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Small businesses going green, smoking to quit, safety first and home sales...

From Business Today:

When going green equals saving money, business owners start to take notice. Saving money and also sending a signal to customers about environmental stewardshipGREEN  are combining to push some unlikely businesses into the 'green realm.' Small automotive shops are installing heating systems that burn used motor oil. (Here is a video about the Hillman Automotive system in the Town of Lockport.) Others are using state grants to install solar panels, and still others are designing buildings with better insulation and better use of natural light. When small business is getting involved, you know things are changing.

Trying to quit smoking? Try smoking. A Clarence company called the 22nd Century Group is seeting FDA approval for a new type of low-nicotine tobacco. The theory behind the plants is that people can ween themselves off cigarettes while still smoking cigarettes. But New tobacco 22nd centurary for others, the company is considering producing a tobacco with less tar but more nicotine.

Home sales in the Buffalo Niagara region are near historic lows, but are slowing picking up. And the prices homes are fetching are also rising. Sounds like the start of a turnaround.

Safety has always been important in this region. Given our manufacturing heritage, safety in the plants has been a pillar of local industry. The local safety professionals are holding their 75th annual conference next week, toSafety conference  highlight the continued focus on safety in all workplaces.

Recent real estate transactions in the Buffalo Niagara market.


Just doing business, aiding the tallest, and shrinking the too-tall...

From Business Today:

Amid all the whining about the lousy economy andNiagara blower 03  anti-business climate, it's easy to overlook firms that are just getting out there and doing it. Niagara Blower, a 107-year-old Buffalo company, is going gangbusters, installing specialized climate control systems all over the world. It's latest big contract is an indoor botanical garden at a national park in Singapore. Sounds like Peter Demakos, company president, and the other folks at Niagara Blower are too busy to complain about the little things...

The fight to keep tenants in the HSBC Tower could involve public money. The owners of the building are talking to the Empire State Economic Development Corp. about getting state money to make the building more attractive to its primary tenants, HSBC Bank and law HSBC TOWER firm Phillips Lytle. Meanwhile, the 38-story tower just had its tax assessment reduced by $6 million, to $64 million. Some in the local real estate community fear that if the two tenants vacate 87 percent of the city's tallest building, it will push down commercial rents all over the city.

Lower condos could be what's in store for any addition to the Lakefront Commons, beside LaSalle Park along the I-190 on Bufalo's watrerfront. A developer had won planning board approval for new condos on 1.3 acres, but a group of neighbors sued. A judge ruled that the new condos violated the covenants of the existing condo association because they were three-stories tall. The existing condos are two-stories tall.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Factories slow, convention bureau pays well, high flying ambulance and downtown fans...

From Business Today:

The companies that make things around Western New York slowed down a bit in February. The report from the local purchasing managers association Factory photo showed that manufacturers in the area had drops in production, new orders and employment. Since manufacturing jobs tend to pay more than service jobs, such a drop can have repercussions in the local economy. What's not clear is if the drop is a temporary event or the start of a trend.

The Buffalo Niagara Convention Center and Visitors Bureau spends more of its money on salaries than many similar bureaus in the Northeast, a survey by the Eric County comptroller found. The audit found that 53 percent  of the CVB's money goes to salaries, second highest of the bureaus studied. The CONVENTION CENTER Albany County bureau pays 56 percent to salaries, and Rochester spends 41 percent of its budget on salaries. The CVB's $1.6 milion payroll and average cost per employee was the highest in the comptroller's study.  CVB officials counter that a wider look at such bureaus shows its salaries are 2 percent below the average.

What if you are travelling and you get seriously ill or injured? Do you want to be treated at the local hospital? If not, you can buy coverage that will shuttle you to the Cleveland Clinic or the hospital of your choice. The Travel Team, the travel agency owned by Rich Products, announced it is offering such coverage for $400 to $600 a year. Rich Products has a strong connection to the Cleveland Clinic. Chairman Robert E. Rich Jr. is also chairman of the clinic's board.

Buffalo Place, the agency that takes care of the Main Street corridor downtown and hosts Thursday at the Square and other concerts, is a big promoter for the city. Fabulous Thunderbirds But its director admits more needs to be done to bring the downtown area it its full potential.

Who is getting hired, promoted or honored?

How about a little Thursday at the Square jam?


Who wants a coal plant?, slow and steady, small firm woes, and cars sales boom...

From Business Today:

Pity the poor coal burning power plant. In these days of decliningAES plant FINANCIAL AES PLANT LEWIS  natural gas costs, the old, dirty coal plants are finding themselves unwanted and unloved. AES, the publicly traded power company, announced it is selling four of its coal plants in New York State, including the plant in Somerset in Niagara County. Normally that would not be such a big deal, but the Somerset plant is the largest property tax payer in the country, which makes it crucial for schools and other civic needs. The concern is that since AES has already written off the cost of the plant, it can sell it for a very cheap price. A new owner will then seek a property tax reduction, and that could put a serious crimp in Niagara County's budget. Stay tuned...

Western New York's slow and steady real estate market has been the envy of the nation for the past two years. In highly desirable locations, speculation ran rampant, driving up costs and setting up the big REAL ESTATE PANEL collapse of prices. The region's real estate development heavyweights gathered to hear and discuss a report by the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Land Institute. The conclusion: things around here will remain slow, and hopefully steady, for some time.

Following the earnings of small, publicly traded companies can be like following a bouncing ball. The firms are buffeted by changes in sales, tax laws and anything else that might hit them. Mod-Pac, the printing company, reported an 81 percent plunge in profits for the quarter, but company officials were upbeat about being profitable for six straight quarters and they expect good things in the future. Stay tuned...

General Motors reported a 49 percent jump in U.S. sales for January. Toyota reported a 42 percent jump. Other car makers reported strong gains. The car industry Buffalo Auto Show has made an amazing recovery. In the case of GM and Chrysler, it has come with a big boost  from shedding costs in bankruptcy. But also, people have been nursing their old cars along for so long, they're finally dragging them into the dealerships as trade-ins.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?


Smaller grocery stores, foreclosures halted, money shrink...

From Business Today:

Tops Markets is taking its commitment to Western New YorkTops smaller store  to another level, opening a new smaller format store in the Harlem-Kensington neighborhood in Cheektowaga. The company spent about $3 million to completely remodel a former Jubilee store, and executives say they plan to use the smaller store model to fill in areas that may not support a giant store. Residents near the new store are ecstatic.

Buried deep inside the earnings report from HSBC, the bank said it was stopping home foreclosures while it reviews its procedures. HSBC, like many big banks, is being investigated for shoddy paper work in the foreclosure process. Mortgages have been bundled and sold so many times, it is difficult to confirm who actually owns the mortgages. No one argues that some people have stopped making mortgage payments, but the paper work has gotten so mixed up, courts are not letting the foreclosures proceed.

Having trouble reducing spending? It might be that you are acting on things learned in childhood. A new Moneysmart shrink way of looking at spending and saving habits focuses on people's beliefs about money called "money scripts."  So, in addition to a financial planner, you may need a psychologist to help you save. What next?

Who is getting promoted, hired and honored?

  More grocery store high jinks...


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