Psst … new college graduate. Want to know where to move now that you have that degree? Sure, you can try your luck in New York City or Los Angeles, but to get a leg up in the real world, a national website suggests staying put.
Low unemployment, affordable rents, short commutes and plenty of bars make Buffalo the best medium-sized city in the country for 2014 college graduates, according to a recent study by CreditDonkey.com, a personal finance website geared toward young adults.
The website suggests even graduates from colleges outside the area should consider relocating to Western New York.
“Buffalo looks like a great place for new college graduates: They face little competition from other degree-holders, and they have low rent, good commutes, and something to look forward to on Friday night. Of course, they’ll have to remember to bring a coat,” the website noted.
Over the past few weeks, more than 8,000 people received bachelor’s degrees from colleges and universities in Erie and Niagara counties. Job opportunities elsewhere are taking some of them far from Western New York. Others moved back to their hometowns. And some plan to stick around.
For Kyle Bukolt, who grew up in Lancaster and last week earned a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Buffalo State, staying in Western New York holds a lot of appeal.
Bukolt has no burning desire to pack up and move to a bigger, glitzier city, if he can help it.
He would rather be part of Buffalo’s resurgence.
“The downtown development is huge for Buffalo, and I really would like to be part of it, so that 20, 30 years from now, I can look back and say, ‘I had a part in Buffalo getting better,’ ” he said.
One thing keeping Bukolt here is employment. He has a part-time job doing public relations for the Valley Community Association, a nonprofit association.
“It’s a real good stepping stone to where I want to be,” said Bukolt, who hopes someday to work for the Buffalo Sabres or land a position at the new HarborCenter being constructed next to First Niagara Center.
He currently supplements his income by bartending in Buffalo’s Cobblestone district, one of several areas of the city for nightlife and entertainment, another element considered by the website.
Buffalo has a healthy 3.47 bars per every 10,000 people, the study noted.
“We like to have some kind of fun with it,” Sarah Johnson, editor of CreditDonkey.com, said about the inclusion of the bar category in the study.
CreditDonkey.com also weighed other factors, including unemployment rates. The website, using U.S. census data, listed the rate at 5.5 percent, although the state Labor Department figure for the Buffalo Niagara region in April was 5.8 percent, the lowest in six years.
Whichever number, Bukolt agreed it’s not difficult finding work in Western New York.
“Anyone can walk into a restaurant and get a job,” he said.
Johnson acknowledged that having a job in one’s chosen career field likely outweighs the other criteria the website used to compile its rankings.
That was the case for Ben Tarhan of Brooklyn, who graduated from the University at Buffalo with a degree in computer engineering.
“I was looking for jobs all over the place,” said Tarhan, who applied to companies on the West Coast and Colorado, among other places.
He ended up getting a job in network security for Verizon in Northern Virginia.
“I wasn’t against Buffalo,” he said. “I liked it a lot. I just wanted to get out and find new places.”
There was a time last fall when Tarhan considered trying to stay in Buffalo after graduation. But he realized all of his friends would be leaving town, and he figured he should begin a new chapter in his life with a clean break.
“I’d rather go someplace totally new and start from scratch, instead of having this past lurking behind me,” he said.
Angelica Rodriguez, who received a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Buffalo State, said she’s not averse to staying here, especially because it’s so affordable.
But Rodriguez grew up in Brooklyn and, like many new graduates, has been eyeing a move to the Big Apple.
“I’m more of a bigger city kind of person,” said Rodriguez, who has a degree in journalism and wants to write for a newspaper, magazine or website. “You think that the big city would be a logical place to start because there are so many opportunities, but at the same time, there’s a lot of competition.”
She also can see the wisdom of staying in Buffalo, where she has a part-time job.
“Young people can really find their niche and thrive here,” she said. “You have opportunities here that you don’t necessarily have in Chicago and New York.”
The website ranking comes on the heels of Forbes magazine naming Buffalo the country’s most affordable city.
In addition, recent U.S. census data shows that the number of people in the Buffalo Niagara region between the ages of 20 and 34 has grown by more than 10 percent since 2006.
Those gains followed a decade-long “brain drain” during which thousands of young people left the area for greener economic pastures.
Local leaders are banking on investment in the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and other areas of downtown to spur job growth and continue the momentum.
Buffalo beat Toledo, Ohio, in CreditDonkey.com’s ranking of metropolitan areas of 500,000 to 1 million people. Rochester and Albany also made the top 10.
Jamestown in Chautauaqua County was number one on the website’s ranking of small cities.