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The Fiat Club

Chrysler LLC has published a complete list of the 130 dealers that will sell Fiats in the United States, and New York state is one of its top choices.

West Herr Automotive Group was already announced as the lone choice for Western New York, in Orchard Park. In all, 10 Fiat dealers were named in New York state, but few Upstate. One each was selected for the Rochester and Albany markets.  The rest are downstate, in New York City or its suburbs or on Long Island.

Among states, New York was tied for second with Texas and Florida for the most announced Fiat dealerships. California led the pack with 17.

-- Matt Glynn

Food, music and honors...

From Business Today:

Delaware North may seem like a quaint company on the corner of Delaware AvenueDNC Summit  and North Street in Buffalo, but it is an international giant in the food service industry. It handles food service at more than 150 parks and sports stadiums around the world. The company brought its managers from all over to its food and beverage summit at the Buffalo Niagara Convention cCenter this week. Food companies put oj their best shows for them.

For anyone who has not secured their Beatles songs, Apple has finally gained the right to sell the Fab   Apple Four's music at its online iTunes store. Some cynics are lamented the rehashing of old music, but most of their work does stand the test of time. Just ask a teenager.

Who is getting hired, honored or promoted, and what are local companies doing? 

To celebrate...



Statler hopes, Megabus rides and dialysis...

From Business Today:

Anyone have a "here we go again" feeling about the Statler? The deadline for closing the purchase of the landmark overlooking Niagara Square was extended on Monday, Inside Statler and it is almost certain to be extended again.  The underlying challenge in the effort to save the 18-story abandoned hotel is that it is such a HUGE LIFT to renovate such a building. It will certainly take lots of public money. This latest effort could be the last best hope to save it.

Megabus, the low-cost double-decker bus service has been such a hit that it is extending its routes. Previously primarily a ride to New Megabus York City or Toronto, the Chicago-based line is adding a route from Buffalo to Washington, D.C. The big attraction is that if you book very far in advance, rates are very low.

Niagara County developer CalamarCalamar  is welcoming a new dialysis center to its Woodlands Corporate Center, bringing that service closer to more people.    

Innovation, expansion and subsidies...

From Business Today:

The Innovation Center at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus provides Innovation center  a home for numerous health sciences companies that have outgrown the incubator stage but can still benefit from being near other like companies.

Amherst-based North Forest Office Space is betting that its
 model of small, affordable office space popular with small
companies and single-proprietors will be popular across the
JORDAN country.  Company founder Roy Jordan is expanding to several
cities out West and down South.

David Robinson's column raises an interesting question about public subsidies for remodeling office space. Is it beneficial to remove one tenant from a nearby building using public money?


Health insurance costs 'A runaway train'

  Big biz news out front today, and deserves to be:

- 'A runaway train' of soaring costs - Jonathan D. Epstein/The Buffalo News
  If you felt sticker shock when you opened up your health insurance packet from your employer, you were not alone.
  Western New York workers will see their insurance premiums rise by as much as 20 percent next year. And there's no sign of it getting better soon.
   "It's getting worse," said Gregory D. Leifer, director of life insurance and employee benefits at Scott Danahy Naylon Insurance Brokers. "It's a runaway train, and people don't see it ending." ...
  Nationwide, employers expected their health insurance costs to rise by 10.1 percent in 2011, if they made no changes to their plans, but by just 5.9 percent after adjustments, according to a survey by Mercer Health & Benefits. A similar survey by Towers Watson said plan changes would lower the expected increase to 8.2 percent.
   Locally, rates will rise by up to 20 percent for Independent Health and HealthNow and by up to 12.5 percent for Univera. Employers are growing less willing to absorb those increases, as the cost of benefits comprises more than 10 percent of payroll, according to Compdata Surveys. ...

- ‘Obamacare’ not the cause of Colorado rate hikes - Colorado Independent
- Five strategies to tame health care spending - St. Louis Post-Dispatch
- Why Employers Aren't Rooting for Health Care Reform to Die - The Atlantic
- Why I will stay far away from cliffs from now on - The Huffington Post 
- Nearly 59 million lack health insurance: CDC - Reuters
- Employers plan for hikes in health insurance rates - Rochester Business Journal
- Connecticut Doctors To Oppose Anthem's Proposed Rate Increases - Hartford Courant
- Online information on health insurance rates readily available to Californians - Los Angeles Times

   Not everything's going up:
Mortgage rates again decline to record lows - AP/Buffalo News
   The mortgage rate bar is even lower, but few homebuyers are making the jump.
   Rates on fixed mortgages again fell to their lowest levels in decades this week, Freddie Mac said Thursday, after the Federal Reserve unveiled a massive bond-buying program to help spur economic growth.
   That marked more than a half-year of record lows. But housing activity has still faltered.

- Battle for shoppers' dollars pushes convenience, discounts - AP/Buffalo News
   From Sears stores open on Thanksgiving for the first time to free shipping from Wal-Mart, the battle for holiday shoppers' dollars has begun in earnest. ...
   Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that typically kicks off holiday shopping, is not only being marketed as "Black Friday week," but for a growing number of stores, "Black Friday month."

- Retailers offering early discounts, so late shoppers could lose out - AP/Buffalo News

   Speaking of "sticker shock":


- George Pyle/The Buffalo News 

Statler teeters. Larkin rooted.

   In Business Today: Plans for reviving one old Buffalo building look iffy. Plans for another have taken root.

Statler buyers eye deadline extension - Matt Glynn/The Buffalo News
  The prospective buyers of the Statler Towers are trying to rally public support for their efforts, amid the possibility they will seek an extension of a key deadline.
   Mark D. Croce and James J. Eagan on Wednesday welcomed a crowd that included developers and Statlernewser elected officials to the chilly, shuttered Niagara Square landmark to share their plans for revitalizing the Statler in phases. [Buffalo News Video.]
   Holding the gathering at the Statler was intended to "create public awareness, remind people what is here and what it is we're asking the public to buy into," Croce said.
   The two principals were joined by leaders of Preservation Buffalo Niagara, who advocate saving and restoring the Statler, rather than leaving it at risk of demolition. ...
  Croce and Knoer said all of those funds would not necessarily come from public sources. But they suggested that any government money devoted to those repairs would cost taxpayers far less than if the Statler ended up abandoned and had to be torn down. Demolition expenses could run $15 million or higher, they said. ...
   Mayor Byron W. Brown did not attend Wednesday's event at the Statler. At an appearance earlier in the day, he said the city is "ready to step in in a major way" but needs to see a more extensive plan for reviving the Statler before committing financial help. ...
   Knoer addressed the idea of submitting a comprehensive plan to the city and Empire State Development Corp., the state's economic development arm....
   [You guys need to build a really cool website about your plans, so bloggers like me can link to it.] 

- Larkin District street work completed - Jonathan D. Epstein/The Buffalo News
   Buffalo city leaders joined with First Niagara Financial Group and developer Howard Zemsky on Wednesday to mark the completion of a streetscape beautification project in the Larkin District, while announcing a new $500,000 state grant to restore more commercial and residential buildings. [Buffalo News Video]
   Public and private-sector officials unveiled more than a half-mile of street improvements along Seneca Street  between Larkin Street and Fillmore Avenue, including new streets, sidewalks, bike lanes, curbs, landscaping, lighting, benches, bus shelters and crosswalks.
   The Spotlight Larkin Streetscape Project covers sections of Seneca, Van Rensselaer, Swan and Emslie streets. The project was announced in December.
   The work was paid for through a $2 million investment by the city, National Grid USA and First Niagara, which moved its corporate headquarters to the Larkin at Exchange Building a year ago. First Niagara committed $1.5 million, plus another $50,000 to the Larkin Community Improvement Fund, while the city invested $200,000. National Grid gave $250,000 from its urban corridor revitalization program, one of several economic development initiatives. ...
   The Old First Ward Community Association said it received a new $500,000 Main Street grant from the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal to help with additional commercial and residential restorations in the neighborhood. ...

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Tax breaks ... and more

   In Business Today, Verizon gets its tax breaks, and is still hungry. While a company that makes cardboard wants its cut.

Verizon granted tax break for center - Thomas J. Prohaska/The Buffalo News
   Verizon Communications was granted a 20-year tax break for its $4.5 billion data center in Somerset on Wednesday, but the company is trying to use the project as leverage to obtain changes in state regulations and defeat of a piece of state legislation it opposes.
   “We still have what we consider some unfinished business,” Verizon spokeswoman Maureen Rasp-Glose said after the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency unanimously approved the tax package.
   The deal involves sales and property tax abatements totaling $518 million over 20 years and would result in the company paying about 15 percent of its tax liability. Verizon also has secured a commitment from the New York Power Authority for 25 megawatts of discounted hydropower that would save the company an estimated $96 million over 15 years.
   The company’s plan is to create 200 jobs, paying an average of $85,000 a year, on 158 acres of land on Lake Road next to the AES Corp. power plant. AES would sell the land to Verizon. The total value of the package — $614 million — is the largest subsidy deal offered a company in Western New York and works out to nearly $3.1 million per job. ...
  State and local officials have lobbied hard for the project, but the company also has some concerns about putting a project in New York. Rasp-Glose said Verizon wants the State Legislature to defeat a bill that would require the company to rebate 40 percent of the proceeds from any sale or merger of its New York operations, either in cash to ratepayers or by means of infrastructure investments in New York.
   Rasp-Glose said the Legislature also needs to loosen Public Service Commission regulations on its business, which she said the company considers “antiquated.” ...
  The rebate bill Verizon opposes was passed by the Assembly on July 1 under the sponsorship of Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, a Westchester County Democrat. Assembly cosponsors included Erie County Democrats Sam Hoyt, Dennis H. Gabryszak and Mark J. F. Schroeder, while Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes signed on later.
   However, the bill is stalled in the Senate, where lame-duck Sen. William T. Stachowski, D-Lake View, was among the cosponsors.
   Brodsky told The Buffalo News on Wednesday that the bill involves property Verizon owned before the deregulation of the telephone industry. He called the company’s attempt to tie it to the data center project “an elegant form of blackmail.”

Cardboard plant seeks tax break - Thomas J. Prohaska/The Buffalo News
  A Canadian company that operates a Niagara Falls cardboard plant applied Wednesday for a 20-year tax break on a new paper mill in the Falls.
   The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency expects to vote Dec. 15 on the deal with Norampac’s [in English] newly formed subsidiary, Greenpac Mill.
   The company plans to invest $407.5 million to demolish an abandoned mill next to its active plant on Packard Road and erect a new one on the same site, creating 110 new jobs in the process.
   The 120 jobs in the existing Norampac plant will stay put, and its operations will continue, General Manager Luc Nadeau said.
   A public hearing on the payment- in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, arrangement is to be held at 4 p.m. Dec. 14 in Niagara Falls City Hall. ...

   This Verizon deal may be getting more complicated:


-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Statler threatened. Jeweler closes. Medical building to rise.

    Buffalo. Can't figure out to do with what was once a major hotel. Losing a long-time downtown business. But can't keep up with the demand for more medical facilities.

Statler buyers face Monday deadline - The Buffalo News
   Six days and counting.
   That's how much time U.S. Bankruptcy Court has given Mark D. Croce and James J. Eagan to conclude a $700,000 sale agreement to purchase the embattled Statler Towers on the northeast corner of Niagara Square.
   That's also how much time remains for government to help save the iconic Statler and make its future redevelopment viable, Croce told The Buffalo News in discussing his plans publicly for the first time Tuesday.
   If a deal isn't completed, preservationists warn, the 18-story Statler will be heading toward demolition.
   "Our plan is to re-energize the first two floors and effectively stabilize the property to take the time to come up with an organic future redevelopment plan that will allow the building to grow as the market will bear," Croce said.
   But the historic 800,000-square-foot 1923 structure -- once the largest in adopted Buffalonian Ellsworth M. Statler's hotel chain -- needs government funding, too, Croce said. ...

96-year downtown landmark closing shop - Matt Glynn/The Buffalo News
   After 96 years in business in downtown Buffalo, Weisberg Jewelers is preparing to close its doors. Weisberg
   The business plans to end its nearly centurylong run in January after going through one final holiday shopping season, said Edward G. Wicks [right], the president....
   In 1914, the year that Weisberg Jewelers was founded, Woodrow Wilson was president, World War I was beginning, and the Boston Braves won the World Series.
   Weisberg Jewelers at one time had multiple locations. For decades, its store was a fixture of the Main Place Mall before moving to its present home at 11 Court St. about nine years ago. The store has four employees. ...
   [I was on a bus a few months ago and the driver was calling out the stops. At one point, she said, "Main Place Mall. The mall without any stores." It wasn't completely accurate. But more so than it used to be.] 

Medical complex eyed at Main, High streets - Brian Meyer/The Buffalo News
   Plans to build an $80 million medical complex at Main and High streets on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus were unveiled Tuesday in City Hall.
   “This is really the first privately held investment of this size on the medical campus,” Timothy Vaeth, a vice president at Ciminelli Real Estate, told members of the city Planning Board. ...
   One large tenant will be Kaleida Health, which plans to locate an outpatient surgery center in the building. There also will likely be an imaging center, laboratory space and medical offices. ...
   The ambulatory surgery center that Kaleida is planning would fill about one-fifth of the space in the structure. The surgery facility is viewed as the first step toward the eventual move of Women and Children’s Hospital from its Bryant Street location to the medical campus. ...

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Bank deals: One opposed, one dropped

   In Business Today, the merger of banks goes forward. Except when it doesn't.

Suit filed in M&T’s buyout proposal - Jonathan D. Epstein/The Buffalo News
   M&T Bank Corp.’s planned acquisition of Delaware’s largest bank is facing its first legal challenge. Wilmingtontrust
   A stockholder of Wilmington Trust Corp. sued the century-old bank with roots tied to the DuPont family, accusing directors of violating their duties to shareholders by accepting a discounted buyout offer from M&T....
- Lawsuits seek to halt Wilmington Trust deal - Wilmington News Journal
   ... "I'm totally outraged," said [Don] Medich, a retired Chyrsler autoworker who owns 300 shares. "It's terrible. It seems like it's planned for a lot of people's benefit, but not the shareholders. It's very unfair to the shareholders. They were misled from the beginning." ...
- M&T Bank has a history of community involvement - Wilmington News Journal Editorial
   ... At least the proposed merger doesn't include one of the faceless giants of banking that would simply come in and figuratively bulldoze the Wilmington Trust brand. ...
- Merger of prominent Delaware bank a sign of the times - International Business Times
   It survived the Great Depression, but it couldn’t survive the Great Recession. ...

Northwest Savings parent forced to drop plans to acquire bank - Jonathan D. Epstein/The Buffalo News
   In a rare slap-down by regulators, the parent of Northwest Savings Bank has canceled its planned Northwestlogo purchase of a Pittsburgh-area bank after federal bank regulators criticized Northwest for consumer compliance violations.
   In a statement Monday, Warren, Pa.-based Northwest Bancshares said it had terminated its agreement to buy Nex-Tier Inc., based on “the expectation that the merger would not receive required approval” from Northwest’s primary federal regulator, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
   Northwest had agreed in early May to pay $20.3 million in cash for Butler, Pa.-based NexTier and its subsidiary Nex-Tier Bank. ...
- Northwest deal out; NexTier planning to stay independent - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
- Dropped NexTier-Northwest deal may be sign of slowdown in bank mergers - Pittsburgh Business Times

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

It's raining tax breaks

   In Business Today, a deluge of tax breaks:

County IDA OKs tax help for urgent care unit in city - David Robinson/The Buffalo News
   Western New York Immediate Care's plans to open an urgent care facility on Delaware Avenue won more than $450,000 in tax breaks Monday from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency, despite the objections of some board members to providing incentives to medical projects.
   By backing Western New York Immediate Care's $3.3 million project to open a center at 2497 Delaware Ave., the Erie County IDA joined IDAs in Amherst and Lancaster in granting incentives to an urgent care facility.
   While urgent care facilities qualify for aid under state law, the eligibility guidelines followed by all of Erie County's IDAs require that the agency reach a determination that the service is not readily available before granting any tax breaks.
   Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown said he strongly supported the project, noting that the nearest urgent care facility is on Sheridan Drive in Amherst. [He may have overlooked this one.]

Corn Exchange project gets $135,000 tax break - David Robinson/The Buffalo News
  A $3 million project to convert the former Corn Exchange building [in photo] on South Elmwood Avenue into Cornexchange offices and apartments received $135,000 in tax breaks Monday through the Erie County Industrial Development Agency. ...
   In other business, the agency:
   • Granted nearly $460,000 in tax breaks for a $2.9 million plan to renovate the Calumet Building at 52 Chippewa St. The Kenney, Shelton, Liptak & Nowak Law Firm, now located in the Rand Building, plans to move into the top two floors of the renovated structure. ...
   • Approved $84,000 in tax breaks for Triad Recycling & Energy Corp., which plans to turn a vacant facility at 3755 River Road in the Town of Tonawanda into a recycling operation for demolition debris, primarily asphalt roofing shingles, that will be used to make blacktop for road construction. ...
   • Awarded Alliance Advisory Group tax breaks for its $2.8 million project to move its headquarters from Amherst to the long-vacant former headquarters of Rural/Metro Medical Services on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo. ...
   • Approved $46,000 in mortgage tax breaks for the owners of the former Motorola plant in Elma, who plan to convert it into a multiple-tenant facility that will be marketed for back-office businesses. ...
   The Buffalo and Erie County Industrial Land Development Corp., an affiliate of the development agency, approved:
   • $34 million in tax-exempt financing for a project to build an 1,800-vehicle parking ramp at 134 High St., on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
   • $16 million in tax-exempt financing for a $16 million project by Canisius College to convert the former Sears store at 1901 Main St. into a new science hall.
   • $12 million in bond financing for Medaille College to expand two facilities on its Buffalo campus. The financing will cover a 20,000-square-foot addition to Medaille’s Sullivan Center, as well as a 12,000- square-foot expansion of Huber Hall that will house the college’s Student Success Center.




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