Tonawanda News

Columns

March 30, 2014

DUVALL: Rewriting a fundamental WNY narrative of decline

Tonawanda News — Want to hear something cool? We grew.

The Census Bureau reported last week Erie County’s population increased by 944 people since 2012. Sure, it’s not a lot and the fact a minuscule population growth anywhere makes news is still a sign you’ve got a long way to go.

But it’s a fundamental rewriting of the narrative — Western New York isn’t shrinking. 

For a while now I’ve felt like this place is actually turning the corner on generations of sad decline. Now there’s some real evidence of it. And it’s exciting.

I had occasion recently to find myself on a barstool next to a recent Buffalo transplant. And when I say transplant, I don’t mean a person who grew up here and moved away. I mean the opposite. He grew up in Louisiana, had friends who lived here, came up to visit and decided to move here. In January. 

People, this happened. Someone — a young person! — from a warm Southern state (albeit a kind of lame one) moved to Buffalo. In January. And he wasn’t insane. And he did it voluntarily. And he was pretty happy about it.

Granted, he was getting tired of trying to convince people here he wasn’t insane for deciding to move to Buffalo in January — this January, as if it wasn’t crazy enough already.

But I believe he was telling the truth, mostly because admitting you moved to Buffalo in January isn’t the kind of thing you say because you’re trying to sound cool.  

Nine-hundred and forty four people. Probably explains why I felt like the line at the Tim Hortons drive-thru has felt longer than normal lately. 

It makes sense, though. Jobs are a little easier to come by here than they were before. Companies, particularly high-tech medical ones, are expanding here. The housing market is insanely affordable. Loft condos and apartments in cool old buildings that would go for $500,000 in other cities are $150,000 here. Suburban homes with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms and nice yards in good school districts cost a small fortune in other places. Here’s it’s the norm. 

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