The Buffalo Charlotte Connection: The Reasons Buffalo Natives Leave
In the first half of the 20th century, Buffalo's role as a shipping and industrial center made it one of the nation's largest cities. By the 1950s, Buffalo's population was more than 550,000. But since then, Buffalo businessman Carl Palladino has watched his hometown become a city less than half the size it once was. "It has reached a point now where the young people that aren't afraid most of them have left," Palladino says. It's easy to find a few of them here at 'A Taste of Buffalo Pizzeria' in Huntersville. It's one of at least three establishments in the Charlotte area that cater to natives of Western New York. On a recent Friday night, the fryers were full of a Buffalo favorite - fried fish. And of course, Buffalo wings. Carol Battaglia and her husband moved here four years ago to help family members start the restaurant. She says with the warm weather, nearby mountains and all the trees, she feels like she's on vacation every day. And, she says, her family is better off economically, here. "Well our $60,000 home in Buffalo, New York, our taxes were higher than the taxes on our home here in Charlotte. And our home here is $120,000." Housing is cheaper in Buffalo, but property taxes in the Charlotte area are about half of what they are in Buffalo. And Battaglia doesn't miss shelling out four-hundred dollars in heating bills that can come in a Buffalo winter, either. And through the family's restaurant, the Battaglias are able to give newer transplants a little taste of home. Battaglia mentions a young woman who'd stopped by a few weeks earlier. "And she walked in a she said 'Buffalo Pizzaria? Are you all from Buffalo, New York?' She said 'I hope you are.' Yes we are. She got on her hands and knees, kissed the carpet, made a phone call. And about 25 people came in." And that sense of place is important. There's pride in being from Buffalo. 41-year-old Mark Kmidowski still brags about his hometown. "There was nothing like walking the Elmwood Strip in December when it's decorated for the holidays. Snow falling. Going to Delaware Park, seeing Shakespeare in the park. And they don't even charge admission, they just pass the hat. I mean, where can you go for that?" Kmidowski left Buffalo 6 years ago. He says the job market gave him no choice. "I still struggle with that. I feel like I quit on Western New York. And it still tears me up. When people ask me where I'm from I still say I'm from Buffalo. I feel I will always be from there." While attending a teacher recruitment fair in Buffalo, Kmidowski and his wife had job offers from C-M-S within 30 minutes. " had four job offers," Kmidowski says. "In one day." Once in Charlotte, Kmidowski ended up going back to school and again had jobs waiting for him. Today, he's a librarian at a private school in Cabarrus County. For other Buffalo natives, the occupations differ, but their reasons for moving are essentially the same. The second part of our series examines why it's easier to create jobs in Charlotte than in Buffalo.