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Buffalonians really didn't need a national newspaper today to tell them what they already knew -- their hometown is one terrific place to live.

But it was with more than a bit of pride that folks all over Western New York grabbed copies of USA Today this morning to devour a glowing piece that described Buffalo as the winner of its national search for a "city with a heart."

And while entries from all over the world flooded the newsroom of Arlington, Va.-based USA Today, the newspaper settled on the old hometown after a flood of entries telling the "sunny truth about their oft-maligned, blizzard-thumped city."

"They managed to be simultaneously proud and humble about their world-class art, architecture and grand urban parks, a great history including two U.S. presidents," wrote reporter Cathy Lynn Grossman, "and generations of immigrants and their descendants who turn every weekend from May to October into a street festival."

The story emphasizes a friendly spirit that rules through snowstorms and beautiful summers, as well as a commitment to volunteerism and charity that local residents said makes the place special. And it's all presented to a national audience without one reference to a "rusting industrial metropolis" that often seems obligatory in other major publications.

Even the snow blanketing Buffalo since before Thanksgiving gets first-class treatment in this morning's article, transforming
the paralyzing blizzard of Nov. 20 into something out of Currier and Ives.

"I love the coldest, snowiest days here because everyone grows closer," the paper quotes Sara Saldi, a University at Buffalo news bureau employee who entered the contest. "People come out of their houses, smiling and greeting one another on the street. It feels as safe as Mayberry and as beautiful and sentimental as a holiday greeting card."

The glowing story brought smiles to Buffalo boosters around the area today, especially those on the front lines of promoting the city and its assets. County Executive Joel A. Giambra said such publicity goes a long way toward boosting the efforts of attracting new business.

Combined with decisions by General Motors and HSBC Bank to make major investments in the area, Giambra said the world is beginning to take notice.

"The bottom line is important, but equally important is our quality of life," the county executive said.

And Andrew J. Rudnick, president of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, agreed that more and more businesses are concentrating on quality-of-life issues in their search for expansion locations.

One reason the city won out over hundreds of other entries was the determination of local Buffalo boosters. Arthur Page, director of news services for UB, said a consortium of public relations professionals working with the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise all urged each other to submit entries.

"Our whole goal is to raise the public image of our city, and we hit a bull's-eye," Page said, noting that some of those public relations folks were part of the group featured in a photo taken at the Anchor Bar -- where somehow the topic of chicken wings came up.

The article was generating more than its share of buzz around Buffalo this morning, as radio stations picked up the story and politicians were crowing. But few could argue with Mayor Anthony M. Masiello's quote today when he summed up his hometown.

"We have down-to-earth, hardworking, big-hearted Western New York people here," the mayor said. "They won't brag, but don't kick Buffalo. They will kick back!"

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