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Top 10 local business stories of the year...

From Business Today:

The growth of the local banking industry topped the local business stories of the year. With first Niagara Bank Corp. tripling in size over two years and M&T Bank growingM&T bank  steadily, one analyst compared Buffalo to Charlotte, N.C., as an emerging  super-regional banking center. The other top nine stories are...

The assessed value of the Statler Towers has become a point of contention in the bankruptcy case. The trustee is not happy about Statler AERIAL the growing tax bill on an abandoned building he is simply trying to save. The city, on the other hand, is not keen on giving such a prominent building a negative value.

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Bubble hockey champions

   While the World Juniors hockey tournament continues in Buffalo, the 2010 World Bubble Hockey
Championships
are in the books.

   The two-day event, held earlier this week, was organized by Innovative Concepts in Entertainment, the Clarence-based company that makes the iconic Super Chexx bubble hockey game. It took place at the Hockey Towne USA Fan Fest, at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

   The tournament consisted of a singles competition and a doubles
competition, with teams of two players each.

   In the singles tourney, 120 entrants competed and the winner was John
Gaffney of Burlington, N.J., a big-time bubble hockey tournament player. He
walked away with a $488 first-prize check, beating a player from Connecticut.
(A total of $1,220 in prize money was handed out in the singles division.)

   On the doubles side, 42 teams competed. Kenny Dubois and Al Cousineau of Shrewsbury, Mass., prevailed over Buffalo's Marcus Dublino and Mike Shearer.
Dubois is known for being able to score goals using his defensemen, making it challenging for opponents to defend against him.

 If you want to learn a few scoring tricks, check out video from game one and game two of the singles final. The winner, Gaffney, is at left.

-- Matt Glynn

Hockey's ups and downs, entrepreneurs wanted, and a booming banking center...

 From Business Today:

The economic impact from hosting the World Junior Hockey championships has been a mixed bag so far. Some restaurants and hotels near the HSBC ArenaHOCKEY FANS2  say business has been "phenomenal," while others a little off the beaten path are disappointed. Many of the hardcore Canadian fans are commuting to the games rather than staying overnight. This has opened an opportunity to jack prices through the roof that some parking lot owners can not resist. The market determines an acceptable price, they say, but others do not agree. The mayor has asked the state Attorney General to look into possible price gouging. Meanwhile, Canada continues to dominate the other teams in the tournament, making those parking prices a little more palatable for some.

Local insurance entrepreneur Ronald K. Zoeller has sold his third-party administrator insurance business Zoeller back to Independent Health Association ans is seeking a new opportunity. His entrepreneurial zeal is just what Western New York needs: people willing to build new businesses.

Buffalo's growing prominence as a banking center has led one Wall Street analyst to observe we could become the next Charlotte, N.C. The growth of M&T Bank Corp.M&T bank  and First Niagara Financial Group into super-regional banks reminds Robert Albertson, of Sandler O'Neill & Partners in New York of the growth of Bank of America and Wachovia in the 1980's and 1990's. That is a nice comparison.

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 The good old hockey game...

 

Winning the Statler game, personal bankruptcies drop, and parking lot owners take short-term view...

From Business Today:

And then there was one... Local restaurateur Mark Croce is alone in his quest to develop the abandoned Statler Towers since his partner James Egan Croce exited the team. Eagan, reportedly frustrated by the pace of the project had Croce buy him out for an unspecified amount. Now Croce vows to press on. It appears the end-game in this sad saga of 'Who wants the Statler?' is for the city to take ownership, and Croce, or someone else, to lead a development effort largely funded with public money. But a dark cloud could be approaching: if HSBC Bank decides to leave its 40-story tower downtown for a new building, it could create a huge glut of office space downtown. Developer Rocco Termini told a lunch gathering that such a scenario would push down rent prices all over the city and depress real estate values. Simply put, Buffalo will have too much space and not enough businesses to fill it.

People in the Buffalo and Rochester areas appear to be watching their budgets more closely. The number of personal bankruptcies were down 18 percent from a year ago.

Business is all about making money, but when prices rise abruptly with little economic reason, it can be PARKING gouging. That is what some area parking lot owners are being accused of. Some parking lots were charging up to $60 for aa day of parking for the World Junior Hockey Championships. This is wrong on so many levels, but the longest lasting impact may be a chilling of visitors desire to come to Buffalo. No shrewd business person burns his customer base so badly they never come back. That's just greedy... and dumb.

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Here's another hotel saga...
 

Deals to be found, factory sold, H&R Block loses bank for tax refund loans, hires and honors...

From Business Today:

Is there no end to the shopping? The frantic rush beforeShopping  Christmas must be for amateurs, because the real shopping pros come out later. Bargain hunters and kids armed with gift cards are flocking to the malls and stores, two and three days after the big gift giving day. Retailers are overjoyed. Seems that gift giving remains a priority for Americans, regardless of economic condition's.

A local business man has found a real estate deal and plans to consolidate his retail operations. David M. Gordon, owner of the Creekside Banquet Facility in Cheektowaga and some retail businesses, bought the former Sperian glove plant in Cheektowaga for $1.68 million.

Consumer advocates have campaigned against the high-interest loans tax preparers dangle before customers, but it has taken action by bank regulators to stop much of them. HSBC Bank has been forced to stop offering the loans through H&R Block, which could hurt the tax preparer this year. Almost half of H and R Block its customers opt for the immediate money. Regulators were apparently concerned because the IRA stopped informing the banks of some of a refund was going to be taken for pre-existing bills, like back taxes. HSBC has been trying to end the loans, ut was bound by contract through 2011.

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For the super shoppers....
 

Investment advisers optimistic, some commercial real estate deals, yearly winners and losers, and residential real estate sales.

From Business Today:

Investment advisers in Western New York are all optimistic about the coming year. Nine advisors polled all predict increases in the Dow Jones industrialWall Street  index of 8 to 15 percent. The advisors all underestimated the strength of the market redcover in 2010, so we'll see...

A few large local commercial real estate purchases were topped by NYSEG buying its customer service and operations center in Lancaster for $5.18 million. The company has been leasing the property at 160 Erie St., and opted to buy it. An apartment management company run by two brothers called Apartments Niagara bought a 62-unit complex in Niagara Falls for $950,000, and VOiP Supply, a Cheektowaga-based supplier of voice-over-Internet equipment, bought a building in the Amherst Industrial Park for $902,500.

News Business columnist David Robinson picks some winners and losers from the local business Robinson community in 2010.

There were lots of local real estate transactions from Home sales the week ending Nov. 19.

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New Era likes Brazil, Dipson Theatres likes 3-D, Niagara Cutter likes Sweden, and someone doesn't like Verizon's project...

From Business Today:

New Era Cap Co., Buffalo's glamorous baseball New Era cap company, has bought a stake in a Brazilian brand management company, MARC4. New Era has a knack for keeping on the edge of cool and trendy. The company makes hats for Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NCAA, and stays current with the urban hip-hop fashion culture. The move into Brazil could be another master stroke at making its products available to a whole new market.


Dipson Theatres, the local movie house company, has plans to install 3-dimensional cameras at its newest theater complex, the former Dipson  02 Flix Superplex in Lancaster. It is seeking a tax break from the Lancaster IDA for the equipment.

Niagara Cutter, a quiet company that makes high-end cutting tools for the aircraft and metal working industries, has been sold to a Swedish company, Seco Tools. The new owner says there will be few changes, and Sherwood Bollier, son of the founder of Niagara Cutter, will remain the local president.

The $1.2 billion Verizon project to build a giant data center on farmland in Niagara County is being challenged in court. A neighboring landowner charges that the project was rushed through local boards with rubber-stamp approvals and without a careful environmental review. The case is being heard in State Supreme Court in Lockport.

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Rosa's selling out, Statler on and on, power up and hospital hopes...

From Business Today:

Rosa's Home Stores will be having a going out of business sale after all. The bankruptcy judge had to approve the sale after some creditors objected. But don'tROSA'S  expect the merchandise to be given away. The liquidation company, Planned Furniture Promotions, has to pay 73 percent of the cost of Rosa's inventory to the bank.

The Statler saga continues. The bankruptcy judge extended the hearing over who will own the giant landmark building in downtown Buffalo until January 12. But it appears that the city of Buffalo will end up with the former hotel.

New York Gov. David A. Paterson extended the low-cost power contracts that more than 100 Western Niagara Power Project New York companies enjoy from the New York Power Authority. About one-third of the power from the Niagara Falls Power Project goes to these companies, which employ about 30,000 people.

The proposed medical building on Main Street near High Street that will house much of functions of the Women's and Children's Hospital got a warm reception Hospitalbuilding from the Buffalo Planning Board.

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Bethlehem Steel site could rise again, GM Powertrain call backs, slowing cigarette sales, favorable vote for First Niagara deal...

From Business Today:

The former Bethlehem Steel site could come back to life as anBethlehemsite  industrial business park. Great Lakes Industrial Development, a Buffalo company, bought the site for $3.5 million and plans to convert it into a business park. The 160-acre site housed the galvanized products division of Bethlehem Steel, including the former cold mill. The site was purchased from steelmaker ArcelorMittal, which shut the plant in 2009. The new owners are David Franjoine, his brother Dennis and Robert W. Zuchlewski. The men have other holdings in the area and have converted some industrial buildings to office space.


Well, it looks like we've come full circle in the automotive business. The GM engine plant in the Town of Gmplant Tonawanda is calling back 37 workers to make parts to ship to China, where engines will be assembled. Wasn't long ago that U.S. factories were importing parts from Chinese plants. I guess the world really is flat.

Stores selling cigarettes in the city of Buffalo are hopping mad about a proposed city ordinance that would limit tobacco advertising in stores and require a city license.Cigs  Store operators say the new rules would be redundant. Anti-smoking groups laud the idea to try to limit the luring of children to smoking.

Some politicians and citizen activists may not like the merger, but shareholders from First Niagara Financial Group and NewAlliance Bancshares in Conneciticut love the deal. More than 90 percent of shareholders from both companies approved the merger. Now it's up to regulators to give the deal the final go ahead.

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Crystal and fine china trimmed back, holiday season job cuts and promotions...

From Business Today:

The changing retail economy is taking a bite out of a venerable Buffalo business. Pitt Petri, the glamorous Delaware Avenue store for fine home furnishings and gifts, is reducing its size. The store has long been a favorite place for bridal gift registration. But Pitt petri 02 a decline in the market and the rise of other retail competition has forced the 86-year-old store to retrench, cutting the store size by two-thirds. Owner Pitt Petri Jr. said the store will now focus on Buffalo-themed goods and baby products.

A couple of local companies have annouced substantial job cuts as a time when private sector hiring seems to be picking up. Northrup Quebecor Grumman Amherst Systems plans to cut 120 jobs early next year, and Quad/Graphics, the former Quebecor, is cutting 95. Th end of the year is a painful, and not uncommon, time for job cuts.

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