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Direct Air puts on a clinic for bad PR

From Business Today:

Direct Air did more than stiff passengers when it abruptly stopped flying on Monday. It also left the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority with $88,000 in unpaidAIRLINE landing fees. Direct Air is putting on a clinic in how not to handle a crisis. They are not returning calls and not clearly explaining what happened. The damage to their brand may be permanent.

The NRG power plant in Dunkirk is joining the ranks of other coal plants that can not compete with cheaper, cleaner natural gas power plants. NRG said it may mothball the plant in 180 days if it can not secure a guaranteed contract for its above-market price power.

Crawford Furniture, the 129-year-old Jamestown company, is throwing in the towel. After closing its Crawford Furniturestores and trying to make furniture for other sellers, it said it can't stay in business. It's a sad ending for a company with roots back to Jamestown's glory days as a furniture making center.

National Fuel Gas Co. is apparently satisfying its customers. The Williamsville-based company did very well in a J.D. Powers survey of customer satisfaction, coming in second in the eastern U.S. among natural gas utilities.

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Buffalo needs more venture capital

From Business Today:


Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst, organized an economic action forum with several local leaders that was held at the University at Buffalo Tuesday. Elected officials, community organizers and business leaders and owners gave their thoughts on what it will take to rebuild Western New York. The region needs more venture capital, better ties among companies and colleges and locally-driven solutions, rather than plans from Albany, said Howard Zemsky, a Buffalo developer and the regional co-chairman of the Western New York Economic Development Council. 


Unemployment in the Buffalo Niagara region rose to its second-highest rate in 22 years for January. The local unemployment rate rose to 9.1 percent during the first month of the year. During January 2010, the unemployment rate jumped as high as 9.6 percent here. By comparison, the rate was 5.6 percent in January 2007, before the recession hit. 


One day after cancelling all its flights without notice and stranding travelers at the Niagara Falls International Airport, Direct Air has announced it will suspend all service until May 15. The company said it had to ground Monday's flights because it couldn't afford the bill to fuel up its planes. Direct Air said the two month hiatus will allow it to address "operational matters." The company is telling travelers who have booked flights before May 15 to arrange for a refund with their credit card company.


 Synacor Inc. made a good showing during its first quarter as a publicly traded company. The Buffalo-based Internet content provider earned $7.7 million, or 34 cents per share, during the fourth quarter, compared with a loss of $369,000, or 2 cents per share, a year ago. $6.1 million of its profits came from an income tax benefit stemming from a reduction in the company‚Äôs deferred tax assets.


Independent Health has been ranked number one by J.D. Power & Associatesfor the third year. The Williamsville-based insurance company ranked highest in customer satisfaction out of 13 companies in New York and New Jersey.



The company that owns the Great Wolf Lodge water park in Niagara Falls, Ontario has a new owner. Wall Street private equity firm Apollo Global Management LLC said Tuesday it bought Great Wolf Resorts for $703 million. 


County ExecutiveMark Poloncarz has criticized the tax breaks doled out by local economic development agencies, and Lancaster Supervisor Dino J. Fudoli is not happy about it. At Tuesday's Lancaster IDA meeting, he accused Poloncarz of making changes to agency policies in order to reward political allies and suck up to union groups.  


Noco has bought three lubricant distribution warehouses in Pennsylvania from Windward Petroleum. The purchase widens Noco's lubricant distribution territory, which will now stretch from Buffalo to Vermont, and Ottawa, Ont., to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

It's Wednesday. That's halfway to Friday:


A delay at the new Niagara Falls train station?

From Business Today:


A social justice group is calling for more minority and women hires on a Niagara Falls project supported by a $16.5 million federal grant. The Niagara Organizing Alliance for Hope wants a study conducted to be sure hiring goals on the third phase of the International Railway Station and Intermodal Transportation Center reflect the demographics of Niagara Falls. The $25 million project will include a new Amtrak station.


Protectan, a drug designed for patients in the advanced stages of cancer, has started an advanced clinical trial. The drug was developed by Buffalo biotechnology company Cleveland BioLabs. The drug is meant to treat radiation sickness, but the company says it has also been successful treating cancerous tumors in animals.


Best Buy's Geek Squad has announced a change in its top brass, but that won't affect a local company that relies on the Geek Squad for a lot of its business. Installs Inc. has handled Best Buy's installation work for 15 years and recently signed another two-year contract. The company employs about 325 people in the Buffalo area.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

It sure is foggy downtown this morning:


Small business loans getting federal boost

From Business Today:


Loan guarantees from the Small Business Administration make it easier for banks to extend loans to small businesses, and that is helping small companies thrive. Lenders in the Buffalo and Rochester areas have loaned a total of $34.9 million in 221 loans over the last five months.



Two of the fastest-growing credit unions in the country are based right here in Western New York. Western New York Federal Credit Union in West Seneca ranked 31st for growth in a recent ranking, while St. Joseph's Parish Federal Credit Union in Buffalo ranked 50th. The ranking was put together by Washington, D.C.-based industry research firm Callahan & Associates and compiled to create the 2012 Credit Union Directory: The Cooperative State of Mind.


Check out the real estate listings for Erie and Niagara Counties for the week ending Feb. 3. The median sale price in Erie County during that period was $101,350. The median price for Niagara County was $83,500.

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Sure feels like spring out there:


Watching medical bills

From Business Today:


The Department of Financial Services released a report Wednesday saying consumers are at risk for receiving unexpected medical bills they can't afford. The state's insurance regulators are looking into unexpected, out-of-network medical costs and whether some insurance companies bill too much or reimburse at too-low rates.


An investors' group is recommending National Fuel Gas shareholders to vote against a proposed executive pay package. The Amherst-based energy company's CEO David F. Smith made $7 million last year, and would get $38,000 less this year, according to the proposal. But Institutional Shareholder Services advised that Smith's paycheck is out of whack when compared to National Fuel's stock performance and the pay received by other natural gas utility executives. 


As both houses prepare to pass 2012 budget proposals, Senate Republicans are passing a proposed budget of their own. Their plan includes a 20 percent tax cut for 200,000 small businesses in New York. The tax breaks would cost $65 million and bring the state's tax rate from 6.85 percent to 5.5 percent.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

 What were you doing when you were 13?


Power plant closing threatens budgets

From Business Today:


 AES is closing its Somerset power plant for up to 6 months. The company is in bankruptcy and owes $600 million. The plant will be auctioned March 26, but no layoffs have yet been mentioned for the plant's 115 workers. The closure has community leaders worried, since many budgets are heavily funded with tax revenues from the plant. The Barker school district's 2012-2013 budget is counting on AES for 38 percent of its funding.



Carl Paladino's company  Ellicott Development wants to buy three city-owned parcels to build a medical office. The three small properties are on an empty lot on the north side of St. Paul Mall, located between Best and East North streets. Their estimated total value is $69,900. Ellicott also wants to turn the former Our Lady of Lourdes church into a mixed use-space featuring retail and residential opportunities.




 Solar Liberty  has been recognized by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the U.S. Department of Energy. Solar has been designated the largest solar installation company in New York State in 2011, based on the number of systems installed and the amount of kilowatt capacity brought online last year.


Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

It looks like the waters of March are holding off today:


Battling over auto parts jobs

From Business Today:


Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand wants the United States to get tough on China and take measure to ensure fair competition and a level playing field. Gillibrand visited Curtis Screw in Buffalo, which supplies components to the auto industry and exports to China. Gillibrand said the Chinese government is manipulating its auto parts exports to knock out U.S. competition and that systems need to be put in place to allow U.S. manufacturers to compete with Chinese manufacturers instead of the Chinese government.


In an effort to cut costs, Gov. Cuomo is ending a contract with a firm to represent New York's trade interests in Toronto.

The firm helps bring Canadian companies to Western New York and encourages importing and exporting between Ontario and Western New York. Cuomo said the move will not affect New York's ability to Canadian land business, but critics said it will weaken economic ties.

RandCapitalNasdaq Rand Capital Corp.'s investment value increased by 2 percent during the fourth quarter. The increase is being attributed to an increase in the value of its stake in a West Seneca maker of automatic riveting machines. The value of Rand's stake in Gemcor rose by 31 percent or $1.3 million. Rand's portfolio grew to $24.4 million, or $3.58 per share, up from $23.8 million, or $3.50 per share the previous quarter. 


Four Western New York companies are considered among the best places to work in the state, according to a new list. The survey, put together by the New York State Society for Human Resource Management Council, awards 50 companies as contributing to economic development while having a pleasant working environment. Making the list are Horizon Health Services, Independent Health Buffalo, MBMS Inc. and Goldberg Segalla LLP.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

LaFalce may head ECIDA board

From Business Today:


County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz has appointed three new but not unfamiliar faces to the Erie County Industrial Development Agency board. Retired Rep. John J. LaFalce, Buffalo Urban League President Brenda McDuffie and World Trade Center Buffalo Niagara President Christopher Johnston have all been appointed spots. Reports say LaFalce may become the next chairman and McDuffie the next vice chairman.


Two more Canadian companies will relocate operations to Western New York, thanks to a little help from Buffalo Niagara Enterprise.

Avanti Advanced Manufacturing, a plastic injection molding company and Blockbuster Costumes, which distributes costumes and party supplies, will relocate to Buffalo and Sloan, respectively. The BNE helped bring a third Canadian company, Nutrablend Foods, in 2009 and helped it commit to expanding here in November. All three are expected to invest more than $1 million and create 35 jobs.



Scores of banking customers have become victims of credit and debit card fraud, after computer hackers in Orleans County broke security at stores and transaction-processing firms on Black Friday. All of Medina Savings & Loan Association's customers were hit, as were customers at M&T Bank Corp. and HSBC Bank USA.


Sen. Charles E. Schumer wants to know whether oil producers and refiners have engaged in price fixing, and he's asking the Federal Trade Commission to hurry up and figure it out. The FTC launched an investigation last summer at the urging of New York Democrats. If price fixing is happening, it needs to be uncovered soon, as gasoline prices rise, he said. In Buffalo Niagara, gas is selling for an average of 45 cents more per gallon than it was at this time last year.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Happy Friday!



Sports conference skips Buffalo

From Business Today:


Buffalo had been on a roll booking amateur sporting events, landing several of them over the past few years. But it just lost its bid for the National Association of Sports Commissions conference. Buffalo had been a finalist to host the conference, but the event's organizers said the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center was not up to snuff and that it didn't want to subject its attendees to the many vacant store fronts on Main Street. Snagging the event would have meant more than $1 million in economic impact.


 A vacant Depew printing plant has been given a reduced assessment. The 850,000-square-foot former Quad/Graphics property on George Urban Boulevard has had its assessed value cut from $5.6 million to $4.3 million. The Wisconsin-based Quad Graphics bought the plant in 2010 before shutting it down in 2011. It's now up for sale.


Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand has sent a letter to the Commerce Department asking it to deny three pending Foreign-Trade Zone manufacturing subzone applications that would give an unfair advantage to metal imports from China and Russia. If the applications are approved, it would make survival difficult for Globe Specialty Metals, a company in Niagara Falls that employs 100 people, she said.


Western New York will have its first LongHorn Steakhouse within the next year. The steakhouse chain just inked a deal to build its first local restaurant at Orchard Park's Quaker Crossing plaza. The Orlando-based company will tear down a former Montana's Cookhouse and construct a new 6,000-square-foot building.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

 Today is the first day of March. It seems to have come in like a lamb:


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