Of the state's 179 insurers, 62 of them had zero consumer complaints upheld against them by state regulators. The largest carrier with a perfect record was Erie Insurance Co. The company had 18 complaints against it, 15 of them were withdrawn or rejected while three of them had "questions of fact." Erie had an average of $64.1 million in premiums during the same period.
Check out our roundup of real estate transactions in Erie County and Niagara County for the week ending Sept. 2. There were a total of 300 sales in Erie County, 75 in Niagara County.
Erie County's highest-priced property went for $6.05 million, while Niagara's priciest was $2.12 million. The median property price in Erie County was $118,500, while Niagara's was $95,500. Transactions are compiled from each county's clerk's office.
That's up 35 percent over what was expected and $405,101 more than its own projections. The success was attributed to its move from Lafayette Square to the Central Wharf and the summer's great weather, as compared to last year's rainy season.
The United Auto Workers Local 774 will meet Monday about an upcoming contract vote. Members will hear the details of a tentative contract the UAW reached with General Motors before they are scheduled to vote on it next week.
GM's Tonawanda plant, which employs 800 workers, is getting a boost from the addition of two new engine lines. The four-year pact would add or keep 6,400 jobs in the U.S. and offer buyouts to longtime workers. Most workers won't get annual pay raises, but will get at least $12,500 in bonuses, profit sharing and other payments over the life of the contract.
Travers Collins has opened a new office in Rochester. The advertising and public relations firm has parterned with Rochester-based PR veteran Mike McDougall to open McDougall Travers Collins. Collins said he had been wanting to break into the Rochester market for 10 years. He hopes McDougall's local and global contacts will bring new clients from Rochester and around the world.
Car sales are up in the region. Local new car sales rose 10 percent last month over August 2010. In fact, August saw the region's second-best totals of the year with sales of 4,919 for the month. Ford had the leading sales, selling 1,106 vehicles. That's up 22 percent from a year ago. Toyota's sales came in second, but were down 32 percent from last year. In third place was Nissan, with a 52 percent increase, according to data from the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association.
M&T Bank chairman and CEO Robert Wilmers spoke at a regulatory symposium sponsored by American Banker Monday. In his opinion, the financial reform law goes too far in some ways but not far enough in others. Worse, it will do nothing to prevent a future financial crisis.
Wilmers said the regulations fail to reform credit-rating agencies, government mortgage backers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and risky bank activity.
Owner William Collins criticized the way they handled the split in a letter to the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. He said they never raised concerns, moved out secretly and quietly notified clients in advance. The team owed its success to Travers Collins, he said, which gave three of the individuals their first job and gave them all the tools to succeed. There were no non-compete clauses binding, so Travers Collins has no recourse to take in regards to the lost clients, but the owners said they would rebuild the firm's investor relations business.
A study of border crossings has recommendations for improving things at our Canadian border. The study by the Binational Economic and Tourism Alliance recommends that getting better information out about border crossing status along with adding workers during the bridges' busiest times would ease congestion. Better signage to navigate the borders would help, too, as would better planning around special events, the report said.
The IDA also approved $583,000 in breaks for Gemcor II, a West Seneca automatic fastening equipment maker, to build a $3.1 million addition. Sleep Inn Buffalo Airport in Cheektowaga got $38,000 in sales tax breaks for a $550,000 renovation.
Perry's Ice Cream got an $800,000 low-interest loan from the Buffalo and Erie County Regional Development Council. Perry's is spending $6.4 million to increase its distribution and to begin distrubting snacks by other makers, including Little Debbie.
The Route 5 facility made stamped metal parts for an assembly plant near St. Thomas, Ont. That plant is scheduled to close in two weeks, and the reduced workload calls for fewer employees. About 500 salaried workers will be left at the Hamburg plant.
Buffalo Games is looking for game testers. The Buffalo-based maker of puzzles and party games is launching an official Play Laboratory at its James E. Casey Drive headquarters. The purpose is to test new game concepts throughout their development and before they go to market. Game testers will be observed by designers--sometimes playing with them--and answer questions. They'll be provided pizza, drinks and snacks while they play and be given some free games to keep. To sign up, click here.
The plant started as Harrison Radiator Corp. in 1910 before being bought by GM in 1918. That plant became Delphi, a division that was spun off into a separate company in 1995. In 2009 it returned to GM as General Motors Components Holding.
Prime 490 is known for its extensive wine list and has banquet rooms and an outdoor covered patio. Owners, including Cozumel founder Christian DiFiglia, are selling in order to concentrate on other ventures.
- Franchised firms upbeat on growth - Matt Glynn/The Buffalo News Buffalo Niagara's economy may not be booming, but a number of franchised companies see opportunities to grow here and are searching for suitable franchisees to open more locations. ... Among the expanding companies is AAMCO, which plans to open four additional auto service centers in the area in the next three to five years. Snap Fitness wants to grow from its six area locations to about 20. Pump It Up, which hosts children's parties and other events, wants to open its first area location, and Cartridge World plans to add several more stores. Their expansion plans might seem to run counter to Buffalo's reputation as a steady, slow-growth market. But looking in from the outside, they say the region's demographics suit them and they see a chance to capitalize on trends in their respective industries. ... J. Randy Steiner bought his first AAMCO franchise in 1999. Today he has four ... Steiner said a "middle market" like Buffalo makes sense for AAMCO to target for expansion. Residents have enough money to maintain their vehicles, he said, but aren't so affluent that they are constantly replacing them. "People around here aren't foolish with their cars." ...
That is to say, we don't do this. [Good luck tonight, Conan]
- Customers return to auto showrooms - Matt Glynn/The Buffalo News U.S. auto sales rose in October as buyers grew slightly more confident in the economy and new models drew them into dealerships. Duane Paddock of Paddock Chevrolet in Kenmore said his October sales were robust, led by the Cruze, Equinox, Silverado and Malibu. ... General Motors, which is preparing for an initial stock offering expected later this month, saw sales rise 3.5 percent in October. [GM's press release stresses a 13 percent increase in sales for its four remaining brands -- Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac -- which it can do when it ignores brands that have either been sold or closed -- Saturn, Hummer, Pontiac and Saab.] Ford Motor Co.'s sales rose 19.2 percent, led by big increases in trucks and small cars. Sales of the redesigned Edge crossover were up 24 percent, while Ford Escape sales rose 17 percent. Ford says sales of the F-Series pickup rose 24 percent, thanks in part to a monthlong truck promotion. ... Chrysler Group LLC's sales were up 37 percent from last October, partly on the strength of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee, which saw sales more than triple. Ram pickup sales rose 41 percent. New products also gave a boost to Honda Motor Co., whose sales climbed 16 percent. October was the first full month on the market for the Odyssey minivan, which saw October sales jump 52 percent. Wagons were also hot at Honda, where CR-V sales climbed 19 percent. Automakers are expecting to sell around 11.5 million vehicles this year, up from a 30-year low of 10.4 million in 2009. Consumer confidence rose slightly in October, according to a report released last week by the Conference Board. That, and a rebounding stock market, may have spurred buyers to invest in a new vehicle. Analysts are expecting last month to be the best October for the industry since 2007. ... * Hyundai said its October sales jumped 38 percent as sales of the new Sonata midsize sedan more than doubled. * Subaru sales rose 25 percent for the month on strong sales of the Outback and Forester wagons. * Volkswagen sales rose 18 percent with a boost from sales of the new Jetta. Jetta sales were up 32 percent over last October. More from The Detroit News, The Detroit Free Press, The Washington Post, USA Today and - General Motors Can Fly Again for Stock Sale - The New York Times The automaker has met federal guidelines to use chartered aircraft as early as Thursday to ferry managers on a “road show” promoting G.M.’s public stock offering, according to government and company officials who declined to be identified. ... The use of private jets by the Detroit automakers to fly to Washington for Congressional hearings on an auto bailout in November 2008 was harshly criticized by lawmakers, who saw the jets as symbolizing the industry’s need to cut unnecessary costs. G.M. and other executives drove to the next hearing.
- National Grid finds support for rate hike - David Robinson/The Buffalo News The Buffalo Niagara region’s business groups lined up Wednesday to voice their support for the infrastructure improvements that are part of the $361 million rate increase that National Grid is seeking. National Grid, which has spent more than $1.4 billion since 2002 to upgrade its upstate transmission and distribution network is proposing to spend $1.8 billion on transmission and infrastructure improvements from 2011 to 2013. ...
- Region’s manufacturing jumps - David Robinson/The Buffalo News ... A report by a local purchasing managers group released Tuesday found that activity at the region’s factories jumped sharply in October after declining for the first time in 11 months during September. A sharp jump in production and a strong flow of new orders combined with growing inventories to offset continued weakness in employment and soaring commodity prices. “The index paints a somewhat uncertain, although maybe slightly optimistic, outlook,” said Mikhail I. Melnik, a Niagara University economist. “We will continue to expand during the course of 2010, although at a decreasing rate,” Melnik said. “2011, however, is shaping up to be a complex year. We are likely to see continued slowing growth in the first half of the year, followed by a rise in inflation in the second half of the year.”
-Stalemate in Congress might not be bad for economy - AP/Buffalo News On its own, the economy is showing slow but steady improvement. Consumers and businesses are spending a bit more. Some companies are hiring. And most economists expect those gains to continue. For both Democrats and Republicans, the inability to do much for the next two years may not be such a bad policy for the economy. ... "If the economy sticks to the script, (gridlock) is not a major problem," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. The danger, Zandi says, is if the economy should take a turn for the worse. "If the economy doesn't cooperate and starts to backtrack, then this will become a problem," he says. "Policymakers will not be able to respond, and they'll need to."
From a couple of days of Business Today: Find a place for the local plant within the new Ford Motors; being happy that M&T Bank got left at the altar; and catching up with a guy who sells you T-shirts made for two.
- The transformation of Ford - Matt Glynn/The Buffalo News Ford Motor Co.'s stamping plant in Hamburg faces a significant challenge about a year from now, when an assembly plant it supplies in Ontario is shut down. ... James Tetreault, Ford's vice president of North American manufacturing, said securing replacement work is a task that lies ahead for the Hamburg plant to overcome. He declined to discuss what new products might be assigned to the plant. ... Tetreault will offer insights into Ford's corporate transformation plan, known as "One Ford," when he is one of two keynote speakers at World Trade Celebration on Oct. 20. The other speaker is Jon Luther of Dunkin' Brands.
- Good news! M&T will stay single - David Robinson/The Buffalo News M&T Bank Corp. is staying single, and that’s the best thing that could possibly happen for the Buffalo Niagara region. Allied Irish Bank, M&T’s biggest shareholder, said last week that it will hold a stock offering by Nov. 15 to sell its 22.4 percent stake in M&T, mainly to big, institutional investors. That result, while painful to M&T’s shareholders in the short term—the bank’s stock has fallen 15 percent since Sept. 24—is probably the best thing that could have happened for the region. It keeps M&T in Buffalo, under the control of a locally based management that has long shown its commitment to the region. And it sprinkles Allied Irish’s shares among a number of investors, rather than leaving such a large block of stock concentrated in the hands of a single owner. In other words, we all can breathe easier today. “Everybody in the region should,” said Andrew J. Rudnick, the president of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. “It’s exactly what you want.” ... We’ve already been down that path with companies like Pratt&Lambert and Varity, which were based here until new owners from out of town took over and shut down all local operations.
- New business suits him to a 'T' - David Robinson/The Buffalo News Buffalo entrepreneur Dan Gigante is trading in his computer for T-shirts. Gigante, one of the co-founders of Web services provider Clevermethod, is selling his stake in the Elma firm to start a T-shirt company with a charitable twist. Gigante's new venture, called You and Who, is an online business that sells T-shirts designed either by the company or local artists. But here's the twist: For every T-shirt that You and Who sells, it promises to donate a second shirt to someone in need through homeless shelters and other community organizations across the country. ... To drum up artists in the Buffalo Niagara region, the company is holding a "Call for Artists" event from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Sugar City, 19 Wadsworth St. The theme for the initial batch of artist-designed shirts is "New Beginning." SoCorp Inc., a Buffalo screen printing business, will produce the T-shirts.
So, it's a T-shirt built for two. Somebody needs to get cracking on a new version of this: