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Working to come home At Old Home Week, business owners say there are jobs here -- if you look hard enough

Buffalo spent all week courting some of its former sons and daughters to bring them back home to stay, but Friday came the hard part: finding them jobs.

Buffalo Old Home Week -- a grass-roots event designed to lure back former residents for good -- continued on Friday with a career fair in the Hyatt Regency Buffalo.

Selling Buffalo's attributes to these expatriates is easy. They miss the area, their friends and family.

It's a decent-paying wage that's keeping them away.

"It seems like there's some possibilities here," said Bill Janowsky, 50, a North Tonawanda native now living in Detroit. "I'm not sure if I'll be able to move back. I'll have to test the market."

More than 300 people -- some from out of town, many local -- registered for Friday's career fair, but organizers estimated the attendance to be higher.

Job-seekers, like Michael LaTona, schmoozed with representatives from some 60 local companies hoping to get a lead on a job.

LaTona, a teacher, moved from Western New York to Florida 13 years ago, but now wants to come back.

"I've been sending out resumes, connecting with people. I've been hitting the bricks every day," said LaTona, 52, of Bradenton. "I'm going to keep trying until I get here."

One of the goals of the career fair is to try to show people there are job openings in Buffalo, said Marti Gorman, co-coordinator of Buffalo Old Home Week.

"I'm so tired of hearing, 'I'd love to live in Buffalo, but there are no jobs,' " Gorman said. "There's a lot more out there than most people think."

Aaron Bourke can vouch for that.

Bourke, a former producer for MTV in New York City, attended the fair last year, after he and his wife, an area native, moved to Western New York.

Bourke was at the career fair again on Friday, but as project manager at WorldWebDex, a Buffalo company that publishes specialty phone books.

It may not be as glamorous as working for MTV, he said, but the change of pace allows him to work to live, rather than live to work.

"We saw Aaron last year, and we did not have a position available, but we were so taken with him, we created a position," said Kelly Fermoyle, who founded the company in 2000.

Fermoyle understands the frustrations of both job-seekers and employers in Western New York.

She hears friends grumble that there are no good-paying jobs in the area, but also hears companies complain they can't find quality workers.

"I think there's a huge disconnect," Fermoyle said, "and I don't know how to reconcile that."

Ashok Subramanian, co-owner of Liazon, a benefit solutions company, believes there are jobs available in Buffalo for people who have the skills needed to compete in this global economy.

But, he said, they're going to have to dig harder in Buffalo, as opposed to New York or Chicago, where there may be 20 jobs staring right at them.

"Hopefully, I can find something," said Julie Kocourek, 28, who relocated to Western New York from Washington, D.C. "I like the area, and really don't want to leave, because my husband and I have set down roots here."

Buffalo Old Home Week continues today with tours of city neighborhoods, and concludes Sunday with a brunch on the waterfront at Shanghai Red's.

e-mail: jrey@buffnews.com

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