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.