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Buffalo Charlotte Connection: Buffalo-to-Charlotte-to-Buffalo

When someone from Buffalo comes to Charlotte, they see a town very different than the one they grew up in. Kevin Sylvester wasn't all that impressed on his first visit. "I remember coming to a colleague and saying 'I could never live here. I just couldn't see myself living here. Everything's too new," he says. But Sylvester did eventually end up living in Charlotte. He was a sports director at WBT Radio. But after two years, he went back home. Sylvester doesn't badmouth Charlotte. He says it's, well, OK. But "Trying to fit in or find your place is difficult in Charlotte, for someone going down there," Sylvester says. "I know my wife and I struggled with that a little bit." Moving to a new city is tough. And Sylvester says it's even more difficult in a town where so many people are from somewhere else. "Odds are if I meet somebody new from Buffalo, they know somebody I know or two times removed they know somebody or know somebody. So there's some history there and you always know that history is going to be there." James Abt is back in Buffalo after 7-years in Charlotte. Abt says he enjoyed living in Charlotte. "I find Charlotte to be one of the most convenient cities I've been in. Everything I need - or needed - was within 5 minutes." But despite his happiness in Charlotte, the thought of being near his family ultimately took him back to Buffalo. "There comes a point where weather, food, entertainment, those sort of thingsThe amount they can increase your value of life compared to your family, it doesn't measure up anymore," he says. Developer Carl Palladino hopes more people reach that conclusion. In Buffalo, Palladino stands out. One, he's outspoken. "I don't give a rat's ass if you don't like me, or who doesn't like me. It doesn't matter to me." He's also few grandfathers he knows who lives in the same town as his grandchildren. Palladino says as young people have moved away, their parents are left alone. And that's hurt what was once a very strong sense of family in that city. "The parent didn't expect that. The parent expected the same thing that he had when he was growing up and that was that he had his grandparents around to give them the wisdom, the ability to move forward in life," Palladino says. "We don't have that anymore, we've lost that. We've lost that family fabric thing when we sent our kids away." That pull of family can often take young people back to their hometown once the shine of their new city wears off. So says Bill McCoy, who watched the Buffalo-to-Charlotte migration pick up speed during his days leading UNC Charlotte's Urban Institute in the 80s and 90s. "I've heard stories from people who've said they've come here, found jobs, become part of the community in that sense but could not become part of the community in any other senseand become dissatisfied and leave," McCoy says. "I think that will continue to come because those strong family ties just don't come with them." McCoy says it's important for newcomers to build a support system. St. Mark's Catholic Church is Huntersville has served that role for several ex-Buffalo residents. Besides church, McCoy says the workplace and common hangouts such as the Buffalo-themed restaurants in the area, can play a similar role. "So you'll meet somebody, you'll start going there to have lunch or dinner. And you'll begin building this network of friends, relationships and people that won't exactly substitute for family but will replace it to some degree, that yearning." McCoy says the chances of young people moving back home increase as their lives change. How transplants to Charlotte deal with things like aging parents or the birth of a child could have big implications for the region. "The importance of these decisions to Charlotte and what Charlotte is going to become and what the region is going to become, is absolutely important," McCoy says. "Because there are so many people who have moved here in such recent times. And whether they stay or don't stay is a big, big issue."