational attainment of the local workforce.  The findings:

  • Rochester was the top-ranked city in the state of New York.
  • Even more impressive, Rochester was ranked 29th nationally - yes, in the top 20 percent.
  • Rochester was ranked 3rd in the nation for "Access to Resources," a broad category which included 4 of the 13 metrics, namely financing accessibility, office space affordability, employee availability, and labor costs. 

Time to move to Rochester.

Sunday, April 26, 2015


As part of the never-ending quest to help earn Rochester the respect that it deserves, I recently wrote a book entitled Rochesternomics: Why, Statistically Speaking, You Should Live in Rochester, NY.  The goal of the book is to use data to overcome perception and illustrate not only an acceptable region but quite possibly one of the most desirable regions in the country.  Reasons to not buy this book include:

  • It may not be that good.
  • You would rather spend the money on beer.

On the other hand, the book could be a useful resource for community businesses, universities, and residents in general to help Rochester attract the talent that it clearly warrants.  Reasons to consider it include:
  • It's really short.  It's listed as 80 pages but really has about 50 pages of reading.
  • It's pretty cheap at $8.99.  The ebook, which will be available in about a month, is cheaper.

Here is the link on Amazon.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Best School That No One Has Heard Of

We have seen that Rochester's surrounding counties can be agricultural powerhouses.  But is there anything else going on in the middle of nowhere? Nestled in one such county, Livingston County, is a small and seemingly anonymous public liberal arts college.  In usual Rochester fashion, the anonymity has much more to do with brand (or lack thereof) than actual quality.  Located about 30 minutes south of Rochester, the State University of New York (SUNY) at Geneseo is in reality one of the best public universities in the nation:

  • Of 64 SUNY institutions, SUNY Geneseo is the most selective.
  • Based on SAT/ACT scores, acceptance rates, and high school class rank, SUNY Geneseo has been ranked as the 7th most competitive public institution in the country...ahead of the University of North Carolina and the University of Michigan. 
  • SUNY Geneseo was number one on a list from Kiplinger's Personal Finance which identified the 24 best colleges in the nation that cost less than $30,000 per year to attend.
  • SUNY Geneseo was among 44 "Best Buy Schools" in the 2015 edition of the Fiske Guide to Colleges.  This ranking identified 22 public and 22 private three countries, namely the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Ethnic Food

The mention of Rochester brings to mind many things...ethnic cuisine is not one of them.  If New York City evokes visions of fine dining with an eclectic fare, the Rust Belt evokes visions of meat and potatoes.  And just to help fuel this stereotype, Rochester's most famous addition to the culinary scene is the Garbage Plate, a mixture of hamburger or hot dog meat with some form of potato and mac salad, all covered with a greasy meat sauce (very tasty by the way.)

But in typical Rochester fashion, the ethnic food scene has a tendency to surprise.  To be clear, the quality, flavors, and options do not remotely resemble New York City.  As a trade off, Rochester is a tad bit cheaper, has slightly less traffic, and does not require 2-year-olds to interview for preschool.  Using as a guide, some unanticipated food choices in the region include:

  • Anywhere between 10 and 12 Indian restaurants.  The names and locations change from time to time, but this range is generally accurate.
  • Ethiopian restaurants.  At last count, there are 4.
  • At least 3 Korean restaurants.
  • At least 3 Dominican restaurants.
  • Perhaps 9 Jamaican restaurants, if not more.
  • Maybe 12 Vietnamese or part-Vietnamese restaurants.
  • 3 entirely vegan restaurants (with many others having vegan options.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Middle of Nowhere

When moving from the BosWash corridor to Rochester, I was often questioned about the reasons for wanting to live "in the middle of nowhere."  To start, the Rochester Metropolitan Statistical Area has almost 1.1 million people and is sandwiched between a metro area with over 1.1 million people (Buffalo) and another with close to 700,000 people (Syracuse)...hardly the remote region that might be envisioned.  But even if we go ahead and accept this label, it's worth examining what people living "nowhere" do.  Interestingly, many of them help provide this stuff that we sometimes like to's called food.  Agriculture in the Rochester region is no joke:

  • Wayne County, NY, just east of Rochester, is home to 18,000 acres of apples, the most of any county outside Washington State.  New York State is the second highest producer of apples in the country.
  • Genesee County, NY, just west of Rochester, has been repeatedly named as one of the top five fastest growing food processing regions in the U.S.
  • According to this article, Genesee County has the nation's highest percentage of farmland and is home to three of the top 100 vegetable farms in the country.
  • New York State is the third highest producer of grapes in the nation.  Nine out of the ten leading grape counties in New York are located west of Syracuse.
  • New York State is the second highest producer of maple syrup with many Rochester area producers contributing to this output.
  • Concentrated between Lake Ontario and the northern Finger Lakes, New York State's cabbage acreage and production is in the top 3 in the country.
  • New York State is the leading producer of yogurt in the country.  Genesee County is home to two producers and Livingston County (just south of Rochester) is home to a dairy processing plant.
  • New York State is a top 10 producer of tart cherries, pears, strawberries, fresh sweet corn, onions, fresh snap beans, tomatoes, pumpkins, cucumbers, squash, and cauliflower.