Raising Awareness of Buffalo’s Rich African American History

Finding the First Leader of the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission (MSAAHCC)


Supporting Buffalo’s vibrant Michigan Street Corridor, the MSAAHCC is an emerging community organization that celebrates the rich African American history throughout Western New York. When the MSAAHCC received approval for its first Executive Director, they knew they had to make the perfect hire and decided to retain a professional recruiting service to get it right the first time. After careful consideration of three local firms, Career Partners International Buffalo | Niagara was selected with MaryEllen Carlo, Director of Search Services, leading the search.

What is the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor (MSAAHC)?

In early 2007, the MSAAHC was recognized as a heritage area, one of only twenty-one heritage areas designated by the NYS Legislature. Their vision is to be a connector of the past, present, and future for the historic neighborhoods within the Corridor (shown in the image on the left). The Corridor is rich in African American history, with involvement in the Underground Railroad, historic assets, and venues that helped shape the Jazz Age. They also host festivals, cultural events, and various artists, poets, and actors to help celebrate the rich African American history throughout the Buffalo area.

In order to expand the rich history of the Corridor for future generations, the Board hoped to find a dynamic and innovative leader who could not only see the potential of the Corridor but could execute a comprehensive plan for sustained growth.

Finding a Search Service Firm:

After interviewing three search service firms, MaryEllen Carlo, Director of Search Services at Career Partners International Buffalo | Niagara, stood out among the rest as a skilled and experienced professional recruiter. Not only did her warm and inviting personality appeal to them, but her preparedness for the interview also stood out the most.

MaryEllen offers over 20 years of experience in the Talent Management and Assessment area. She utilizes creative and proactive methods to quickly fill jobs, saving her clients both time and money. She brings passion and energy to her work and focuses on identifying candidates that are the right job fit and cultural fit for her clients.

"MaryEllen was a partner throughout the entire process from start to finish, and her dedication for finding the perfect fit never wavered. She delivered a comprehensive, in-depth analysis of each candidate. The candidates were carefully screened, interviewed, and assessed. We received an update from her weekly to keep us informed of where she was in her process and who was under consideration for the role. The Board was appreciative of her sensitivity to their needs and her unbiased professional opinion."

By the end of the search, it was clear they had identified the perfect candidate for the job.

Finding the right candidate:


In late 2019, MaryEllen reached out to Terry Alford as a potential candidate for this critical and unique position. At the time, Terry was finishing up his Master’s in Organizational Leadership from Medaille College, and he was immediately intrigued by the opportunity. He met with MaryEllen at Career Partners International, and she helped him prepare for the next steps in the hiring process.

Terry grew up around the Corridor and could relate to the area on a personal level. He spoke about the great experiences and memories he had around the MSAAHC throughout the years. He also had the experience of advocating for the geographic location and the surrounding community through his positions at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, as the Community Relations Coordinator, and through his time in the Erie-Niagara Tobacco-Free Coalition. Terry’s passion for change and his commitment to the Corridor was evident. Upon receiving the offer to become the first Executive Director of the MSAAHCC, Terry happily accepted.

The Future:

Starting a new job is never easy, but the pandemic has raised unprecedented challenges. Despite these difficulties, Terry didn’t miss a beat as he settled into his new role. He kept moving forward despite all of the initial obstacles. Without the ability to physically tour the Corridor, Terry improvised and rapidly created virtual tours for the public to enjoy safely. The tour is now available here.

With support and guidance from the Board, Terry is in the process of developing a comprehensive Master Strategic Action Plan to make the rich and inspirational stories of the Corridor accessible to everyone. He is also striving to achieve operational independence, develop assets, facilitate investment, and grow tourism along the entire Corridor.

 To read more about the MSAAHC, visit their website here.

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