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Car sales are up, Wilmers scolds bank regulators, Travers Collins & Co. splits, and ECIDA doles out tax breaks

From Business Today:


Car sales are up in the region. Local new car sales rose 10 percent last month over August 2010. In fact, August saw the region's second-best totals of the year with sales of 4,919 for the month. Ford had the leading sales, selling 1,106 vehicles. That's up 22 percent from a year ago. Toyota's sales came in second, but were down 32 percent from last year. In third place was Nissan, with a 52 percent increase, according to data from the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association.


 M&T Bank chairman and CEO Robert Wilmers spoke at a regulatory symposium sponsored by American Banker Monday. In his opinion, the financial reform law goes too far in some ways but not far enough in others. Worse, it will do nothing to prevent a future financial crisis.

Wilmers said the regulations fail to reform credit-rating agencies, government mortgage backers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and risky bank activity.


 Travers Collins & Co. lost its entire investor relations team, three additional staffers and a slew of clients over the weekend when Lynn Casteel and Jeff Schoenborn left the advertising agency abruptly to set up shop on Wehrle Drive in Amherst. Casteel and Schoenborn said they decided to start their own competing investor relations firm after being "consistently rebuffed" by Travers Collins' owners when it came to business recommendations, improvement suggestions and offers to buy into the firm's ownership.

Owner William Collins criticized the way they handled the split in a letter to the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. He said they never raised concerns, moved out secretly and quietly notified clients in advance. The team owed its success to Travers Collins, he said, which gave three of the individuals their first job and gave them all the tools to succeed. There were no non-compete clauses binding, so Travers Collins has no recourse to take in regards to the lost clients, but the owners said they would rebuild the firm's investor relations business.


A study of border crossings has recommendations for improving things at our Canadian border. The study by the Binational Economic and Tourism Alliance recommends that getting better information out about border crossing status along with adding workers during the bridges' busiest times would ease congestion. Better signage to navigate the borders would help, too, as would better planning around special events, the report said.


An abandoned Pizza Hut in South Buffalo will become a Dollar General store, with help from a nearly $49,000 tax break from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency. It made an exception to its "no retail" policy because the property has sat vacant for so long.

The IDA also approved $583,000 in breaks for Gemcor II, a West Seneca automatic fastening equipment maker, to build a $3.1 million addition. Sleep Inn Buffalo Airport in Cheektowaga got $38,000 in sales tax breaks for a $550,000 renovation.


Perry's Ice Cream got an $800,000 low-interest loan from the Buffalo and Erie County Regional Development Council. Perry's is spending $6.4 million to increase its distribution and to begin distrubting snacks by other makers, including Little Debbie.



Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

This couple didn't know their camera was on, and couldn't figure out why they couldn't get it to record:


Buffalo airport soars, downtown development rocking, toy company winning, and Rosie the Riveter making a comeback...

From Business Today:

Good stuff from over the weekend.

The Buffalo Niagara International Airport is simply taking off. AIRPORT Passenger traffic has soared since the new terminal opened in 1997, and the arrival of several discount airlines has pushed down ticket prices and made the region more attractive for business. It is also the No. 1 U.S. airport used by Canadians, which has contributed to the hotel building boom nearby. All in all, it's a dynamic economic development tool, and it makes vacations much more affordable.

Rocco Termini has some interesting things to say about downtown  ROCCO TERMINI development and where it's headed.

East Aurora holds some real gems - from attractive homes to a lovely village - but it also is home to some interesting businessess, like the Beveral Hills Teddy Bear Co., The toy manufacturer has had a string of successes, and it thinks it has Socha another winner for this holiday season.

North Tonawanda native Mark Johnson always showed promise in high school. He was valedictorian of his senior class at North Tonawanda High School and was voted most likely to suceed. His classmates got it right. Johnson just sold his online company Zite to Mark Johnson CNN for a reported $20 million. Zite allows users to create their own magazine based on their interests. 

Hertel Avvenue, the bustling, hip commercial strip of North Buffalo, is getting a new tenant. The traditional Hertel News & Tobacco is bring refashioned into the North Park Market, and the Lotto betting room is getting an upgrade.North Park Market

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has some encouraging words for women entrepreneurs. And she is also challenging them to step up and create a modern version of 'Rosie the Riveter' to inspire others.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Some recent real estate transactions.


Audio: Interview with developer Rocco Termini

Here is audio of News Business Reporter Jonathan D. Epstein's interview with developer Rocco Termini, which accompanies today's published Q&A:

Download the audio and take it with you

Local banks are hiring, job growth continues, Noco chief talks energy at UB, and 7-Eleven arrives

From Business Today:


Local banks are recruiting employees. M&T Bank is looking to fill 285 positions, including auditors, clerks, credit and fraud analysts, tellers, administrative assistants, managers, supervisors, salespeople, loan originators and telephone representatives. Salaries range from the high $20,000s to more than $100,000. You can apply here.


First Niagara, which has stated an overall goal of adding 500 new employees, is looking to fill 86 positions in Erie and Niagara Counties. Apply here.

HSBC is hiring 25 people locally. Bank of America is adding 17. KeyCorp and Evans Bancorp each have 18 openings. Financial Institutions in Warsaw is hiring seven. Citizens Financial Group is hiring six. Northwest Savings Bank is hiring four. Lake Shore Savings Bank and Community Bank System each have one opening.


Job growth continues in Buffalo Niagara. The region added 7,100 jobs over the last 12-month period, ending in August. That's a 1.3 percent annual growth rate, according to numbers for the state labor department.

August's growth rate was more subdued than July's, but was the best August on record since 1999.

The gains are due to a spike in construction work as well as strong hiring in education and health care services.


James D. Newman, president and CEO of of Noco Energy Corp., talked shop at UB Thursday for its "Business of Energy" seminar on sustainable transportation.

He said his company will deliver any kind of energy customers want, but that customers haven't really decided what that energy is. They go back and forth between being environmentally conscious and budget conscious.

For transportation biofuels to succeed, a consistent, long-term strategy is needed. He called for a clear, long-term government policy that would give consumers and investors a stable, forward-looking time frame.



Wilson Farms will soon be a thing of the past. It has been owned by Texas chain 7-Eleven since June, but hasn't shown any signs of outward change. Well, a handful of the convenience stores have begun their transformation. Some stores have new signage, reconfigured aisles and product offerings and have begun adding the store's signature Slurpee and Big Gulp drinks.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Happy Friday!


FDIC requires contingency plans from big banks, Racer Machinery gets incentives from Lancaster IDA, and Riverbend project gets grant

From Business Today:


The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has approved an "interim final rule." It requires the most complex FDIC-insured banks with at least $50 billion in assets to submit backup plans to federal regulators, outlining a plan of action for closing down its operations should it fail financially. The idea is to minimize losses and avoid repeating the same mistakes of the financial crisis.

Another rule is for the largest and most complex companies to have similar "living wills." M&T Bank, with $78 billion in assets, will be required to do that. First Niagara might be too, once it completes its purchase of HSBC's Upstate New York branches, depending on how many branches it keeps and how much it grows.


 A Canadian manufacturer landed tax breaks from the Lancaster Industrial Development Agency Wednesday. Racer Machinery International was granted a package of incentives including a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement, sales tax breaks and a break on the mortgage recording fee.

The Cambridge, Ontario company makes machine tools and industrial saws. It plans to buy and renovate a 14,100-square-foot building at 6 Lancaster Parkway. Officials said the company would employ 13 people here, and possibly as many as 48 within two years.


The Riverbend project has received a grant. National Grid awarded the project $250,000 to redevelop 202 acres that were the former home to Republic Steel and Donner Hanna Coke. The South Buffalo site will be redeveloped into an environmentally friendly, mixed-use business park.

The project, spearheaded by Buffalo Urban Development Corp., is part of the South Buffalo Brownfield Opportunity Act. It is targeting 2,000 acres of former industrial land on the shores of Lake Erie and the Buffalo River for cleanup.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

We're halfway through September:


Fireworks at the Lancaster IDA

Industrial Development Agency meetings can be staid affairs, conducted with little disagreement and plenty of unanimous votes.

That wasn't the case at this morning's meeting of the Lancaster IDA board, however, where for a while it seemed like the audience was watching ESPN's Pardon the Interruption or the old Crossfire show on CNN.

The debate broke out as members of the board discussed whether to renew the agency's contract with a well-connected lobbying firm, Masiello, Martucci, Calabrese & Associates, whose partners include former Buffalo Mayor Anthony Masiello.

The agency pays the firm $500 per month, or $6,000 for the year, for lobbying and "government affairs consulting services," and the firm sought a one-year extension that would run through September 2012.

Several board members began to discuss whether the agency has received enough value for its money. Bill Tate said the firm submits to the board notices of the meetings its representatives hold with various state officials, but those submissions don't include enough substance and it's unclear what has come from the lobbying sessions.

"What are the results of these meetings?" he asked.

The discussion then turned to whether Carl Calabrese, a partner at the firm and the former deputy Erie County executive, should meet more often with the board or provide more written reports on the firm's work.

Calabrese met with the board in August and gave a presentation on the firm's efforts to address two main areas of concern: Reforming the state's environmental review regulations to make them more business-friendly, and bringing "consistency and balance" to the state's wetlands policy.

This recent session didn't seem to be enough for some board officials, including the agency's attorney, Dominic Terranova, who began arguing with agency consultant Paul Leone over how --- and how often --- Calabrese should report to the board.

The Terranova-Leone tiff continued after the meeting, as Depew Mayor Steven Hoffman waited to talk to Leone, with the consultant explaining that he only received the contract-extension request at this morning's board meeting and reminding Terranova that Calabrese spoke at the previous month's board meeting.

An exasperated Leone then called up Calabrese and handed his cell phone to Terranova so that the attorney could say what he wanted to say to the lobbyist.

After the phone call, Terranova and Leone said they didn't know why this turned into such a heated argument. As a spirit of detente settled over the empty council chambers, they agreed whatever communications Calabrese previously made only to board Chairman Robert H. Giza and his secretary need to be distributed to the full board.

The board never did vote on the contract extension, and they've asked Calabrese to come to the agency's October meeting and to submit regular updates on the firm's progress.

Reached later, Calabrese said he'll have to rework the presentation he made at the August meeting for next month's meeting.

"I thought it was a pretty comprehensive report," Calabrese told us, noting that the Erie County IDA just retained his firm's services. "I don't know what else they want."

-- Stephen T. Watson



Calspan lands big contract, Manufacturing lull in August and Corner Bakery Cafe prepares to enter Buffalo market

From Business Today:


Calspan Corp. has landed a huge contract with the Department of Transportation. The $40 million, five-year contract was awarded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to continue researching motor vehicle crashes.

Calspan operates the NHTSA's National Automotive Sampling System Zone Center 1, encompassing the Eastern United States. It collects crash data from counties and major cities for the Sampling System, a database used to improve highway safety.

The contract will allow the Cheektowaga company to retain 71 jobs--23 of them local--and could lead to more hiring in the future.


Buffalo Niagara's manufacturers stopped growing during August. Production and new orders both receded, according to a new report by the National Association of Purchasing Management.

The region's index of business activity at local factories fell to a reading of 50. That was down from July's 55.9 reading, which indicated modest growth.


Another restaurant chain is headed for the Buffalo market. Corner Bakery Cafe will open its first location on Transit Road in the Eastgate Plaza near Sheridan Drive in Amherst by December. A second location is slated to open in Amherst on Niagara Falls Boulevard between Maple Road and Interstate 290 by spring. Franchisee Fran DeSimone is looking for locations for another four restaurants in Western New York.

Corner Bakery Cafe is a fast casual franchise specializing in soups, salads and sandwiches with freshly-baked bread. Its concept is similar to that of Panera Bread.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

I wonder what kind of data Calspan has on things like this:



Real Estate roundup and How to start your own home-based child care center

From Business Today:


The new expanded Sunday business section made its debut this week with a profile of Moog, a growing aerospace company in Elma; a Q&A with Kimberley Minkel, executive director of the NFTA; a talk with Holt Vaughan, founder of California Road Studios, a Hollywood-level sound and video studio in Orchard Park; and a preview of the rate hikes local health insurers are asking for. 

Check out today's business section for a listing of real estate transactions in Erie and Niagara Counties.

The highest home price in Erie County was $825,000 for 86 Wildwood Lane in Orchard Park. The highest price in Niagara County was $200 million, for the Fashion Outlets of Niagara.

Listings are for the week ending Aug. 5.

From MoneySmart:


News Business Reporter Emma Sapong takes a look at what it takes to launch a home-based child care company.

The story looks at the start-up costs, training, state certification and other requirements needed to get started.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

It  may be a gloomy Monday, but it's nothing a little Buddy Guy can't take care of. Especially a little Buddy Guy in a polka-dot shirt and overalls:


Website for health insurance rate information

Click here to see rate hike requests from health insurance companies across New York State:

Business investment is up locally, Hedge fund sells former Rite Aid for $2.56 million and Lockport construction company wins tax breaks

From Business Today:


There has been an uptick in business activity in the area, according to the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise. The business recruitment and retention agency is claiming 14 new project "wins" for the last year. That's an increase of 55 percent over the previous year, but still lagging behind numbers posted before the recession.

For the BNE's fiscal year, ending in June, the region won $472 million in new investment. The previous year had just 9 wins, for a total of $11.8 million in new investment.


 A New York City Hedge Fund sold a former Rite Aid pharmacy in Getzville for $2.56 million. The seller, Frad Holdings LLC, is owned by Fortress Investment Group--one of the largest hedge funds in the world. The 2.43-acre parcel is at 2545 Millersport Highway, the site of the 10,908-square-foot drug store. It was sold to an entity called 2545 Getzville LLC.

Two publicly-traded private equity funds owned by Fortress manage $41.7 billion in assets.



Two Lockport companies have won tax breaks from the Town of Lockport Industrial Development Agency. Mulvey Construction was granted a 10-year tax abatement by the IDA for its new 14,800-square-foot building in Ulrich Business Park on Davison Road. It will start with an 80 percent tax exemption next year, which will decrease by 5 percent per year through 2021.

The company builds and furnishes fast food restaurants. The company had been recruited by Wheatfield to take a paymentin-lieu-of-taxes agreement from the Niagara County IDA.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Is it Casual Friday where you work?


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