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.

Monday, April 13, 2015


For a region pinned as gray (clouds) and white (snow), Rochester is remarkably green.  The ability to have a cultural urban experience and peaceful outdoor experience exist side by side in a way that would be difficult to replicate in a larger metropolitan area.  Here are some interesting facts about Rochester area parks:

  • Monroe County, NY has over 12,000 acres of parkland. 
  • The great landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted (think Central Park in New York City), designed four parks in the city of Rochester.  Highland Park is best known for its lilacs and associated Lilac Festival which lasts 10 days and draws over 500,000 visitors.  Seneca Park, located along the Genesee River, is best known for its zoo.  Maplewood Park, also located along the Genesee River, has a nationally accredited Rose Garden.  Finally, Genesee Valley Park serves as a magnet for sports enthusiasts.  Biking, kayaking, golf, cross-country skiing, baseball, soccer, kickball, and cricket are among the offerings.
  • Letchworth State Park (pictured below), located 35 miles southwest of Rochester, provides an additional 14,350 acres of parkland with 66 miles of hiking trails.  Known as the "Grand Canyon of the East" due to a striking gorge formed by the Genesee River, Letchworth was recently recognized as the best state park in the country.
  • As if having the best state park in the country isn't enough, Rochesterians willing to travel about 90 minutes have access to Watkins Glen State Park, the third best state park in the country.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Arts Vibrancy

As is the case for music, Rochester seems to have a strong inclination to the arts in general.  Art galleries, museums, and live theater seem particularly abundant.  In fact, it is this inclination that consistently allows transplants from larger cities to become enamored with Rochester's big city amenities which come without big city headaches.  But can a town with such a questionable reputation actually be so cultural? Outside perception clearly has this question answered with a no.  What is the reality?

As reported by the Democrat and Chronicle, Southern Methodist University's National Center for Arts Research recently released its first annual Arts Vibrancy Index.  Using a wide variety of data sources, vibrancy was measured as the level of supply, demand, and government support (state and federal) for arts and culture on a per capita basis.  Among Metropolitan Statistical Areas with populations of 1 million or more, the most vibrant art communities were:

  1. Washington, DC
  2. Nashville, TN
  3. New York, NY
  4. Boston, MA
  5. San Francisco, CA
  6. Minneapolis, MN
  7. Silver Spring-Frederick-Rockville, MD
  8. Seattle, WA
  9. Los Angeles, CA
  10. Chicago, IL
  11. Cambridge-Newton-Framingham, MA
  12. Denver, CO
  13. Philadelphia, PA
  14. Pittsburgh, PA
  15. Newark, NJ
  16. New Orleans, LA
  17. St. Louis, MO
  18. Charlotte, NC
  19. Richmond, VA
  20. Rochester, NY

Monday, April 6, 2015

Rochester vs. The Caribbean

After returning from a first ever cruise, I couldn't help but ask the question: can a frigid Rust Belt town like Rochester compare to a cruise ship and three Caribbean islands? Here is a breakdown of 20 offerings:

  1. Beaches. Comparing Rochester beaches to Caribbean beaches might be a bit pathologic, but the point is that Lake Ontario and the nearby Finger Lakes have beaches which at times are surprisingly serviceable.
  2. Rock Climbing. Yes, the cruise ship had rock climbing, and so does Rochester.
  3. Starbucks. Even though Rochester is so past the Second Wave of coffee, Rochesterians still have many Starbucks available. 
  4. Swimming Pools. Many indoor and outdoor pools dot the Rochester scene.
  5. Mini Golf. In addition to regular golf, Rochester does fine here.
  6. Obesity. Both Rochester and the cruise ship hold their own.
  7. Slow Internet. Even Time Warner and Frontier are faster than the ship's internet service.
  8. Spa. Rochester does quite well.  Here is an example.
  9. Weather. It is at times 80 degrees and sunny in Rochester, just not at the moment.
  10. Bad Cover Bands. There is no shortage in either location.
  11. Broadway Shows. Surprisingly the cruise had one.  Rochester has the Rochester Broadway Theatre League.
  12. Comedy Club. Rochester again holds its own.
  13. Ice Skating Rink. It's safe to say that Rochester has plenty of these.
  14. Casino. Rochester, Buffalo, and Syracuse have many such venues where secondhand smoke is readily available.
  15. Underpaid Labor. The cruise ship dominates this category.
  16. Caribbean Culture. Again, Rochester surprises with the Rochester West Indian Festival Organization and many Caribbean restaurants.
  17. Overpriced Purses. Rochester is no slouch.
  18. Butterfly Garden. Aside from being indoors, the butterfly garden in Rochester is quite comparable to that in St. Martin.
  19. Craft Cocktails. As with beer and coffee, Rochester is up on this trend.
  20. Work.  Rochester probably offers more options.