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Gas costs jumping, small business loans falling, calling in sick easier...

From Business Today:

What is up with gas prices? How can trouble in the MideastGas pump icons Fin gas Wippert  mean an immediate price hike at the pump? Locally prices have shot up 14 cents a gallon in the past week. Today the average local price of a gallon of regular is $3.48. Immediate price fluctuations are caused and amplified by the complex market system of speculators, oil companies and gas station operators. The good news is we have gas to use. The bad news is expect prices to continue rising.

Job hunting in the global age means using the internet, and the University at Buffalo is helping engineering students go global. An online career fair on Turesday will ONLINejobfair help link students here with job opportunities everywhere.

Small business lending under the SBA program locally slowed in January due partly to the elimination of fee waivers. The loss of the discounts led to a 71 percent drop in the amount of loans written compared to December. Experts say is is not a reflection of an economic slowdown, but rather simple economics: the prices went up so demand fell.

Technology is a beautiful thing... especially when calling in sick for work. The
  use of email and social networks have made that dreaded 'cough-cough' call to the boss almost painless, some experts say.

Recent real estate transactions from Erie and Niagara counties...

Libya roils oil markets, Statler deal on track and Tops dropping

From Business Today:

Libya Turmoil in Libya helped drive oil prices to $95 per barrel, the highest level in two years. Libyan leader Mommar Gadhafi showed no signs of giving up power amid protests against his regime. Investors fear the political unrest could spread to other OPEC countries and cause greater disruption in world oil supplies.


Developer Mark Croce says his plan to buy the Statler remains on track. He intends to wrap up the deal, through his Statler City LLC entity, by the end of March. His attorney says the only thing left to be done Statler is to obtain signed waivers from municipal entities related to unpaid taxes on the Statler. The waivers would not wipe out the taxes; the waivers instead shift the responsibility for paying them from the Statler bankruptcy estate to the Statler's buyer.



Starting next week, shoppers at Tops Markets stores will no longer be able to buy event tickets through at the supermarkets' customer service centers. The in-store relationship will end Sunday. Costly upgrades would have been needed to continue the service, which led to the decision.


Danny Gare's nickname is Tickets:



-- Matt Glynn

Growing local, the Statler saga, and a radio megadeal?

From Business Today:

Joel Salatin is a prominent figure in the "farm-to-table" movement, which tries to connect local farmers with local customers, like restaurants and food buyers. On Monday he brought his message to a conference put on by Field & Fork Network, a local nonprofit that shares his vision. The Virginia farmer mixes humorous quips with his passionate pitch for creating a local food system, making him popular on the speaking circuit.

Mark D. Croce's effort to buy the Statler Towers continues, and a judge in the Statler bankruptcy case is due to receive a progress report on Tuesday.


 He has previously said he would like to close the deal in late March. Lately he has been seeking waivers from government agencies related to unpaid taxes on the Statler. The waivers wouldn't wipe out the unpaid taxes; instead, the agencies would agree to not pursue the money from the Statler bankruptcy estate. Instead, the taxes would remain in place against the property itself, and would have to be paid by the buyer.

Still interested in buying the property is Long Island-based Uri Kaufman, who plans to attend the Tuesday hearing.

Citadel Broadcasting Corp., which owns and operates four Buffalo-area radio stations, is in talks to be acquired by a bigger rival, Cumulus Media, in a megadeal. Citadel's local holdings include WEDG 103.3 the Edge, WGRF-FM 97 Rock, WHTT-FM Classic Hits 104.1 and WHLD-AM Swing 1270 AM.

Speaking of radio...




-- Matt Glynn

Winter home sales, Wisconsin's impact and boosting Brillo

From Business Today:

Home buyers and sellers typically look to the spring for an active sales market, but some find winter can be a prime time for deals. "They can usually get a better price, because there are not as many buyers in the market. If a house is on the market in the winter, the seller is usually extremely motivated," said Nicolette Lisella of Terrie O'Connor Realtors in Allendale, N.J.   Homesales




The protests rocking Wisconsin's capital have made national news, and the state's governor, Scott K. Walker, predicts other states will adopt strategies similar to his own. Walker is clashing with public-sector unions over his push to eliminate most collective-bargaining rights for public employees.




The name Armaly Brands might not ring a bell, but Brillo surely does. Michigan-based Armaly last year took over the Brillo brand and sees untapped potential for growth of the soap-infused steel wool, particularly overseas. Last year it had $9.7 million in sales, down 11 percent from the previous year, according to SymphonyIRI Group. 

-- Matt Glynn

Travel local, Borders gift cards ok, and Wegmans love...

From Business Today:

Thinking about taking a trip? The AAA of Western and Central New York thinks you should consider a local destination, and it is putting out a magazine to back up that idea. The auto club has launched a new magazine - Member Connection - that features getaway ideas throughout Western and Central New York. It's similar to the one-tank getaways featured in The Buffalo News travel section. Clearly, a great idea.

If you have a gift card from bankrupt Borders books,Borders Bankruptcy1  you can relax for now. A bankruptcy judge has allowed the chain to continue to honor the cards. But our advice... don't wait too long.

Wegman's has received another plaudit: It is on a list of 40 companies compiled by J.D. Power and Associates recognized as champions of customer service. In another category, the Washington Post did a light feature about the dating scene that has developed in Wegmans 05 Wegmans stores. Light jazz, fresh produce and love....

Who is getting honored, hired and promoted?

Some supermarket love affair... 

Big book seller woes, green zoning, bank merger battle and hoist it...

From Business Today:

Borders, the mega-book seller, has hit the skids and filed for bankruptcy protection. The two stores in the Buffalo area are not on the immediate closingBorders Bankruptcy  list, but who knows when, or if, a next wave of cuts will come. Borders has had some mismanagement issues, but its downfall is part of a much bigger transformation that is facing all information companies. If the product can be digitized, it can be distributed online.

Columbus McKinnon, the local maker of hoists, is looking abroad for its future growth. Timothy T. Tevens, company president and CEO, told financial advisors that the company is ready to go where the growth is.

Buffalo's zoning laws are undergoing some radical changes, with an eye toward the future. City planners Bikes have scheduled a series of public meetings to discuss laws that will make the city more green and more favorable for bikers and walkers.

First Niagara Bank's bid to buy one of the largest banks in Connecticut is going to get some more scrutiny. The politically charged takeover of NewAlliance Bancshares in New Haven will be the subject of two days of hearings before the Connecticut banking commissioner. Vocal critics of the deal fear less local control of the bank.

Who is getting promoted, hired and honored?


There are jobs, health insurance rising, bank cuts, and more Main Street lofts...

From Business Today:

The numbers tell us that jobs are hard to come by, butJob fair 02  companies say they are hiring. What gives? More than 30 companies were recruiting at the Career Fest job fair in Cheektowaga on Tuesday, and Home Depot announced it is seeking 250 people for part-time jobs in the region. It seems there are certain types of jobs available - entry level, sales, part-time - but real, career-type jobs are scarce. The more experienced job seekers at the job fair said they were disappointed with the types of jobs available.

Health insurance costs are rising, even for the state-sponsored insurance for small businesses and individuals called Healthy New York.

First Niagara Financial Group will lay off 219 people in Connecticut when it takes over NewAlliance Bancshares. The bank filed a WARN notice to the state LAbor Department about the cuts. the bank says it will not cut any jobs that deal with customers, just back office tasks that can be done elsewhere.

A former business next to Bennet High School on Main Street, most recently called Bethune Hall, will become loft-style apartments under a plan by Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. The former Buffalo Meter Co. at 2915 Main St. has been vacant for years.

Who is getitng hired, promoted and honored

Selling supermarkets, the development tax game, more ATM's please...

From Business Today:

People have a lot to say when it comes to their grocery stores. Tops Markets had planned to sell seven of the stores it bought from Quality Markets last year because they were very close to existing Tops stores. The Federal Trade Commission was overseeing Tops sign gone fin Tops sign Cantillon 3 the sale because of antitrust issues. But more than 300 comments were received, so the store sales have been delayed while the comments are reviewed. The FTC wants Tops to find suitable buyers for the stores because it fears the company will have too much pricing power if it controls all of the stores in any vicinity. The union representing Tops hourly workers opposes the FTC order to sell the stores, saying it will kill jobs.

It pays to know how the development game is played in this town. The group developing the Larkin District knows that tax breaks are available for projects, and they know how to get them. Two weeks after plans for building a new $8.4 million service center for Capital Management Services were Capital management 111 Hydrolic 2 announced, the Erie County IDA awarded the project $1.8 million in tax breaks. Developers say tax breaks are what make such projects feasible. Until tax reform comes, such piecemeal tax breaks are going to be the way business gets done.

KeyBank is installing five stand-alone ATM machines as part of its expansion in Western New York. The ATMS's are less expensive than branches, and most people do their banking at them.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

This ever happen when you shop?


Mattel wins big

Mattel Inc., parent company of East Aurora-based Fisher-Price, took home the big prize at this weekend's 11th annual Toy of the Year Awards, held in conjunction with the American International Toy Fair in New York City. Mattel's Sing-a-ma-jigs received Toy of the Year honors, as well as Preschool Toy of the Year and Innovative Toy of the Year.

Sing-a-ma-jigs are dolls that chatter, sing or harmonize with each other.   (They were apparently not up for a Grammy.)



And what would a blog post about the toy industry be without this scene from "Big":


-- Matt Glynn

Bills fans know money, SCORE to the rescue, toy fun...

From Business Today:

Who knew? Buffalo Bills fans really know their stuff whenBillsfans  it comes to money, and we're not talking about ticket prices. Bills fans ran away with the top spot from Visa's Financial Football competition. The online game of financial skills tested general knowledge of personal financial issues. The Bills fans scored 19,574 points, far out distancing the Tennessee Titan's fans, who scored 9,964 for second place. Now... can the fans tackle?

For years SCORE - formerly the Service Corps of Retired Executives - has helped small business people get started and keep their businesses running. The quiet group of big-hearted business people give advice and help with business contacts. Now the national organization is launching a major campaign to help create one million new businesses by 2017. It's a tall order, but the strong corps of volunteers in the Western New York chapter is ready.

Toy Fair, the annual playfest where toy companies show their new gadgets and games is underway Buffalogames in New York City. Two Western New York companies - Fisher-Price and Buffalo Games - are making a splash, as usual. 

The madcap foreclosure stampede going on across the country is bound to have some gaffs. M&T Bank contracted with a company that winterizes foreclosed homes in Pennsylvania, and things went wrong. The company threw out new appliances and damaged the home. Now the homeowners and the bank are trying to reach a settlement. 

Recent real estate transactions from Erie and Niagara counties...  

Bills fans, give it up for yourselves!


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