The Buffalo Niagara region has suffered legendary setbacks in manufacturing, but there is one consistent economic workhorse for this area -- the financial services industry. Here's the good news: It's looking healthier.
Local finance and insurance firms in this area reported the strongest three-month job growth since the fall of 2004. GEICO has come into this area, as well as Definity. Blue Cross of Western New York put in the largest private-sector nonsubsidized Buffalo office in years with its new headquarters.
Historically, Buffalo was one of the predominant centers of such economic activity in the country. Some of that history remains. M&T and HSBC banks are large local employers with a significant regional presence of financial services focused nationally, not just on the local region.
In a culture that seeks silver-bullet solutions, the current stability of this area's financial sector is an underappreciated plus. It joins such other stabilizing presences as the state universities, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and other deeply anchored institutions in generating paychecks and preserving an economic base -- hedges against greater swings in the business cycle. Downturns can occur in manufacturing or other sectors, but financial institutions, health care and education generally prove to be steady economic generators.
That's not a given. The turmoil of the savings and loans scandal and bank closings of a few decades ago left financial scars, and offer proof that economic health can't be taken simply for granted in any economic sector. But the temperature of this one has just been taken, and it's showing some welcome vigor.