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Minimum wage debate

From Business Today:

TeresaBiersbachAlbany is proposing a raise in the minimum wage, from $7.25 to $8.50 per hour. There's some debate over whether that is a good thing.

Workers say the extra scratch would be a welcome boost as they attempt to eke out a living. But some employers are fighting the change, saying it will increase their cost of doing business.


The New York State Energy Research Development Authority rolled out its On-Bill Recovery Loan program Monday. The program allows homeowners to finance energy-efficient upgrades through NYSERDA, rolling the payments into their monthly utility bill. The amount of the monthly payment is designed to mirror the amount of savings realized by the home improvements, to keep utility bills down.



A Buffalo Internet service provider is raising its expectations and its stock price as it gets ready to take itself public next month. Synacor had originally planned to raise $75 million with it's initial public offering. But now, with profits expected to jump from $3.8 million to $4.2 million, Synacor said it expects to sell 7.8 million shares at $10 to $12 each, resulting in $94 million.



BlueCross Blue Shield of Western New York's parent company HealthNow New York is making a major change to its computer system. Within five years, HealthNow will transition away from its current Facets operating system, and move into the Core Operating System Transition (COST) will eventually be hosted at another arm of Blue Cross in South Carolina.  

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

It's only Tuesday? Really?


Business leaders need to lead

From Business Today:


The Buffalo News' 20th annual Prospectus issue was delivered Sunday. The special, expanded business magazine looks at what 2012 has in store for Western New York companies. What does the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise have in mind for $1 billion in promised state money? Wondering what decor trends will be hot for interior designers and home stores? Want to check in on Niagara Falls' progress as it makes over downtown? Want to see First Niagara CEO John Koelmel deliver a fantastic keynote speech at the Prospectus premiere dinner? It's all here.


The Elmwood Village will get a new fitness center. Best Fitness is set to open at 2001 Elmwood Avenue, in the site of the former Buffalo Wild Wings. The 24-hour gym plans to open its doors by late spring or early summer. It's the second Best Fitness location in Western New York, owned by a private New Hampshire company that has a total of 10 gym sites in New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.


If you don't think the assessment on your home is fair, you have options.

Experts suggest making sure your municipality has the correct information about your home, research what comparable homes in your neighborhood have sold for and make sure you file your grievance by your town's deadline.

 From MoneySmart:

Thieves never stop thinking up new ways to steal and scam. MoneySmart outlines what the FBI and the Better Business Bureau call the latest and most prevalent scams and tells you how to identify them, avoid them and keep yourself protected.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

"This is our time," Koelmel tells business leaders

From Business Today:


John Koelmel, First Niagara Financial Group's chief executive officer, was the keynote speaker at The Buffalo News' Prospectus Premiere, the annual unveiling of The News' special business section. Addressing the event's 200 attendees, he stressed the importance of collaboration, of stepping up as a leader, and said the key to Western New York's success is for business people to put egos, politics and negativity aside.


Profits were up 27 percent at First Niagara Financial Group during the fourth quarter. The bank reported net income of $58.5 million, or 19 cents per share, compared with $45.9 million, or 22 cents per share during the same period last year. The rise in profits was attributed to strong commercial loan and core deposit growth, as well as its recent expansion into New England.



A local, full-service advertising agency marked its 25th anniversary by donating 25 straight hours of free work to a fledgling local startup company. All 45 employees at Crowley Webb on Main Street worked from 9 a.m. Thursday to 10 a.m. today creating a brand campaign for You and Who, a one-year-old, online T-shirt company. You and Who, which donates T-shirts and meals to charity with every sale, was the winner of Crowley Webb's Twenty-Five-Hour Workday Contest, which was open to local companies 25 months old or younger. It narrowed the more than 40 applicants down to three, then put them up for a vote.


The Clarence Industrial Development Agency approved tax breaks for two companies Thursday. Paula's Donuts will receive $8,000 on a $125,000 new Main Street location. It will create 20 full- and part-time jobs. RV Rhodes, a strategic consulting firm, will receive $8,000 to move from Main Street in Buffalo to Main Street in Clarence.



Five local affordable housing initiatives received funding from the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York's Affordable Housing Program. Three affordable housing initiatives in Buffalo, one in Niagara Falls and one in North Tonawanda received subsidy awards totalling $1.17 million. The winners were True Bethel Townhouses on East Ferry Street, Cephas House on Smith Street, the Hope Center at Ruhland and Oberlin Avenues, Center Court Phase II in Niagara Falls and Heritage Christian Services in North Tonawanda.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Bank jobs being eliminated and a top McDonald's manager

From Business Today:


First Niagara may cut as many as 346 jobs. The bank is eliminating the assistant branch manager position at every one of its branches throughout its four-state network. The move is part of the bank's new efficiency strategy to focus on customer sales and service, in hopes of boosting revenues without increasing expenses.



 A local McDonald's manager received the company's highest award Wednesday. Julia Lee, manager at the McDonald's restaurant on Sheridan Drive near Hopkins Road in Amherst, was honored with the Ray Kroc Award, a recognition given to less than one percent of the company's managers. She is just one of fewer than 150 recipients worldwide. McDonald's officials surprised her at the restaurant with the news. She will receive a cash prize of $2,500.


Rival developers got into it at Buffalo Place's monthly meeting Wednesday. Carl Paladino and Mark Croce got into a spat over reusing vacant space in Buffalo and about downtown parking policy. The two developers, who have fought over public redevelopment project grants, confronted each other over their differing business styles.


Profits were up at the Warsaw-based parent company of a local bank during the fourth quarter. Financial Institutions, parent to Five Star Bank, posted a 13.7 percent increase in profits. It reported a net income of $5.8 million, or 39 cents per share, up from $5.1 million, or 38 cents per share, a year ago. 



Buffalo Niagara's third-largest banking entity has received awards for its customer service. Cleveland-based KeyBank won "excellence awards" as a national and regional winner in Greenwich Associates' 2011 national banking survey.

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Are you Team Jim or Team Dwight?


Biz Links: Area jobs slip in December

From Business Today:


The jobless rate in Buffalo Niagara rose in December, but that is typical. The rate usually increases from November to December. The unemployment rate was 7.9 percent last month--higher than November's 7.3 percent, but still lower than December's 8.1 percent a year ago. The region lost 2,000 jobs from December 2010 to the same month in 2011, a 0.4 percent drop. It was the steepest drop in employment since July 2010. But at the same time, the region's labor force is shrinking, which contains the unemployment rate.


Changes have been made at the top of Cleveland BioLabs. The drug development company's president and chief executive officer, Michael Fonstein, shed the CEO role but will retain the presidency. Yakov Kogan, the company's chief operating officer, was named interim CEO with the expectation that he will take over that role permanently.



The market for office space in Buffalo Niagara is stronger than expected, according to a new report by CBRE Inc. The overall vacancy was down modestly, despite a near doubling in expected building. But industrial space performed miserably, with more than 1 million square feet of empty space--much of it in the former Quad/Graphics plant in Cheektowaga. Non-mall retail space was also disappointing, but the multi-family market showed signs of stabilizing. Still, the report concludes, Buffalo Niagara is performing better than other larger cities around the country.


HealthNow New York's chief medical officer is stepping down. Dr. Cynthia A. Ambres will leave her post as senior vice president March 2. No replacement has been announced. Ambres said  she was leaving voluntarily because she was not able to be effective locally while retaining her primary residence in California. HealthNow New York is the parent company of BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York. Ambres is a former executive vice president and chief medical officer at Kaleida Health.



Community Bank System has put a price on its common stock offering. The DeWitt-based company is planning to raise $50 million by offering 1.85 million shares of common stock at $27 per share. The bank, which has 34 branches in Western New York, said it will use the money to finance its acquisition  of 19 branches from First Niagara Financial Group.


Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Have a meeting today?


Biz Links: Olympic Towers buyers get a real deal

From Business Today:

The Olympic Towers - an historic building next to the Buffalo Niagara Olympic Towers FINANCIAL TOWERS3 LEWISConvention Center and home to the federal bankruptcy court and other federal offices - has finally been sold for $2.5 million. The buyer, Prime Asset Fund of Los Angeles and Tampa, paid $1 million below the asking price, after the building had been on the market for several years. The owners said they plan to invest in some improvements and continue to manage the property.

Customers of NYSEG and Rochester Gas & Electric Corp. are getting some worrisome messages from the utilities: their private information including Social Security numbers, addresses and other bits was beached. The utility says they have no indication that the intrusion was done with malicious intent, but it is offering affected people free access for a year to a credit-monitoring service.

CUBRC, the research center on Genesee Street across from the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, has landed a five-year contract that could be worth $67.2 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The center, originally founded as the Calspan-University at Buffalo Research Center, involves research and development on a new antibiotic that might be able to treat biological threats like anthrax and the plague.

Profits were up at Community Bank System and Northwest Bancshares, which both serve mostly rural areas of Western New York.

Who is getting hired, promoted or honored?

Biz Links: Study confirms we're doing fine

From Business Today:

The Buffalo Niagara region grew faster in employment and income than all but five of the 57 largest metro regions in the nation, according to a study by the Brookings Institution. The author of the study called Buffalo "one of the brighter spots in the North American economy now." That's a nice thing to hear from an outside observer.

The Buffalo Niagara Partnership unveiled a plan - backed by $11.25 million form the City of Buffalo - to help speed up revitalization of downtown buildings. The money is seen as a boost for projects that may have higher upfront costs due to specifics of rehabbing old buildings.  

Pizza is big business in these parts, with local establishments La Hacienda Brightondominating national chain pizza restaurants. The secret may be in the sauce, but it's also in the personal touch so many local shops have.

Among the quiet, powerful community banks in the region is Community Bank System. The bank focuses largely on rural and suburban markets with its 170 branches in 40 counties. CEO Mark Tryniski spoke about his banks strategy.

A new call center is planned for Batavia. Indianapolis-based debt collection firm Premiere Credit of North America LLC, is planning to open an office on Mill Street by March 1. The 13,500-square-foot space has been vacant since 2009, and Premiere will lease 8,500 square feet of it with the option to expand, according to the Genesee County Economic Development Center. It will employ 50 people.

 Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Stay safe out there:


Biz Links: Bank earnings slip, doctors join forces.

From Business Today:

Wilmers M&T Bank Corp. saw profits fall during the fourth quarter. Profits were down 27 percent from the same period a year ago. The drop was attributed to increased operating expenses related to its acquisition of Wilmington Trust Corp. as well as one-time impairment charges on investments. Operating expenses, not including accounting and merger-related factors, increased to $706 million from $455 million. It had net income of $148 million, or $1.04 per share, down from $204 million, or $1.59 per share, in the same quarter a year ago.



Excelsior Orthopaedics has completed its merger with the Hand and Shoulder Center of Western New York.  Drs. Dale R. Wheeler, Owen J. Moy, James J. Kelly and Timothy V. McGrath--all surgeons from the Hand and Shoulder Center--are now partners at the Amherst-based Excelsior. It now employs 150 people and is expected to see 76,000 patient visits annually.


NorthropA Maryland-based defense contractor is laying off workers in Amherst. Northrop Grumman will lay off 94 people at its Amherst Systems location by the end of the month.

It will eliminate more than a quarter of its workforce here. It has lost more than 170 workers since 2010. The most recent cutbacks at Northrop Grumman are being attributed to anticipated cutbacks in defense spending.



Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?


Here comes the snow:


Biz Links: 2011 was good for local car sales.

From Business Today:

   Local automobile sales slipped in December, but overall Auto show Local autoshow Wippert2011 was stronger than 2010.
   December sales fell 5 percent compared to a year before, with 3,996 vehicles sold versus 4,200 the previous December.
   But the year represented a turnaround for the automotive industry. Locally that meant a 3.4 percent hike over 2010 sales.

The giant former Quad/Graphics printing plant on George Urban QUADBoulevard in Depew is on the market. The plant, once home to the regions largest printing operation, has 850,000 square feet of space on 65 acres.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Biz Links: Bank dealings.

From Business Today:


First Niagara Financial Group has found a buyer for the 26 HSBC Bank USA branches it is forced to sell to settle federal anti-trust concerns. KeyCorp, based in Cleveland, will buy them--making it the bank with Western New York's third-largest market share. All told, Key will acquire a total of 37 HSBC branches in the Buffalo and Rochester regions. It accounts for $2.4 billion in deposits and about $400 million in loans.



Profits soared at a North Tonawanda maker of earthquake-protection equipment. During the second quarter, Taylor Devices saw its profits more than triple for the period ending Nov. 30. Sales were $6.8 million for the period, up from $4.5 million for the second quarter last year. Profits were up from $122,975 to $413,741.

The jump was attributed to a big lift the company got from Asian sales after last year's Japanese earthquake.


Sunoco is expanding its offering of freshly-tapped craft beer to select gas station convenience stores in the rest of the state. The company test-piloted its Craft Beer Exchange program here, with great success. Customers will soon be able to fill their growlers at 50 APlus stores across the state. The program also allows customers to build their own mixed and matched six-pack of beer from an offering of 20-ounce microbrew bottles.



A non-profit group is working to boost the Niagara Falls International Airport. The group, called the Niagara Falls International Airport Stakeholders, will work to encourage greater use of the terminal. Lead by Samuel Ferraro, executive director of the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency, the group will work to attract more carriers and more customers.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Talk of earthquakes makes that wintry weather seem not so bad:



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