The decline and fall of Western New York


The past week around 20 Prospect was a long one. Trips home to Batavia are always full of memories and mixed emotions. It is hard to see what Western New York has become. Just because it has been in such a long slow economic and social spiral for a long time, does not make it any easier to take. In the some ways, it makes it even harder to accept. Surely by now the local government and populace would have figured out that what they are doing isn’t working and tried a different course of action. Maybe they have, and maybe the results have just been inevitable. Surely there comes a point in any disaster, where the course of events have progressed too far for the outcome to be changed. Maybe that is the fate of Western New York. With declining population, and the 30 years long flight of industry from the Great Lakes states, the result is a dwindling tax base that only reduces the resources available to government to try to actively manage their way out. What they are left with is boosterism, empty slogans, and long shots. Perhaps that is why they seemingly have given up on initiatives to stimulate small, human scaled, economic growth, and spent their remaining money on “magic beans”. Casinos, sports stadiums, and other developer boondoggles. Everything but the proverbial monorail.

Greater Buffalo Niagara Monorail Project

I left not because of a desire to leave. I left in 1990 because I could not manage to land one of the relatively few engineering jobs available. I left out of a perceived necessity to get that high paying job in my field that was the sole focus of my college education. I don’t regret it. I needed the money, and there was no doubt that I preferred to leave home for an engineering job, than live there and be under employed. Academics and Front Porcher’s can complain about the siren’s call of the meritocracy that lures the educated youth of small towns to leave their homes behind, but they cannot deny the economic incentives that exist. Complaining about them is as effective as complaining that water flows down hill.

I am sympathetic to their arguments, but I am pragmatic as well. Until someone comes up with viable ways to offer economic opportunity in places like Western New York, the kids of Batavia, Tonawanda, Rochester, and Lyons will continue to leave. I wish I had a solution, but in the end I have little else to offer than some empty promise that staying behind and building something better is a worthy endeavor deserving of their lives. Pretty hypocritical for a guy that left it all behind and moved away. You’d think the least I could promise would be a job driving the new monorail.
Monorail, monorail, monorail...

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2 thoughts on “The decline and fall of Western New York

  1. Nicely stated. Although I’m sure the “winners” of last night’s elections there might take some exception to your perspective 🙂

  2. Great article on the economic decline of Western New York. I am from Batavia also, and I currently live in North Carolina. I was recently reading an article from http://www.thebatavian.com titled “Local entrepreneurship will lead the way to job growth.” I could not believe what I was reading. The article is about an isolated case of a Dell plant closing in North Carolina and how it was a bad example for the state of North Carolina. North Carolina apparently paid Dell to locate a plant there and it failed. First off, this is DELL, one of the worst customer service and ethics violators in the history of corporate america and its no surprise they closed the plant because their company isn’t doing well. There are thousands of companies in North Carolina that are thriving from the state bringing in business and economic expansions such as the Research Triangle Park. Research Triangle Park is home to the biggest research and development area in the country, with hundreds of companies that generate positive revenue and job growth. It is home to some of the most highly educated people in the country, and has helped the expansion of the cities of Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh, and Cary. To say that North Carolina needs to concentrate more effort into education is ironic when most of the highly educated people in the country are relocating here for the business opportunities.

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