Studies say the region suffers from “brain drain,” but some natives are trying to reverse the trend.
They attend college here, live here, then take off after graduation.
Recent studies suggest Upstate has a case of “brain drain” – having a hard time getting college-educated people to stick around the area.
Two local natives aren’t paying much attention to that. Arthur Rogers and Marc Pagano are bucking the trend.
According to the report, “A Brain Drain or an Insufficient Brain Gain?” by Richard Deitz of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Buffalo branch, the regions’s out-migration is nearly on par with the average state’s percentage of college-educated workers leaving. There are enough young workers leaving the area that if upstate New York were its own state, it would have the second-worst ranking in the country of net growth in that area.
Despite this, Rogers and Pagano have returned to open their own businesses. Rogers opened Lento, an Italian restaurant that features seasonal local ingredients, in Village Gate Square in Rochester last June. Pagano opened Pagano's Visual Perception photography studios in Victor and Fairport.
After growing up in Pittsford, Pagano decided to come back three years ago to start his business.
“I was on the East Coast ... from Southern (New) Jersey to Virginia and I really missed Rochester as a city,” Pagano said. “It’s a smaller city and it has a lot of culture.”
Rogers and Pagano went to school in Pittsford, at Pittsford Mendon and Sutherland high schools, respectively. While Rogers went off to the University of New Hampshire and worked in New England, Pagano stayed studied photojournalism at Rochester Institute of Technology before moving around the East.
Deitz said that kind of movement is common among young people and college grads, who are simply looking for their best opportunities once they’re done with their education. But, he added that getting people back to the area is the hard part.
In a New York Times study performed last summer, the report showed that from 1990 to 2004, the number of 25-to-34-year-old residents in upstate New York declined by more than 25 percent. In the 13 counties that include big Upstate cities like Buffalo, Syracuse and Binghamton, the population of young adults dropped by more than 30 percent. The report points out that the population growth may have been much less if not for 21,000 prison inmates that were brought in, accounting for 30 percent of new residents.
Since there are so many colleges and universities in the area, Deitz said the number of people with a bachelor’s degree is high, meaning that finding a job is more competitive for those who stay. On the other hand, jobs could be created through entrepreneurs, if they’re willing to suffer through adjustment processes financially and are willing to take on the risk of running a business, he said.
“Either people aren’t coming here because there aren’t jobs for them or people aren’t coming here because they prefer to live somewhere else,” Deitz said.
For Pagano and Rodgers, the choice to come back focused on both of those reasons. They returned to start their own businesses and create jobs. They say see Upstate as more than just the place where they grew up.
For Pagano, he said his whole extended family lives in the area so coming back for the quality of life and to be closer to them was an easy choice.
“I had been a lot of places,” Pagano said. “The big city was a lot of fun when I was a kid but when I grew older, I figured I enjoyed (being here more).”
“I moved back here so I could buy a house and start a family,” said Rogers. “This is my dream. I’m living my dream.”
In his report, “A Brain Drain or an Insufficient Brain Gain?” Richard Deitz studied the out- and in-migration of college-educated workers by state between 1995 and 2000. He suggests that regional amenities such as “favorable climate, cultural offerings and family and social networks are attractive forces” but they may not be enough to get more college-educated workers to the area. Here’s some more information from the report:
• Upstate New York had an out-migration of 13.4 percent, which was just below the average of the states’ at 13.5 percent.
• The in-migration was 9.3 percent, almost half of the average 17.1 percent for the 50 states.
• The 4.1 percent net loss of college-educated workers would be the second worst in the country if upstate New York was considered a state.
• Weaker regional economies have a large impact on in-migration rates and many can be found in the Northeast, a region that’s had a sluggish economy in recent years.
• Overall, Deitz finds that rather than a large “brain drain,” upstate New York suffers from a lack of “brain gain” because college-educated adults aren’t moving into the region fast enough to off-set the out-migration flow.
Where they’re going, where they’re leaving
Top three states for college-educated workers leaving:
• Alaska – 22.2 percent
• Wyoming – 20.9 percent
• Hawaii – 19.4 percent
Top three states for incoming college-educated workers:
• Nevada – 39.4 percent
• Arizona – 27.6 percent
• Florida – 23. 7 percent
Bryan Roth can be reached at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 270, or at email@example.com.