If you don’t know who Matt Davison is, then you’re probably familiar with a lot of things that he has been involved with here in Buffalo. We’ll get into that a bit later, but first let’s get to know Matt…
Matt grew up in Hamburg and attended Canisius High School (I won’t hold that against him – I went to St. Joes!). He was raised in what he calls a restaurant family. It involved lots of small businesses and in his words he “grew up on a bar stool and a baseball field”. His family owned and/or was involved with the management of Calico Jacks, Callahans, McKenzie’s, Mulberry Italian Ristorante, Dock at the Bay and more. His family was also full of military veterans, which he believes helped draw him into politics. At Canisius High School, Matt was on the student senate. From there he studied political science and journalism at the University of Rochester.
Professionally, Matt moved to the DC area where he served as press secretary for a US Senator as well a public relations representative for the US Steel Industry. Matt moved back to Buffalo in 2007 after landing a job with the Canalside and Erie Canal Harbor Project (aka Canalside). Matt has also worked with the Peace Bridge Authority, serving as government relations and communications director. Throught that opportunity, he got to know the political and international market very well. But, like the rest of his family, Matt started getting the entrepreneurial bug.
Based on his past and recent experiences, Matt put together a business plan for a public affairs company. He linked up with some other friends and together they created their own business incubator at the Tri-Main Center. They all “jammed in there and built little businesses together”. Some of which have turned out to be successful business, like 19 Ideas. Matt continued to grow his public affairs business and started getting clients. This allowed Matt to start to pursue some of his other passions, including a desire to get into restaurant business. Matt likes craft beer and he knew some people who were pioneers in the local industry, “like Matt Kresconko aka Buffalo Brewhound”, plus some friends at the Copy Store. “We went to Century Grille, crushed some wings and came up with a craft beer magazine”. What emerged is WNY Craft Beer Magazine.
Continuing the beer theme
Matt and a friend had an idea. The ideas was for a beer bike. With Matt’s link to the craft beer world, and his relationship with his clients in the public affairs world, they came up with a plan for a high end product, which included craft beer and a sponsor. Thanks to M&T Bank, they were able to afford a really nice cruiser bike and through the sponsorship of Consumer’s Beverage, the Consumer’s Craft Cruiser was born! They launched the cruiser on April 20th of 2015 and have had lots of great success since then.
Back to the PR world
Matt got approached by The Martin Group to be a part of the agency, which Matt describes as having a “focus on building a firm that plays in all markets, and not just the Buffalo area”. “We found that I made a good fit with Tod Martin and we formed a partnership with me as Managing Partner of Martin Davison PR. Todd walks the walk. He doesn’t just talk about doing things for the city of Buffalo. He’s invested in the space on Main Street downtown and planted the company there. He’s genuinly interested in helping Buffalo and being there for his clients”, says Matt, who went on to point out how “people like Todd continue to contribute to causes locally, without the need for attention for doing so”.
“I’m Bullish on Buffalo”
Matt is bullish on Buffalo because “I don’t think Buffalo is dead because there are too many things here that make it alive. A dead city doesn’t have an NFL team., or an NHL team, or a city hall that is an iconic architectural piece. A dead city doesn’t have an M&T Bank, Rich Products or Delaware North. The old guard has moved on. The naysayers who lived through the tough times in the 70’s 80’s, who got sour on Buffalo — they’re not here to naysay anymore.”
He’s been back in Buffalo for 7 years now. In that time, “I’ve seen great movement like the Medical Campus, the UB Campus, Canalside and more. These things are great to see, but it’s the little things that are happening, like the mom and pops are now seeing the city and downtown as viable. We’re not the hottest city in the country, but we’re turning it around. Young people are making it happen themselves, like at d!g. The more of these little businesses that pop up, and work together with other little businesses and next thing all of these collisions are happening and a new business comes out of that! All of the cool cities I know have cool suburbs too. We even have cool suburbs, East Aurora, Hamburg, Hertel / North Buffalo, Lewiston.”
What about Buffalo excites you?
“The presence of a renewed energy in the city. And it spans across all ages here. What will these energized people turn to next? Where will that energy go next? What will we build next and where will it be? Will the Skyway come down? I’m looking forward to a walkable downtown with shops and retail.”
Matt, what would you tell a younger version of yourself:
“Trying things and figuring out what works and doesn’t work prepares you and is a great learning experience. It prepares you and gives you expertise a lot quicker than always playing things safe and backing your way into knowledge. Every day there’s 10 things that I want to do better. You have to hustle, push and want it more than anyone else.”
“Be nice! I always try to be helpful, and nice to everyone I meet. People who do it are successful because they’re confident it what they do. You can be nice and still be successful.”
Matt really wants to see the children’s museum at the waterfront. He’s working on raising money for the project and continues to be passionate about this idea. “I’d like to see more growth of the local beer sector as well as see Buffalo pay more attention to what M&T is doing. They are an important economic driver – with their employees and what they put back into the city. M&T played it safe during the financial fiasco and as a result were more stable and able to continue to contribute to the local economic scene. I’d also love to see a Niagara Falls and regional push. Maybe even a light rail from Larkin to the airport to UB and on to Niagara Falls”.
We are excited to see what else Matt has up his sleeves for Buffalo. It’s bound to be a success, and it’s also likely to make people want to spend more time on the waterfront, or in the city. Thanks, Matt! We appreciate what you’ve done so far. If you know someone else who’s making a difference, let us know! And, if you get a chance to sit down and talk to him, ask him about his kids and family. You’ll be glad you did.
- Julia Spitz with Savarino Companies
- Dave Rust with Say Yes
Follow Matt Davison: