I recently returned from a much- anticipated vacation with my family. In the weeks and days leading to this vacation, it seemed as if all I could think about was how good it would be to get away—from the house I spent a year living AND working in. From the office I’ve become reacquainted with in the last six months. From vaccination reports, retention reports, vacancy reports, and sick leave reports. Away from Zoom meetings. I couldn’t wait to get away from home!
It can be easy to slip into this kind of mindset—focusing on the parts of our life that, while they may not be “negative,” certainly aren’t what we might call positive. You see, I don’t hate any of the things I was ready to escape. I love my house. I love my work (reports and Zoom included). I love this beautiful region of Upstate New York that we call home. Our region is a place thousands of people flock to year-in and year-out to “get away” from their lives—landing on countless lists of “must-see” vacation spots. We have it all—cultural attractions, outdoor attractions, educational institutions, baseball, Springbrook (!). Not to mention…farms, lakes, hills, stars, picturesque villages and towns. What’s not to love?
And yet, with all we have to offer, attracting people to our region who are ready to make this place their home (not just stop by for a visit) seems to slip our collective grasps—particularly when thousands of young people come to this area each year to attend one of our TWO fantastic colleges. How do we get them to stay? How do we attract people to our region who want to build lives, careers, and families here?
As a transplant to this area, it is a difficult concept for me to understand.
I was born in Brooklyn and grew up on Long Island. I found my way here through a combination of school, work, and family. I have stayed here because of all this place has to offer. It is my home. I know many people, transplants like myself, who share my confusion about this quandary. In particular, families of Springbrook students and residents who have moved to our region after having the opportunity to get to know it because of their time visiting with a loved one (Springbrook operates over 35 homes throughout the Southern Tier). From an “outsider’s” perspective, we can see all that is good about our region. Does that mean we don’t see everything that could be better? Not at all. It just isn’t the first thing we think of (unless, perhaps, we are packing for vacation!).
Leaders in our region—business leaders, village, city, and county representatives—have done a fantastic job of selling this place as a tourist destination. As I said earlier, we do pop up fairly regularly on “places to visit” lists. What I’d like to see is us start popping up on “places to live” lists. So, how do we do that? I’m not sure. According to U.S. News & World Report, the most important factors to consider when moving to a new place are:
• Cost of Living
• Job Availability
• Desirability and happiness
• Quality of education
• Quality and availability of health care
Looking at that list, we are starting from a great place. So, perhaps we start there. Let’s celebrate the things we love about our home. Let’s tell others—anyone who will listen. Let’s focus on the positive. Then, let’s take that joy and focus it on those things we need to change. And, let’s do it together.
Patricia Kennedy is the chief executive officer of Springbrook, a nonprofit in the town of Milford that provides support and services to people with developmental disabilities.