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Are electric cars really the better choice?


Ford Motor Co. is turning heads as it prepares to unveil electric and gas-powered versions of the same model of vehicle, the Focus. Debate has raged over whether electric cars are an appropriate replacement to fossil fuel-dependent traditional cars, but Ford's experiment provides the first opportunity for consumers to compare the tangible, user-level pros and cons for themselves.

So what are the arguments for and against electric vehicles?


According to the  U.S. Department of Energy, electric cars are more efficient than gas-powered ones, are better for the environment, quieter and don't rely on a foreign fuel source. Most of their problems, the DOE says, are related to their batteries, which are heavy, expensive, space-consuming and take a long time to charge. Gas vehicles can travel about 300 miles between fill ups, while electric cars can go about 200 miles between recharges. (Motorheads can get an in-depth look at the nuts and bolts of the electric car via this blog from Scientific American.)


A documentary called Who Killed the Electric Car posits that the only reason we're not already all driving electric cars is the fault of "an industrial culture whose aversion to change and reliance on oil may be deeper than its ability to embrace ready solutions."


Indeed, many Americans (on the right, left and middle of the political spectrum) have said they would prefer it if their country did not rely on the middle east for its energy supply. For many, it's not a question of pollution or consumer choice, but a matter of keeping our country safe and our soldiers out of war zones. It's a campaign issue for both Democrats and Republicans. Experts have said producing cars that don't run on gasoline is a major step in that direction.

The fact that electric cars don't burn fossil fuel is their major selling point, not just because they're not foreign-oil dependent, but because their emissions don't pollute the environment. But Time magazine's HealthLand blog claims electric cars are just as polluting as gas-powered ones--at least in China, where the electricity used to charge them is predominately sourced from the burning of coal. That's an easy fix, though, since Americans have more clean, domestic power sources available to us--hydropower, solar power, wind power.


In a post called "Why electric cars are awesome," CleanTechnica points out Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf have been called a failure by the media for selling only 17,000 units by January, even though just 6,000 Toyota Prius sedans were sold in their first year and have since taken the market by storm.

And even though electric car sales pale in comparison to sales of cars with traditional combustion engines, demand for them far outpaces supply.


"People debated at length whether the Nissan Leaf all-electric car would be practical or cheap enough for the mainstream. But that debate was moot because Nissan doesn't have enough Leafs to sell to the mainstream anyway . . . . The limiting factor right now is not public interest in electric cars, it's the car companies' ability to make them," writes the Good News blog from Good magazine.

At the time the blog was written, the Leaf had a 20,000 person waiting list.

Ford's experiment will be one indication of consumer preference, though it may not be able to solve the theoretical riddles surrounding the question of gas vehicles versus electric ones.

What's your opinion? 

Getting motivated, getting confident.

From Business Today:


Motivational sales expert and author Grant Cardone spoke to about 250 attendees at Statler City Wednesday. It was one of 20 pro-bono stops on his speaking tour, donated to churches, schools and communities. His message incorporated the usual get-you-hyped-up stuff, but also tied in references to the recession and Western New York's challenging economy. He encouraged attendees to see both as an opportunity to be bold when their competition is being defensive.


For the first time in five years, consumer confidence in the Buffalo Niagara region is on the upswing. A survey of 400 people conducted by researches at Siena College has revealed that consumers here are more willing to make purchases than they have been during any year since the first quarter of 2007, before the Great Recession hit. Shoppers here are especially willing to buy furniture and pay for home improvements, the survey said.



Three local banks have been ranked among the best performing in the nation by Virginia-based industry research firm SNL Financial. Buffalo-based First Niagara Financial Group, Community Bank System of DeWitt and NBT Bancorp of Norwich ranked in the top 25 regional banks based on profitability and other factors, according to SNL.


West Herr Automotive Group has opened its new Mercedes-Benz of Rochester dealership, which employs 52 people. West Herr bought Mercedes-Benz of Rochester and BMW of Rochester from Holtz House of Vehicles in 2010. It leased that facility while it completed the new one at 4296 West Henrietta Road in Henrietta.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Grant Cardone uses a video of his child crying to help him close sales. When one client hesitated to pay his full speaking fee, he sent a link to this video and told him, "You're not paying me to speak. You're paying me to leave my family."


Reaching young engineers.

From Business Today:


Ford Motor Co. uses virtual reality technology to test automobile design years before the protoypes are ever even made. Company representatives brought that technology to Erie Community College Tuesday to give about 50 automotive technology students a taste of how it works. Students got to virtually test out a 2013 Ford Fusion, the makers of which relied heavily on the virtual technology when designing it.


API Heat Transfer has gotten its fourth new owner since 2002. Wellspring Capital Management, a New York City private equity firm, acquired the business from another private equity firm, Industrial Growth Partners in San Francisco, Calif. The company employs 178 workers at its Arcade plant and has plants in Germany and China. The Cheektowaga-based company makes industrial heat exchangers.



Penora's Pizza, a Depew pizzeria, and Bella Vista Group, the owner of an office and warehouse facility at Transit Road and Genesee Street, came seeking tax breaks from the Lancaster Industrial Development Agency Tuesday. But with IDAs under increased scrutiny for giving aid to projects of questionable value to economic development, those requests were tabled for further review.


First Niagara Financial Group board member and co-director Carl A. Florio has stepped down from the bank board's audit committee. Florio's decision to leave came after Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass, Lewis & Co recommended shareholders vote against re-electing him, questioning his independence from management. The two independent proxy advisory firms did not consider Florio an "independent director" by their standards.


A 127-year-old Jamestown company is nearing its final end. Crawford Furniture, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August and ran going-out-of-business sales at its retail locations, has been granted approval by the bankruptcy court to liquidate its remaining assets, including its property and equipment. The hardwood furniture maker's assets will be up for sale through April 19. Whatever is left will go to auction April 21.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Here's a closer look at Ford's virtual reality technology:


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?

Brighter days at the Ford stamping plant

From Business Today:


Ford Motor Co.'s enormous stamping plant on Route 5 in Hamburg has upgraded its lighting to be 70 percent more efficient than it was when it used metal-halide light fixtures. The plant now boasts 1,740 LED tandem fixtures--which will save enough electricity to run 1,400 homes for a year. The $2.7 million project received an energy efficiency grant from $1.35 million grant from National Grid. The light fixtures were built by S3J Electronics in Lancaster.


Western New Yorkers are waiting to see how HSBC Holdings' profit losses will affect the rest of the community. HSBC's fourth quarter profits fell 26 percent, from $4.4 billion to $3.2 billion. The British banking company still hasn't made decisions about its subsidiary HSBC Bank USA's space in downtown Buffalo or its mortgage operation in Depew. More than 4,000 Western New York employees are anxiously awaiting their fate.


M&T Bank will close one of its three Jamestown branches. An office at 2-8 E. Third Street near Main Street will close on May 25. Its services will be consolidated with a full-service office and another walk-up location in Jamestown.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?


Lots of bank news. Here's some Banksy news:


Car buyers take a breather

From Business Today:


Local new car sales were down in January, according to the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association. Auto sales dropped 5.1 percent compared to the same month last year. Dealers reported selling 2,810 units during the first month of 2012. That's down from the 2,964 with which they kicked off 2011. Ford sold the most cars--688 of them--followed by Toyota, Honda and Jeep.


New York State is getting ready to examine health care insurance premium rates in the state. Regulators will conduct an audit to make sure the data insurance companies use to calculate rates are accurate. Regulators will be looking to make sure insurers are allocating administrative costs and commissions properly, among other things, and look for ways costs might be better controlled.


Moog Inc. is getting a piece of a new jet being built by China's state-owned aircraft company. The Elma motion-control equipment maker will supply major flight-control systems for Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China's Comac C919 jetliner. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Moog said the contract represents a key opportunity for the company.


Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, a Syracuse biker hangout turned food pilgrimage destination, may soon open its doors in Buffalo. The restaurant's CEO said Wednesday that he is looking for a spot within the city of Buffalo for his next location. Deals haven't been finalized, so CEO John Stage was mum on details, but he did say he has been trying to make a Buffalo location happen for the past two years.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Here's a little taste of Dinosaur BBQ winning "Best BBQ in America" on "Good Morning America":


Buffalo Auto Show drawing crowds, GM plant reviving.

From Business Today:


Car enthusiasts came from all over Western New York Wednesday for opening day of the Buffalo Auto Show. Whether they were checking out the concept cars, such as the Fisker Karma Hybrid sportscar and Can Am Spyder motorcycle, or looking for the next vehicle to park in their own driveway, there was plenty of action at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. The event is put together by the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association.


A Wheatfield real estate developer is stepping into a new venture. Calamar Enterprises will launch Calamar Family Asset Management. The new business division will advise new heirs of family businesses or estates who don't have the experience or desire to manage their inheritances.  

The division will be headed up by Daniel G. Kantor, a veteran business owner and nonprofit executive.


There's new life at a long vacant section of General Motors' Tonawanda plant. GM is opening an on-site training center as it gears up for three new engine lines. It is also going to use the site to put together kits of parts that workers on the engine lines use, to make the process go smoothly.

GM will revive Plant 4 on Kenmore avenue which has been mostly unused for the past several years.


After members of the Lancaster Industrial Development Agency voiced concerns about their longtime general council, IDA chairman Dino J. Fudoli is considering a switch.

Longtime general counsel Dominic J. Terranova and bond counsel Nathan Neill, who have served the IDA for more than 20 years, could be replaced. Lawyers from Phillips Lytle or Magavern Magavern Grimm were offered as new candidates at Tuesday's board meeting.


A Batavia manufacturer has landed a valuable batch of orders. Graham Corp., which makes vacuum and heat transfer equipment, has won more than $3.5 million in orders for equipment that will be used on projects in the energy industry.


Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Here's another look at the Can Am Spyder:


A billion reasons to feel good about the local economy.

From Business Today:


Gov. Cuomo announced $1 billion in economic development funds for the Buffalo region. Now the Western New York Regional Development Council is looking for someone to help them spend it.

The council is looking for consultants qualified to help it find the right companies to invest in the region and share in the pot of state money. It wants someone who has experience and expertise helping municipalities recruit businesses.   


TomStruzik Local business leaders are feeling good about the future, according to a new survey. Upstate New York's private sector businesses reported feeling more optimistic about business conditions.

In fact, the Buffalo Niagara region's optimism is scoring higher than that of our neighbors in Rochester, Syracuse and Albany. We have higher expectations about overall business conditions here, but are specifically optimistic about revenues, profits and new-worker hires as we face the year ahead. The annual survey was sponsored by First Niagara Financial Group.


If a federal trade proposal is passed, it could hurt companies like Niagara Falls' Globe Metals. Sen. Charles Schumer is taking a stand against the proposal.

The U.S. Commerce Department’s Foreign Trade Zone Board is considering whether to license three foreign trade zone “subzone” applications that would allow for preferential access to imported silicon metal from China and Russia. 

Schumer said foreign metals would be unfairly low in price, hurting business at Globe Metals. He sent a letter saying so to the Board.




A local auto repair company has found itself in hot water with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Millwood-based Mavis Discount Tire, which owns 110 Cole Muffler shops, is being sued by the EEOC.

The EEOC said Mavis discriminated against women applying for jobs at Cole Muffler shops, turning them down for positions even when they were more qualified than male applicants.  



Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Do you prefer the American or the UK version of the Office?


Lexus boss visits WNY, Health insurers give in to transparency and more

From Business Today:


The group vice president and general manager of Lexus was in town this week. Mark S. Templin said 2012 will be a much brighter year than 2011, when the brand was rocked by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, causing production disruptions. Lexus has a new $8 million dealership in Amherst. Northtown Automotive Cos. built the swanky new site to replace an older, smaller one across Sheridan Drive.


More health insurers have stopped resisting the government's call for transparency in rate hike requests. Joining UnitedHealth Group are Buffalo-based HealthNow New York (parent to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York) and Rochester's Excellus Health Plan (parent of Univera Healthcare). All have agreed to let the state publicly release documentation the companies submitted when requesting rate hikes.


Profits are up at Greatbatch. The medical and electrochem company had a 17 percent increase in profits during the third quarter. The spike was attributed to higher sales across its medical products businesses and lower interest costs.



A Depew sensor and instrument maker has received a grant. PCB Piezotronics received $400,000 from New York State Electric & Gas for its $5.3 million expansion in Depew.


Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

It's Friday, people!


RiverWright plant scrapped and more

From Business Today:


Plans for an ethanol fuel plant on the Buffalo River have been scrapped. RiverWright Energy LLC had planned to convert the former ConAgra milling facility on the waterfront into an ethanol processing plant and had purchased four adjoining grain elevators to store corn.

It decided to abandon the project after support and demand for ethanol petered out.


A Depew eye-care device company has been acquired for $150 million. Reichert Technologies, which makes diagnostic equipment for eye doctors, was acquired by Ametek Inc. of Brewyn, Pa. from Chicago-based private equity firm Beecken Petty O'Keefe & Co.

The company has about 130 local employees and estimated sales of $55 million.



The United Auto Workers' contract with Ford Motor Co. seems headed for ratification. Members of the local 897 at the Buffalo Stamping Plant voted overwhelmingly in favor of it during ballotting in Hamburg Sunday. UAW members across the nation are expected to finish voting today.


The Clarence Chamber of Commerce will host a Women in Business conference Wednesday. About 200 people are expected to attend "Achieving Peak Performance" with keynote speaker Freddi Donner, president and owner of Virginia-based Business Stamina. There will also be workshops and a panel discussion on "Secrets of Successful Women."



A Buffalo advertising and marketing agency will get $139,000 in tax breaks to renovate a vacant Wendy's restaurant into new offices. The Martin Group was granted the funds by the Erie County Industrial Development Agency. The planned $847,000 project will add a second floor to the building at 477 Main Street.






A Batavia Lowe's home improvement store will get the ax as the company sweeps through the nation closing 20 underperforming locations. The Batavia store, which opened just three years ago, will close within a month. Its 91 employees will receive pay and benefits for 60 to 90 days.


Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

More words to live by, courtesy of Dwight Schrute:


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