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Rochester clicks for young professionals 

Greg Cunneyworth in the Makeway offices. The RIT graduate founded the digital design firm.

PHOTO BY JOHN SCHLIA

Greg Cunneyworth in the Makeway offices. The RIT graduate founded the digital design firm.

The Rochester region is home to about 20 colleges, universities, and technical schools, which is impressive for a mid-size metro.

But despite those offerings, the area's loss of young professionals continues to concern many business and community leaders in Upstate New York.

A Brookings Institute report on education, which is based on data from 2007 to 2009, looks at what it called the migration of college degrees by metropolitan area.

Cities that experienced the most brain drain were Rochester and Detroit, while cities with the most brain gain were Austin and Raleigh.

But some recent area graduates are bucking that trend, saying that Rochester has distinct advantages for young professionals.

Meghan Gillen graduated from Nazareth College in May 2014 and found a local job in her field a month later.

She says that she didn't have much difficulty getting job interviews, and even turned down a couple of offers before accepting a full-time marketing position with American Aerogel.

The startup company manufactures insulation materials used in thermal packaging by biomedical, pharmaceutical, and health care companies.

"Getting the job I wanted wasn't super hard," Gillen says. "A lot of employers know Nazareth College and think well of it. But it seemed like a lot of places want to hire local college students and they want to be supportive."

Gillen says that she thought about moving, but that she didn't want to give up the comfort factor of Rochester. And moving to a different location isn't always easy, she says.

"There's always that risk that you could move for a job and might not like it," Gillen says.

click to enlarge Meghan Gillen is in a - marketing position with American Aerogel. - PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • Meghan Gillen is in a marketing position with American Aerogel.

Greg Cunneyworth graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2009 where he studied graphic design and marketing. His job search was more difficult, because the recession caused a lot of companies to either cut back or hold off on hiring, he says.

Cunneyworth worked in Toronto for a short time before returning to Rochester in 2010 to start Makeway, a digital design firm. Both of Cunneyworth's partners, Josh Lowery and Ian Maroney, graduated from local colleges and also decided to stay in Rochester.

Makeway has clients throughout Western New York and as far away as Seattle, Cunneyworth says.

"We've been lucky," he says. "We've been very busy for the last five years."

Starting a small business in Rochester was easier than he expected, Cunneyworth says. Most of the initial prospective clients were receptive to an appointment for a presentation, he says, and now Makeway gets most of its business through word of mouth.

Cunneyworth says that Rochester is the ideal place for his business because it's affordable.

"We were able to get the office we wanted in six months," he says. "We have a beautiful 1,200-square-foot loft in the Cascade District."

Dana Belles graduated from the University of Rochester in 2013 with a degree in brain and cognitive sciences, but she's currently working in education for AmeriCorps, she says, to gain experience.

Her degree could eventually take her in several directions, she says, but public health and occupational therapy are her two main considerations.

Though she moved home to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for a short while after graduation, she says that she returned to Rochester as soon as she could.

"I really love Rochester," Belles says. "For some reason it really clicks for me." The bike-friendliness of the area is a huge plus, she says.

"I love going to all of the different farmers markets in the summer, and of course, the Public Market," she says.

Belles says that one of the most attractive things about Rochester is the passion that people have for the city and their commitment to making it an even better place to live.

She says that most of the people she meets are involved and committed to the community in ways that she hasn't seen in other cities.

Another consideration: Rochester's lower cost of living.

"There are other larger or more exciting cities where the pay is either the same or not as good and the cost of living is so much higher," Belles says.

In This Guide...

    ANNUAL MANUAL 2015

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    Read about authors, city architecture, neighborhoods, art, bars off the grid, local grocery stores,and more!

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    RIT's Vignelli Center is a teaching archive and museum of modernist marvels
    Even if you're unfamiliar with the name "Vignelli," you've certainly encountered multiple things designed by Massimo and Lella Vignelli. The New York-based, Italian power couple had their stylish fingers in every piece of the design pie for six decades, creating everything from brand identity, books, maps, tableware, clothing, furniture, to architectural design for companies as diverse as American Airlines, Ford Motor Company, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York City, and Xerox Corporation.

    Down the road

    We take a trip down St. Paul Street
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    Studio fit

    Several Rochester-area classes offer movement-based alternatives to hitting the gym
    Did you take ballet lessons as a child? Maybe some contemporary or jazz classes during your teenage years or early 20's?

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    Get to know the Rochester skyline

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    Shop with your hart

    A visual presentation of a day in the life of Hart's Local Grocers
    Hart's Local Grocers, a full-service grocery with a focus on locally-sourced products, opened in the East End in August 2014. The market has become a bustling place, so we wondered what a day in the life of Hart's was like.

    The world on a shelf

    Rich cultures come alive through the area's diverse grocery stores
    The process of exploring some of Rochester's ethnically diverse grocery stores and speaking with their respective owners reinforced the notion that we are still a community of immigrants. It's perhaps not as distinct as it once was in the past, but among the aspects of any culture that pass on through generations, food is probably the one that endures the strongest as it tightly bonds people to their lineage.

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    Rochester's rich culture has provided inspiration for many literary works over the years. Local authors take our area's distinct elements — heritage, geography, tones — and use them to tell stories, create imagery, and ultimately touch others.

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