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Check it out just released its semiannual bank fees survey, and the results were not good for consumers. It found fewer banks were offering free checking accounts than at any point in the history of the survey, which began in 2009.

At the halfway point of 2013, only 30 percent of the banks surveyed had no monthly maintenance fee. That was down from 36.6 percent at the end of 2012.

The survey also found that the average overdraft fee was $31.60, up from $30.01 at the end of last year.

MoneyRates said its survey is based on data from an index that is a composite of more than 100 banks, including the 50 largest U.S. banks by deposit and a similar number of smaller banks.

-- Matt Glynn

State unveils name, details of health insurance exchange

State officials today revealed the name, logo and key details about New York's health insurance exchange, a marketplace on which individuals and small-business employees can purchase coverage starting Oct. 1.

Some key takeaways from today's announcement:

  • The state has named its exchange "NY State of Health," with a logo featuring the shape of New York state superimposed on a circle.
  • The state and the public-relations firms hired to promote the exchange will launch a major marketing campaign beginning Oct. 1, but a website featuring the new brand already has gone live.
  • Sixteen health plans, and 10 dental plans, will offer coverage through the exchange. A map showing which insurers are offering coverage where is here.
  • Different health plans are selling in different parts of the state on the exchange. In July, state officials announced that nine health plans would offer coverage in Western New York. The final list released today shows the seven health plans selling coverage on the exchange. EmblemHealth's GHI subsidiary will sell in this area off the exchange, while its HIP Insurance Co. subsidiary will not offer coverage here. The two EmblemHealth plans has the highest approved plan rates.
  • The exchanges are offering coverage at a lower rate than is currently available for people buying coverage directly through an insurer. The federal government is offering subsidies, in the form of tax credits, to further reduce the cost of insurance for people buying on the exchange. The state has set up a site to help people calculate how much of a subsidy they'll be eligible for and what is the bottom-line price of their coverage.

--- Stephen T. Watson

Weekend business stories

Some intereting stories from the weekend papers...

How can New York State be promising health insurance rate reductions when the Affordable Care Act - aka Obamacare - kicks in in January? Business reporter Stephen T. Watson found out that, not suprisingly, the program is counting on lots of young, healthy uninsured people to sign up and start paying into the system. The calculus requires that more people who do not need to use the coverage will pay for it.  That's how insurance works: everybody pays some money and a smaller group of people have to use it. In addition, the level of insurance coverage being offered is stepping down.

Bringing car traffic back to Main Street in downtown Buffalo  Main street will cost more than $70 million. Advocates say it's a necessary price to pay to keep the revival of the city's core moving forward.  Business writer Sara DiNatale found that cities all over the country are undoing the "pedestrian malls" built in the 1980's in hopes of bringing back more people. In Buffalo, the project will allow a car to go from the growing Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus almost all the way to the emerging Canalside district.

The GM plant on River Road in the Town of Tonawanda is celebrating its 75th anniversary and will open Gm plantits doors for tours on Friday. The last time the company did this more than 5,000 people showed up. The tours will run form noon to 8 p.m.

Paula's Donuts, an iconic bakery shop Paula that makes giant doughnuts, has moved from Kenmore Avenue to Sheridan Drive in the Town of Tonawanda, in the Caputi's Pub plaza. There goes the waistline.

-- Grove Potter




From institute to apartments?

Banker-turned-developer Paul Kolkmeyer is looking at another building conversion project, this time in North Buffalo across the street from one of Rocco Termini’s projects.

Kolkmeyer, the former CEO of First Niagara Financial Group who’s turned his attention to real estate development since leaving the bank in 2006, is considering turning a former office building at 1807 Elmwood Ave. into apartments. The 48,000-square-foot detached row building sits on 2.2 acres adjacent to the Valu Home Center store and plaza at 1841 Elmwood.

Originally the corporate headquarters for American Radiator, which later became American Standard, the two-story building still carries the name Institute for Thermal Research engraved in the brick, but looks more like a traditional school or academic institute.

Kolkmeyer would not discuss his plans, saying it’s premature since he and his partners are still conducting due diligence on the building and “have not yet committed to move forward.”

But such a project would take advantage of renewed development activity in that area of the city, spurred in part by Termini. The building Kolkmeyer is eying is located across the street from the 90,000-square-foot former FWS Furniture store at 1738 Elmwood, which Termini is converting into the Foundry Lofts.

That $23 million project calls for a mixture of commercial, retail, residential and hotel space, with a 21-room boutique hotel and banquet facility to be operated by William Koessler’s Acqua Restaurant. It will also house one- and two-bedroom apartments, a distillery and restaurant, a yoga business, technology company Utilant and 8,000 square feet of office space for Buffalo Spree magazine.

Also nearby, at 316 Grote St., Termini is spending $6.72 million to turn the two-story former Houk Wire Wheel building into a mixture of residential and commercial space called Houk Lofts. The 28,160-square-foot building will have 22 apartments, a tattoo parlor and a hair salon.


- Jonathan D. Epstein

Health care is topic of lectures at Chautauqua Institution

The Chautauqua Institution is offering a weeklong series of lectures on health care reform and innovation that begins Monday.

The "Health Care: Reform and Innovation" lectures fill the ninth and final week of the 2013 Chautauqua season and mark the beginning of a three-year institution effort focusing on health care.

In addition to the to the institution’s standard morning and afternoon lectures, the health care week will include 15 special lectures in smaller venues meant to encourage a conversation between the speakers and audience members.

The morning lectures are:

  • Monday, Harvey V. Fineberg, president of the nonpartisan Institute of Medicine, providing an overview of what reforms will mean for all American health care system stakeholders.
  • Tuesday, Steven J. Corwin, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital CEO, discussing hospital administration and innovation on the provider side.
  • Wednesday, Richard J. Gilfillan, former director of the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation, talking about the state and future of health care and innovations to make costs scalable.
  • Thursday, Christine K. Cassel, president and CEO of the National Quality Forum and former president and CEO of the American Board of Internal Medicine, covering demographic health and health care disparities, and the setting of national priorities for achieving better outcomes and value for our health care dollar.
  • Friday, Susan Dentzer, senior health policy adviser for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a "PBS NewsHour" analyst on health issues, speaking on the cost of health care and the significant coming changes.

Chautauqua’s 2013 Health Care Forum, running Monday through Aug. 23, will include an early presentation at 8:30 a.m., an hour-long lunchtime program beginning at 12:30 p.m., and an afternoon session that follows the Interfaith Lecture Series.

Morning lectures are held in the Amphitheater at 10:45 a.m. Interfaith Lectures are held in the Hall of Philosophy weekdays at 2 p.m.

For more information and to see a complete calendar of the forum visit

Day tickets are available for purchase at the Main Gate Welcome Center Ticket Office each day.

Morning tickets grant visitors access to the grounds from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. for $20. Afternoon tickets grant access from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. for $13. Combined morning/afternoon passes (7 a.m. to 8 p.m.) are $33. For details, visit or call 357-6250.

--Stephen T. Watson

Video: In Focus: Karl Frizlen, Horsefeathers Market & Residences

Karl Frizlen, the developer of of Horsefeathers Market & Residences, said the complex on Buffalo's West Side has been a success, attracting customers and tenants from outside the city.

National Grid helping tech entrepreneurs

Steve Holliday, the global CEO of National Grid, will announce the company’s support of the University at Buffalo’s High Tech Entrepreneurship Program Tuesday at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
National Grid will be the first company in Western New York to commit “direct support” the program, which aims to grow entrepreneurship in the region by supporting startup business new technologies, products or services to the marketplace, according to the company.
National Grid will also announce the grant it’s giving to Launch NY’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program, which provides support and long-term advisement for developing businesses.

- Sara DiNatale

New microbrewery holds tasting at Blue Monk

The New Buffalo Brewing Co. and Blue Monk are teaming up to host a tasting of three new beers Friday evening, an event meant to launch a Kickstarter campaign for the startup microbrewery.

New Buffalo Brewing Co. of Akron is looking to raise money to help in its quest to bring draft beer to Buffalo and Rochester, a worthy cause if we've ever heard one. Find them on Twitter here.

Friday's free tasting at Blue Monk, 727 Elmwood Ave., will feature three new creations: Saloon Boss Brown, Big Fish Bitters and an experimental ale. The tasting runs from 6 to 8 p.m., or until they run out of beer, according to William Campbell, the microbrewery's founder.

-- Stephen T. Watson

Dauch's impact on Western New York

Richard E. "Dick" Dauch, the American Axle & Manufacturing co-founder DETROIT NATIONAL SUMMIT who died last week at 71, was based in Detroit, but he and his company left a lasting mark on automotive manufacturing in Western New York.

Dauch was part of the investment team that formed American Axle & Manufacturing. The investors were praised for reviving some investment-starved General Motors operations, including a factory in Buffalo and a forge in the Town of Tonawanda, that they acquired and renamed 1994. During Dauch's tenure as chief executive officer of the company, American Axle opened a third area plant, in Cheektowaga, an idea advocated by local management and United Auto Workers leaders. In 2000, American Axle had 2,800 employees at the three area plants.

But Dauch later became a target of ire for UAW members, as the company closed factories and pushed American Axle - Tonawanda FINANCIAL American Axle - Tonawandafor deep wage cuts. A 2008 strike by the UAW lasted nearly three months.

Dauch was known for his aggressive, hands-on leadership style and his bluntness. He authored a book with Hank H. Cox in 2012, called "American Drive: How Manufacturing Will Save Our Country," that was written very much in his voice.

He wrote about American Axle’s Buffalo-area operations in a few places. On the closing of the East Delavan gear and axle plant, Dauch said the facility had an "uncompetitive wage and benefit structure." and that it "came down to a question of whether we wanted to make money or lose money."

"It was a tough decision we did not make lightly, but it was a matter of survival," he wrote. "Life presents us with difficult choices."

Dauch recounted meeting with top UAW leaders in Detroit during the 2008 strike and telling them he was considering closing five plants, including all three in the Buffalo area. He then wrote, in italics to emphasize the point:

The strongest position management can take in a labor negotiation is the closure of a facility.

Within a few years after the end of the strike, American Axle had closed all of its Buffalo-area operations. The East Delavan complex is being redeveloped, the Tonawanda forge was demolished, and the Cheektowaga facility was sold.

 -- Matt Glynn

Biomedical Research Day displays work of student scientists

About 100 student scientists from across the country spent the summer conducting biomedical research at laboratories in the Buffalo Niagara area.

Six research programs drew undergraduate, graduate and professional students from as far away as Puerto Rico and Hawaii, according to the University at Buffalo, which helped coordinate the programs.

Students worked with faculty mentors at UB's Medical and Dental schools, Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute on research into topics such as infectious disease, neuroscience, pharmacology and cancer.

The students also were introduced to the development on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Their stay in the Buffalo region is wrapping up with a poster expo, from 11 a.m. to noon Friday, that allows them to show off the research work they conducted this summer.

The expo takes place on the fifth floor of UB’s Clinical and Translational Research Center, 875 Ellicott St.

-- Stephen T. Watson


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