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Dream of job in WNY comes true at last Michigan man's quest succeeds after 3 years

Don Stuart dreamed for more than three years of finding a good job in Western New York.

That quest ended happily when he took a job with the SKM Group, a local marketing and communications firm.

Stuart, 49, who left a job at the world headquarters of Whirlpool in Benton Harbor, Mich., had publicized his dream of moving to Western New York through a nine-part series he wrote for The Buffalo News from April 25, 2004, to March 3, 2005.

In his last article, Stuart wrote he would move to Western New York only if he found a "near perfect match" -- a job that fit what he calls his family's "economic equation" and allows them to send his three younger sons to college.

But his search did not go quite as planned: Stuart's wife, Jennifer, 43, found a good job a year before her husband did. Jennifer Stuart took a job in Buffalo marketing desserts for Rich Products. Since her job fulfilled the family's financial needs, they moved to Clarence in March 2006.

"My wife and I were in a 'race' to find a suitable job that would suit our economic requirements, and she won," Stuart said. "There aren't tons of those jobs in Buffalo. That's what I was trying to say [in the articles]. We had to be picky."

Stuart spent his first months in Western New York "anchoring the home base." But the family had not yet sold its Michigan home, and he soon found himself doing freelance marketing work.

In November 2006, he started freelancing for the SKM Group, and the company offered him a job in February as vice president of public relations.

"I'm very passionate about living in Buffalo, too, and I like the fact that he is because it helps to eliminate any fear that he might leave," SKM Group President Susan Kerrigan-Meany said. "It's hard to find people [in Buffalo] with the amount of experience that he has."

Stuart said he and his wife tenaciously pursued jobs in Western New York because she had long wanted to move closer to her parents and siblings, who live in the Buffalo area.

"Happy wife, happy life," he said, explaining his agreement to move.

But Stuart said Buffalo offered cultural richness that southwest Michigan did not -- and his favorite food happens to be chicken wings.

Stuart said Buffalo offered his family more economic options than northwest Indiana, where his parents live.

"I'm not making this up," he said. "For the kind of jobs and experiences my wife and I had, Buffalo had more economic opportunity."

Still, Stuart called his three-year job search a reality check and said it was a commentary on the Buffalo economy.

"It became pretty quickly apparent that this isn't a market robust enough for people with our job skills to . . . find jobs that fit our needs," he said.

The Stuart family is once again facing that job market: Because of a company reorganization, Jennifer Stuart's position with Rich Products is being terminated this week, but she doesn't think this setback reflects on the Buffalo economy. She said she hopes her job search won't take two years this time around, and her husband said the couple thinks Buffalo's economy could soon improve.

"Now that we're citizens for over a year," Don Stuart said, "we really feel that there's lots of opportunity for that to get turned around."

e-mail: cthompson@buffnews.com

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