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Video: Cleveland Biolabs developing drugs to help soldiers, cancer patients

Cleveland BioLabs, an emerging life sciences company, is working on anti-radiation sickness drugs that can be used to help soldiers and cancer patients. Its department of chemistry and biological development plays a key role in this research.


Super Flea vs. Super Walmart

The Super Flea, the giant weekend flea market in Cheektowaga, could be the site of a new Super Walmart. The global retailer announced it wants to build a new store at the site at 2480 Walden Ave. and close its store two miles away on Thruway Plaza Drive.

Wamart plans to hold an open house for residents to view plans for the new store from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 29 at the Private Leonard Post VFW at 2450 Walden Ave.



Hotels for everyone

Back in March, the Erie County Industrial Development Agency slammed the brakes on giving tax breaks to hotel projects following the uproar sparked by its handouts for a remodeling of the Millennium Hotel in Cheektowaga.

The critics rightly questioned the economic value of doling out tax incentives for what should be the normal cost of doing business for an existing hotel - replacing furnishings, carpeting and the like.

So the IDA went back to the drawing board to revise its policy on hotel tax breaks. In July, working on its own and without consulting the five other suburban IDAs in Erie County, the Erie County IDA came up with a new proposal. That proposed policy would that would limit incentives to only hotels that are built or renovated in conjunction with a convention center, conference center or a major regional attraction. It also would permit aid to hotel projects that meet the IDA's adaptive-reuse policy, which encourages renovation of vacant buildings.

The adaptive reuse clause was a significant loophole, because it opens the door to hotels in any site that reuses an existing building that's been vacant for a few years.

But that didn't satisfy the suburban IDAs, who within the last month met with IDA officials. They wanted more flexibility, and they managed to get an extra phrase added into the policy the Erie County IDA approved on Wednesday that allowed projects that were part of a neighborhood enhancement area.

Now that's a loophole! In Amherst, much of the town's prime commercial property is part of an enhancement zone. Want to build or renovate a hotel on Sheridan Drive between Niagara Falls Boulevard and the Youngmann Expressway? You're in, because it's part of an enhancement zone.

Want to build a hotel or renovate one on the west side of Transit Road, between the Thruway and Main Street? There likely will be some tax breaks waiting for you, because it's part of an enhancement zone.

Think there's a market for another hotel along Main Street. Pick the right spot and you'll be in line for some hefty tax savings, because wide swatches of Main Street are part of an enhancement zone.

So much for the crackdown.

- David Robinson



New car fever

New automobile sales jumped 9.2% in the Buffalo Niagara region in August, a healthy increase. Much of that reflects the pent-up demand created as people nurse their old cars along. But everyone reaches that moment when putting money into repairs is not as economical as buying another vehicle. Throw in record-low interest rates and some enticing new models, and the temptation can be too much. But do your homework before visiting a dealership, and stick to your bottom line. Any negotiator needs to know at what point they walk away and try again another time.

-- Grove Potter

Paying for the Bills

Developer Rocco Termini has an interesting article today on the News' editorial page, pitching a plan to finance the $200 million or so it will take to finance the improvements the Buffalo Bills want at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The linchpin of Termini's plan is to take the roughly $13 million in payroll taxes that the Bills pay each year and setting it aside to pay off the bonds that will be issued to pay for the stadium improvements. By Termini's calculations, setting those tax payments aside over a 15-year period (assuming the Bills sign a 15-year lease) would cover about three-quarters ($150 million) of the improvement costs.

The second part of Termini's plan is to sell the naming rights on Ralph Wilson stadium and use those proceeds to pay off more of the stadium improvement debt. If those rights sell for $4 million a year, that would provide enough money to pay off another $45 million of the stadium debt (plus interest at 4 percent a year).

Selling the naming rights would be a blow to Bills owner Ralph Wilson's ego, but it's the least the Bills owner can do if he's trying to shake down the state and the Buffalo Niagara region for $200 million in upgrades. It's always run pretty hollow that Wilson has complained about how limiting the Buffalo market is financially, while leaving several million dollars a year on the table so he can have a stadium named after himself.

Put those two together, and you've managed to finance $195 million of the $200 million in upgade costs, Termini argues.

Does Termini's proposal have a chance. Probably not. It's too simple and it makes too much sense. But it sure is an interesting thought.

- David Robinson


How low can rates go?

So the stock market is thrilled that the Fed is launching yet another bond-buying program to keep interest rates low and make it cheaper for people and businesses to borrow money.

The bigger question, however, is how much good it will do.

With interest rates already at historic lows, will more people rush out to buy cars just because rates are a smidge better? Probably not.

Will home shoppers become home buyers because mortgage rates, already at record lows, have dropped enough to shave a couple of bucks off their monthly payment? I doubt it.

What ails the economy, unfortunately, aren't the type of things that can easily be undone by the Fed dipping into its traditional bag of tricks and manipulating interest rates.

This recession has been so ugly - and the halting recovery so long - because its roots lie in more than a decade of debt accumulation and a housing bubble that have devastated the finances of vast numbers of consumers. They're not looking to borrow any more money. They want to pay back what they borrowed years ago. And the poor homeowners in those high-flying markets that went bust are just trying to get their financial feet back on the ground.

With consumers focused on digging themselves out of debt, they're not spending. And when consumers aren't spending, businesses aren't selling. And when businesses aren't selling, they're not hiring and they're not giving raises. Oh, and they're making their workers pay more for their health insurance, which is just like giving them a pay cut. And when employers aren't giving raises and are hoisting more costs on employees, workers aren't buying more.

Is it any wonder, then, that the average car that's on the road today is more than 10 years old.

It's a vicious cycle. One that isn't easily broken, which is why this recovery has dragged on for so long. And unfortunately, lower interest rates and a higher stock market won't make it all better.

- David Robinson



iPhone musings...

iPhone 5... just think of it. More computing power in the palm of your hand than existed in the entire world 50 years ago. The technology revolution has been the defining accomplishment of this era of human existence. As the magic of being connected to everyone else on the globe - and connected to the expanding library of human knowledge - manifests itself, one can only wonder where it will lead. More harmony and understanding, or more entrenched differences?

 - Grove Potter



HSBC branches absorbed

The giant bank divestiture is finally done.  The final three HSBC branches in Western New York have been sold to Community Bank Systems, closing out a 150-year chapter of bank service that started with Marine Midland Bank.

One can't but marvel at the grace with which the local banking community handled this complicated maneuver. Several local banks, the largest being First Niagara, absorbed 195 bank branches. Some have been closed, but most remain open serving their long-time customers.

Western New York is know for many things, and solid banking is one of them.











All abuzz over Trader Joe's

So maybe Trader Joe's, the California specialty grocer that has built an almost cult-like following, is coming to Western New York.

We don't know where - or even if Trader Joe's is coming for sure. But the good folks at the Kenmore Village Improvement Society, who have been practically begging the chain to come to Kenmore, say they have it on good authority that Trader Joe's will make its debut here sometime by the end of next year.

"We created a buzz," says Melissa Foster, the group's president, referring to its campaign to lure the chain to Kenmore.

Unfortunately for the Kenmore folks, it doesn't look like Trader Joe's has its eyes on the village, but rather other potential destinations in the Buffalo Niagara region.

But it does make sense for Trader Joe's to move into Buffalo. The chain opened its first store in the Albany suburbs in early August, with a line of several hundred shoppers that, in the words of the Albany Business Review, "snaked from the front door, around the parking lot and to the main entrance at 79 Wolf Road."

I can't say I've ever been excited enough about grocery shopping to wait in line to do it. Then again, I don't like shopping much.

Trader Joe's also set to open in the Rochester market - in the suburb of Pittsford - next month.

Buffalo will be just another stop along the way.

Of course, Trader Joe's arrival would be bad news for all of the other grocery stores in the Buffalo Niagara region, for the simple reason that any customers who shop at Trader Joe's won't be buying those same items at Tops, Wegmans, Dash's, Aldi, or Save-A-Lot.

That's not an inconsequential impact, because the Buffalo Niagara region is losing people, which means there are fewer people buying groceries here. And since grocery shopping isn't the kind of thing you drive to another city a couple hours away to do (your ice cream would melt!), all Trader Joe's would do is take its slice of the region's food-shopping dollars from the chains that already are here.

But it will keep Tops, Wegmans, Walmart and all the rest on their toes. And that's a good thing.

-David Robinson




Giving them more ammo and more distance. has an interesting read about "How Nerf Became the World’s Best Purveyor of Big Guns for Kids."

For [product design manager Brian] Jablonski, blasters are the most satisfying Nerf products to create, each one requiring the participation of about 15 Hasbro designers, engineers, marketers, product development specialists, model makers, model painters, and computer-aided design experts in both Pawtucket and Hong Kong . . . . 

Hasbro’s marketing people had been asking their target customers—boys ages 8 to 16—what they wanted out of a blaster, and the boys always said the same two things: more distance and more ammo capacity. Some of them were so anxious for these features that they had taken it upon themselves to modify their existing blasters, duct-taping additional clips to the stocks and fiddling with the tension of the springs.

Wired gives a look inside the serious business of child's play and does a brilliant job of tracing the company's quest to create a foam dart that could travel the length of a tennis court and gun that could carry 50 rounds of ammunition.

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

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