Jobs paying $100,000 or more are a dream opportunity for Buffalo Niagara residents.
The challenge, of course, is finding such high-paying positions in a regional economy not known for robust employment or wage growth.
But they're out there.
From June 2006 to June 2007, about 4,100 jobs paying more than $100,000 or more were offered within a 100-mile radius of Buffalo, according to TheLadders.com, a Web site started by a Fredonia native.
Using that radius, the jobs could be in places as far away as outside of Toronto, east of Rochester, or around Erie, Pa. But Marc Cenedella, the founder of TheLadders.com, said it indicates high-paying jobs are out there, even if some of them are a bit of a drive from Buffalo.
Other recruiters and experts agree Buffalo Niagara has $100,000-plus jobs to offer, even if those positions are not widely promoted.
"I think there is a significant level of that activity, but you have to look for them," said Randy Strauss, managing partner of StraussGroup in Clarence.
Strauss said his firm recently placed someone in a human resources-related position at a call center with a total compensation package of between $250,000 and $300,000. Another job his company filled, with a health care company, paid more than $100,000 annually.
Tim O'Brien, regional managing director for Spherion Corp., a staffing and recruitment firm, said employers trying to fill higher-paying jobs tend to use a targeted approach. And many of the prospects to whom recruiters reach out are people already working in other jobs but can be hired away with the right offer, he said.
That "quiet" approach toward filling high-paying jobs gave Cenedella the idea to start TheLadders.com. While he was an executive with HotJobs.com, before it was sold to Yahoo, users would tell him the site was great for middle-management jobs, but not so hot for upper-end jobs.
"I heard that over and over again," said Cenedella, 36.
Cendella's solution: create a site specifically for jobs paying $100,000 or more, and charge job seekers a fee to participate, to try to reduce the pool of candidates to serious job hunters. A job hunter pays $30 a month to belong, or a lower rate by signing up for longer subscriptions.
Why $100,000 as the threshold? The figure represents about the top 10 percent of jobs, he said. "That [dollar amount] is the psychological level people think of as high paying."
The four-year-old site, which is based in New York City, has attracted 30,000 recruiters and 1.4 million members, he said. Within a 100-mile radius of Buffalo, about 450 recruiters are registered to participate in the site.
Stuart Silverman, president of locally based recruiter Allen & Speth, said his company uses TheLadders.com as one of its resources, and has placed at least one person it found on the site. "It's part of our mix," he said.
Silverman said his firm recruits on behalf of local clients as well as national companies, whom he declined to name. Oftentimes, he said, a locally based company prefers to fill a high-paying job with someone who already lives around here, to avoid any issues with relocation.
Strauss said he encounters a variety of situations: people who are moving back to their hometown to take a job, others who want to remain here but need a new job, and some who relocate here from outside the area.
If someone is relocating here for a high-paying job, O'Brien said, the employer tends to prefer that the person have some connection to the area, to ensure the move will be a good fit for the employer and employee. "That's a large investment when you talk about a salary at that level, and relocating them."
State Labor Department figures show that the average Western New York worker last year earned $36,400, making a $100,000-plus job especially appealing.
State figures show a variety of occupations, from lawyers and doctors to chief executives and sales managers, paid an average of at least $100,000. Based on published figures, at least 7,210 people, or about 1.1 percent of the region's work force of 640,090, were in occupations that paid an average of $100,000 or more. The true percentage is somewhat higher, since job totals were not available for all occupations averaging $100,000 or more.
The Buffalo Employment and Training Center has seen signs of an uptick in activity for higher-paying jobs, "particularly for people with experience and marketable skills," said Colleen Cummings, the director.
A group of professionals seeking jobs, usually white-collar management people, meets at the BETC weekly in a program called "Professionals on Demand." In the past month, some of its job hunters have found positions paying $60,000, $80,000 and $100,000, she said. And all of the jobs were local, unlike in recent years, when some had to relocate for work.
While it is not surprising that chief executive jobs would pay six-figure salaries, Cenedella noted that about half of the jobs posted on TheLadders.com were not managerial jobs. Many of the jobs reward someone for having specialized technical knowledge, such as advanced computer skills.
O'Brien, of Spherion, said accounting and finance is one source of highly paid jobs in the region. A lot of companies with corporate public accounting responsibilities need that in-house expertise to ensure they meet regulatory requirements, he said.
Higher-level sales and marketing professionals often make $100,000 or more, O'Brien said. "It isn't always necessarily the [chief]-level executive."
Engineering jobs often approach the $100,000-range, particularly for people with a background in research and development, O'Brien said.
Lewis Mandell, a professor at the University at Buffalo's School of Management, noted that some of the region's other highest-paying jobs come from higher eduction, health insurers, banks, and manufacturing. In some cases, he said, such as auto manufacturing, the top-paying jobs are a byproduct of the fact that the employers are national companies.
Mandell said a $100,000 job isn't quite the "top scale" position as it was once thought of. Many middle- to upper-level managers make that amount, he said.
Just how far that $100,000 salary goes obviously depends on the cost of living. Mandell noted that nowadays, it's possible for a New York City-based firm to recruit and hire upstate residents without requiring them to relocate to work. They can take advantage of the lower cost of living by staying upstate, telecommuting and traveling to the city perhaps only one or two days a week, he said.
But Mandell noted that when it comes to recruiting someone to fill a $100,000-plus job in the Buffalo area, employers still need to be competitive with their pay package. Even though housing is cheap, taxes are still high, he said.