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Greatbatch shows a pulse. Banks up and down.

   In Business Today: One local bank continues the string of those making a lot of money. Another doesn't. And the company that originated the Pacemaker shows improved vitals.

Profits rise 68% at Five Star Bank parent - Jonathan D. Epstein/The Buffalo News
  The parent of Five Star Bank said Thursday that third-quarter profits soared 68 percent thanks to growth in loans and lending income, controlled expenses and an improvement in credit quality.
   Warsaw-based Financial Institutions reported net income of $5.7 million, or 43 cents per share, up from $3.4 million, or 23 cents per share, in the quarter a year ago. That beat Wall Street estimates of 38 cents per share. ...

- Evans Bancorp’s profits down 46% - Jonathan D. Epstein/The Buffalo News
   Evans Bancorp said profits for the third quarter fell 46 percent, as the bank set aside much more for loan and lease losses.
   The Hamburg-based parent of Evans Bank said it earned $1.28 million, or 31 cents per share, down from $2.44 million, or 87 cents per share, a year ago. ...
    CEO David J. Nasca blamed the drop on the loan loss reserve, mostly for the leasing business that the company began winding down in 2009, as well as higher operating expenses from the company’s investments in staff and technology to boost revenues and market share in the future. He also cited the “tepid pace of the economic recovery” and low interest rates. ...

Greatbatch profits beat forecast; sales up 5% - David Robinson/The Buffalo News
   Greatbatch Inc.’s third-quarter profits beat analyst forecasts as the Clarence battery and medical device maker’s sales improved by 5 percent.
   While Greatbatch’s main cardiac rhythm-management markets weakened during the summer as customers pared their inventories, that decline was more than offset by improved sales at its vascular, orthopedics and commercial battery businesses. ...
    Thomas J. Hook, Greatbatch’s president and chief executive officer, said Greatbatch is dealing with “challenging market dynamics” that have trimmed the growth rates in all of its medical markets from what had been expected at the start of the year.
   “These difficult market conditions are expected to persist for the foreseeable future,” Hook said during a conference call.

   New this morning:
- Graham Corp. sees earnings rise as energy markets overseas increase orders
- Columbus McKinnon reports stronger earnings 

   For the weekend, a song to keep your heart beating:

 

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Economists make a living explaining slow economy

   "If all the economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion."
-  George Bernard Shaw

   Wednesday saw two big-time economists visiting Buffalo, with a message of a long slog ahead. Though there was some good news for the no boom/no bust Buffalo experience: When you're not so far up, you not only don't have so far to fall, you also benefit the most from federal stimulus programs designed to help those areas of the country that did really crash.

- Praise for the region's pluck - David Robinson/The Buffalo News
   The Buffalo Niagara region's response to economic pain over the last three decades and its stable Williamdudley housing market have helped it weather the Great Recession better than most other parts of the country, a top Federal Reserve official said Wednesday.
   William C. Dudley [right], president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said the painful decline in manufacturing in Buffalo Niagara has helped spawn a more diversified local economy. Combined with a stable housing market, he said, this has limited the job losses locally and helped the region weather the downturn relatively well.
   "I think the region is in a better position," Dudley said in an interview before giving a speech at the University at Buffalo's North Campus in Amherst.

Recovery will take years, bank economist says - Jonathan D. Epstein
   The nation’s recovery from the worst recession in decades will take years, as consumers and businesses alike must first work to overcome severe uncertainty, fear and a lack of confidence, a national economist told local investors Wednesday.
   Consumers, businesses and governments — whose combined spending is necessary for the country to pull out of the economic doldrums — remain constrained by a mix of financial and emotional factors that haven’t been seen before, said Bruce McCain, chief investment strategist for Key Private Bank, a division of Cleveland-based KeyCorp. ...
   “An economic collapse, much like a major heart attack, takes some rebuilding,” he said. “Economies are adaptive. They will work their way through the problems, but it doesn’t come quickly. For that reason, we may see slower growth for some period into the future.”

   Related:
- Business spending begins to cool down - AP/Buffalo News
  The Commerce Department says orders for durable goods rose 3.3 percent last month. Overall, it was the best showing since January. But excluding transportation, orders fell 0.8 percent after having risen 1.9 percent in August. ...
   The new report suggests manufacturing is moving forward but at a slower pace than earlier this year.
- New home sales rise slightly, stay dismal - AP/Buffalo News
   The Commerce Department says new home sales grew 6.6 percent from August to a seasonally adjusted annual sales pace of 307,000. Even with the increase, the past five months have been the worst for new home sales on records dating back to 1963. 

   Bet our two distinguished visitors didn't have this much fun:

 

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Money = power. Power = money.

   Business stories are bustin' out all over today.

   On Page 1:
- Verizon's planned data center to get low-cost power - Thomas J. Prohaska/The Buffalo News
   Verizon Communications was granted 25 megawatts of low-cost hydroelectric power Tuesday for its proposed data center in Somerset, an enticement designed to help win the $1 billion-plus project for the Kessel Buffalo Niagara region.
   The New York Power Authority board of trustees, meeting in the Power Vista at the Niagara Power Project, approved the deal unanimously.
   "This would be a huge shot in the arm for New York State and Niagara County," said Richard M. Kessel, [right] Power Authority president and chief executive officer. "We are working very hard to make this a reality."
   New York is competing for the final designation with one other state, according to Kessel. And that other state is Wyoming, State Sen. George D. Maziarz said he has been told. [Maybe they would like to be next to this.]
   Verizon spokesman John J. Bonomo would not confirm that. ...
   Related:
- Buffalo: Data center capital of America? - Network World  

   On the local front:
Flight 3407 group finds ally on safety - Jerry Zremski/The Buffalo News
   Regional airlines aren’t perceived as being as safe as their big-name partners, a business travelers group and the Families of Continental Flight 3407 stressed Tuesday at a National Transportation Safety Board symposium on the relationship between the two kinds of air carriers.
   When the Business Travel Coalition surveyed its members, one respondent noted that at least one company keeps a “black list” that includes “certain carriers that they won’t allow their employees to fly on,” said Kevin Mitchell, the group’s chairman.
   Also at the symposium, John Kausner — whose daughter, Ellyce, was one of 50 people killed in the February 2009 crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 in Clarence Center — noted that his daughter bought her ticket on Continental’s Web site without knowing that the plane would be flown by a regional pilot who never would have been hired by Continental.
   That airline — Colgan Air — “passed the buck” after the accident, as did Continental and the Federal Aviation Administration, Kausner said.
   “And make no mistake about it: It’s all about the buck,” Kausner added.
   John H. Prater, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, said major airlines have laid off highly paid, experienced pilots while contracting with regionals that hire pilots at far lower salaries. ...
   In response, Roger Cohen, president of the Regional Airline Association, insisted there’s “one level of safety” for the regional airlines and the major carriers.
   “Every carrier does recognize that it’s bad for business not to be as safe as you can be,” Cohen said.
   Related:
NTSB probes safety of airline partnerships - AP
- Federal panel probes safety of code-sharing agreements - USA Today
Airlines' 'code sharing' practice examined - Marketplace/American Public Media
Airline Officials Tout Commuter Air Safety Improvements - Wall Street Journal

   A song for Somerset:

 

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

A big bar tab. A long road.

   Featured in Business Today:

Restaurant owners air audit grievances - David Robinson/The Buffalo News
  Mark Supples [right], the owner of Mother's restaurant in Allentown, spent five years and more than $150,000 Mothers fighting the state over claims that he owed more than $535,000 in sales taxes.
   Supples eventually won his case last year, but the time and money it took to do it left a bad taste in his mouth over the way the state Department of Taxation and Finance has ramped up its efforts to make sure bars and restaurants pay all of their required sales taxes.
   "They come in with the attitude that we're automatically guilty, that we're criminals, and that it's just a question of how much we've stolen," Supples said Monday as a group of local restaurant owners met with state tax officials to discuss their concerns over the stepped-up audits.
   Even if a restaurant owner has done nothing wrong, the operators said the audits can have a chilling effect on their business that lasts a long time. With audits often dragging on for two years or more, they said the uncertainty that they could be facing a large tax bill often causes them to stop hiring or investing in their business until their case is settled. ...

Backers push Route 219 expressway - Matt Glynn/The Buffalo News
   Supporters of “Continental 1” envision a corridor from Toronto to Miami, benefiting businesses and residents along the 1,500-mile driving route.
   But the concept faces obstacles in New York State, where plans for extending the Route 219 expressway have stalled. The complete project would create a four-lane highway over 28 miles from Springville to Interstate 86 near Salamanca.
   “Right now, if you go down the 219 once you get south of Springville, it’s a winding, curvy road,” said Frank Billittier, assistant regional design engineer for the state Department of Transportation. “There’s a lot of noise. There’s a significant amount of accidents. You have other environmental impacts that we’re trying to reduce by putting in the four-lane freeway.” ...

   Maybe the bar owners should have this guy representing them:

 

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Brave new world of health insurance

   The employer-based system of health care that most of us use today wasn't deliberately designed by anybody. It sort of evolved during and after World War II. The system that replaces it - if one does - is still a work in progress.
   In Business Today and out front, stories about people trying to figure out just what the new American health insurance system is going to look like. And how much it's going to cost. 

Could overhaul undermine employer health coverage? - AP/Buffalo News
   The new health care law wasn't supposed to undercut employer plans that have provided most people in the U.S. with coverage for generations.
   But last week a leading manufacturer [Boeing] told workers their costs will jump partly because of the Bredesen law. Also, a Democratic governor laid out a scheme for employers to get out of health care by shifting workers into taxpayer-subsidized insurance markets that open in 2014.
   While it's too early to proclaim the demise of job-based coverage, corporate number crunchers are looking at options that could lead to major changes.
   "The economics of dropping existing coverage is about to become very attractive to many employers, both public and private," said Gov. Phil Bredesen, D-Tenn. [right]
   That's just not going to happen, White House officials say.
   "The absolute certainty about the Affordable Care Act is that for many, many employers who cover millions of people, it increases the incentives for them to offer coverage," said Jason Furman, an economic adviser to President Barack Obama.

Regional Medicare costs rise sharply -  Jonathan D. Epstein/The Buffalo News
   Western New York seniors are facing a dizzying array of Medicare plan choices with premium costs that have risen sharply -- nearly tripling in at least one case.
   Insurers are offering a total of 68 private Medicare plans in Western New York for 2011, including 33 prescription drug plans that work with the original government Medicare coverage and another 35 Medicare Advantage plans. Twenty-three Advantage plans include drug coverage.

State cuts some requests, approves increases for 2 area health insurers - Jonathan D. Epstein/The Buffalo News
   State insurance regulators approved health insurance rate increases Thursday for eight insurers — including Independent Health Association and the parent of Univera Healthcare — but reduced several of them from what were requested.

Health insurers help GOP after dalliance with Dems - AP/Buffalo News
    Health insurers flirted with Democrats, supported them with money and got what they wanted: a federal mandate that most Americans carry health care coverage. Now they're backing Republicans, hoping a GOP Congress will mean friendlier regulations.
   They may get more than they're wishing for.
   The so-called individual mandate has provoked tea party conservatives, who see it as an example of big government interference in personal decisions. Now Republican candidates are running on platforms that include repealing the broader health care law. And attorneys general from some 20 states - mainly Republicans - are challenging the mandate as unconstitutional.
   "If you ended up repealing that one provision, the whole thing blows up," said Bill Hoagland, the top lobbyist for Cigna Corp. "It doesn't work. The cost would explode."

- Health Care and the Campaign - New York Times Editorial
   Republican candidates and deep-pocketed special interests are spreading so many distortions and outright lies about health care reform that it is little wonder if voters are anxious and confused. 

   Or we could just go ahead and die:

 

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

'This is not a strong recovery ...'

   Big story in Business Today: Buffalo is still not a good place to find a job.

Region once more loses jobs - David Robinson/The Buffalo News
   The Buffalo Niagara region lost jobs for the third straight month during September in the latest sign that the economic recovery continues to sputter.
   While the overall job count was down, most of the loss resulted from a steep drop in seasonal summer jobs through local government -- a sector that had been pumped up last year through summer youth job Ineedajob programs funded under the federal stimulus program.
   Private-sector hiring, meanwhile, increased, with jobs through private firms rising by 0.8 percent over the last year. But most of that growth came from increases in the low-paying and often seasonal retail and leisure-hospitality sectors.
   As a result, John Slenker, the state Labor Department's regional economist in Buffalo, said Thursday that the latest job numbers show that the local employment market is stabilizing, but not recovering from the recession in a vigorous fashion.
   "The recession has not ended in the labor market yet," Slenker said. "This is not a strong recovery."

   Elseweb, the numbers are all over the lot:
New Jersey's Unemployment Rate Declines to 9.4% as People Leave Workforce - Reuters
Jobless rate falls to 8.4% in Bay State - Boston Globe
- RI unemployment to 11.5%, lowest since July 2009 - Boston Globe
- TN jobless numbers don't tell whole story - The [Nashville] Tennessean
- S.C. unemployment falls to 11% - The State [Columbia, S.C.]
State loses high-wage jobs - St. Paul [Minn.] Pioneer-Press
Utah unemployment rate rises to 7.5 percent - Salt Lake Tribune
Wisconsin loses 9,900 private-sector jobs - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
- Illinois unemployment rate falls to 9.9 percent - Chicago Sun-Times
- Ky. jobless rate up to 10.1% - Lexington Herald-Leader

  And here's a business that's growing, right close to home. [It's also one of the hardest stories for a reporter to write. Hope you spelled everyone's name right, Dave.]
-
With new press, News expands repertoire for printing - David Robinson/The Buffalo News

   How to get a job. First, you have to have your own hat:

  

 -- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

The business environment -- on the water & around the world

   Looking at Business Today, we see that figuring out how to succeed in business requires a constant effort to look for the better way:

Dug’s Dive gets deadline on remaining open - David Robinson/The Buffalo News
   Time could be running short on Tucker Curtin’s plans to keep Dug’s Dive restaurant in the NFTA Boat Dugsdive Harbor on Buffalo’s waterfront open year-round.
   Curtin, who who operates the business under an agreement with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, said Wednesday he has received a letter from the NFTA warning him that the year-round operation violates his lease with the agency and gives him 20 days to comply. ...
   NFTA officials, who say they share Curtin’s interest in seeing Dug’s Dive become a year-round operation, said they need to work out an agreement that would cover all of their added costs before that could happen. ...
   Related:
- Giving local food a boost - Buffalo News, Oct. 18
Waterfront jewel arising - Buffalo News, April 30

- Tepid economy demands businesses be more efficient - Matt Glynn/The Buffalo News
  With the economy showing only tepid improvement, businesses have to aggressively pursue customers and make themselves more efficient to cope with the conditions.
   That was the view of two manufacturing executives, Gerald Leary of Koike Aronson and James Tetreault of Ford Motor Co., in a discussion ahead of Wednesday’s World Trade Celebration, which spotlighted area exporters.
   “It’s improving just a little,” said Leary, president and chief executive officer of the Arcade company and chairman of World Trade Center Buffalo Niagara. “The problem we have in the markets we serve is availability of credit right now.”
   “The economy is improving a little bit, but only a little bit,” said Tetreault, Ford’s vice president of North American manufacturing. Ford has a 745-employee stamping plant in Hamburg. ...

   It's all about efficiency. Right, Charlie?

 

   This does NOT happen at Dug's Dive.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

   New today: [Anybody got a video of Niagara Falls with the water flowing up?]

First Niagara earnings soar four-fold - David Robinson/The Buffalo News
   First Niagara Financial Group's third-quarter profits more than quadrupled as the Buffalo-based bank's loan losses dropped and its expansion into Pennsylvania expanded its loan and deposit base. Koelmelportrait
   First Niagara's earnings jumped to $45.6 million, or 22 cents per share, from $10.9 million, or 7 cents per share, a year ago.
   Excluding non-operating items, the bank's profits rose to $46.9 million, or 23 cents per share, from $27.3 million, or 19 cents per share, a year earlier, slightly topping analyst forecasts of 22 cents per share.
   With First Niagara's profits jumping, and its capital levels well above regulatory thresholds, the bank also increased its quarterly dividend by 7 percent, increasing its payment to shareholders by a penny to 15 cents per share from the old rate of 14 cents.
   "Business momentum remains strong," said John R. Koelmel, First Niagara's president and chief executive officer, in a statement. "Our strategy of playing offense has proven very advantageous across all markets and business lines."

   Related:
- First Niagara Ready for M&A Breather - The Street.com
   ... Koelmel said First Niagara's Northeastern footprint "has now been achieved" and management will be "fully focused on mining the rich potential of what we've built." ... 
- First Niagara provides details on New Alliance merger - Business Review
- PNC, Fifth Third Post Profits - Wall Street Journal
- Comerica triples its profits in 3Q - Detroit Free Press

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Bank. It's where the money is.

   Fresh this morning:
- M&T's earnings soar 53 percent - David Robinson/The Buffalo News
   M&T Bank Corp.'s third-quarter profits surged by 53 percent, easily topping analyst forecasts, as the M&Ttower Buffalo-based banking company's loan losses dropped sharply.
   M&T said today it earned $192 million, or $1.48 per share, up from $128 million, or 97 cents per
share, a year earlier. The bank's operating profits of $200 million, or $1.55 per share, easily topped analyst forecasts of $1.41 per share.
   "Revenues and net income held up nicely this quarter," said Rene F. Jones, M&T's executive vice president and chief financial officer, in a statement.
   Driving M&T's earnings higher was a combination of reduced loan losses and the increased profitability of its basic banking business of making loans and taking in deposits.

   Basic banking business? What a novel concept for making money. Of course, nothing stays the same. From this morning's Business Today:
Say goodbye to free checking - AP/Buffalo News
  Almost all of the largest U.S. banks are either already making free checking much more difficult to get or expected to do so soon, with fees on even basic banking services.
  It’s happening because a raft of new laws enacted in the past year, including the financial overhaul package, have led to an acute shrinking of revenue for the banks. So they are scraping together money however they can. ...
   Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan acknowledged in a conference call that overdraft fees were generating a lot of income. But the bank was also losing customers who were often taken aback by the high hidden fees. ...
   “Customers never had free checking accounts,” Bank of America spokeswoman Anne Pace said. “They always paid for it in other ways, sometimes with penalty fees. Now they have the option to avoid those fees.”

   And
Banks unlikely to quell foreclosure-document mess - AP/Buffalo News
   ... - Attorneys general in all 50 states are jointly investigating whether lenders violated state laws.
  - Lawyers for evicted homeowners are preparing lawsuits against major lenders.
  - State judges have signaled they will review the banks' foreclosure documents with skepticism.
  - Lawmakers on Capitol Hill plan to hold hearings.
  The document crisis, in other words, appears far from over.
   Related:
- From a Maine House, a National Foreclosure Freeze - David Streitfeld/The New York Times
   DENMARK, Me. — The house that set off the national furor over faulty foreclosures is blue-gray and weathered. The porch is piled with furniture and knickknacks awaiting the next yard sale. In the driveway is a busted pickup truck. No one who lives there is going anywhere anytime soon.
- Foreclosure procedures undergo extensive review - Stephanie Armour/USA Today
   Recent revelations about mortgage lenders filing possibly faulty court papers to foreclose on homes has sparked a public outcry and called into question tens of thousands of foreclosures. Here's a look at the issue and its impact. ... 

   Also:
- Wells Fargo profit rises 19 pct, tops forecasts - AP/Buffalo News
- Morgan Stanley posts 3Q loss on special charges - AP/Buffalo News

   All this mess about home mortgages, you might even call it Madness:

 

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

More tax breaks. More foreclosures.

   In Business Today, lots of tax breaks are being handed out in Erie County.  And, around the country, lots more home mortgages are going to be foreclosed.

Conversion receives tax breaks - David Robinson/The Buffalo News
  Plans to convert the former Larkin Co. U Building on Van Rensselaer Street into high-end offices got a boost Monday when the Erie County Industrial Development Agency approved more than $210,000 in tax Larkinmap breaks for the project.
   The developer, LCo Building LLC, which is primarily owned by Howard A. Zemsky, plans to convert the three-story brick building into 42,000 square feet of Class A office space, along with 12,000 square feet of basement storage and office space.
   The $8.4 million project, scheduled to be completed by the middle of next year, will continue the revitalization of the Larkin District that began eight years ago when Zemsky and his partners purchased the nearby former Graphic Controls plant and converted the renamed Larkin Building into offices.

IDA helps Alliance in office move to Buffalo - David Robinson/The Buffalo News
  Alliance Advisory Group is moving its headquarters from Amherst to the long-vacant former Rural/ Metro Medical Services headquarters building on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo, with help from $24,000 in mortgage tax breaks through the Erie County Industrial Development Agency.
   IDA officials said Monday that even more lucrative tax breaks are also likely to be approved for the $2.75 million project next month. ...
   In addition:
   • The agency approved more tax breaks for developer and gubernatorial candidate Carl P. Paladino’s plans to turn the long-vacant Baker Shoe building in the 400 block of Main Street into commercial space and loft-style apartments.
   The agency expanded the scope of the project to include 600 square feet of space in the former Courtyard Mall, 460 Main St., boosting the total of sales and mortgage tax breaks for the $7.1 million project to $245,000, up from the estimated $218,000 when the agency first approved incentives.
   Bryant & Stratton College is expected to occupy about 18,000 square feet of space on the first three floors of the renovated building for both classrooms and offices. The upper floors will include 12 market-rate loft apartments.
   • The IDA also approved $324,000 in sales and mortgage tax breaks for an entity controlled by Paladino’s Ellicott Development, which is building a new 43,000-square-foot elementary school for the Tapestry Charter School. The new school will be located next to the Tapestry school’s high school at 65 Great Arrow Drive. ...
   • An IDA affiliate, Buffalo & Erie County Industrial Land Development Corp., approved $12 million in bond financing for Medaille College to expand two facilities on its Buffalo campus. ...
   • Another IDA affiliate, Regional Development Corp., approved a $600,000 loan to Griffin Acquisition Corp. to help finance its $2.3 million acquisition of Dylix Corp., a Grand Island company that makes fluid meters. Dylix, which is located at 347 Lang Blvd., employs 22 workers.

   Enough tax breaks. Back to the way the rest of us live:
-  BofA to resume seizing homes - AP/Buffalo News
  The pace of U.S. home foreclosures may not slow much after all.
  Bank of America said Monday that it plans to resume seizing more than 100,000 homes in 23 states next week.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

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