A contingent including representatives from 12 area life-sciences companies and the major institutions on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is in Chicago this week for the BIO International Convention.
The delegation is attending the convention for the first time under the “Buffalo Niagara BIO” brand after taking part for the past five or six years as a member of the larger “New York Loves BIO” group.
The convention, which began Monday and runs through Thursday, is the largest international event for the biotech industry and typically draws 20,000 people and company representatives, offering important networking and business opportunities, according to Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, one of this year’s participants.
In addition to the BNE, local convention attendees include representatives of the New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, the Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute and companies such as Empire Genomics, QuaDPharma and Immco Diagnostics.
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.
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.
But it does bring up the fascinating topic of what goes into hosting the global games.
Hosting this year's Olympics hasn't done much to pull London out of its recession. In fact, they are further in the hole after going over their $14.7 billion budget. This article from CBC News takes a look at how astronomically the tab has grown to host the games and with what kind of debt the games can saddle its host city.
This article from Bloomberg Businessweek says Greece's current fiscal crisis can be traced back to its hosting of the Olympics in 2004:
Hosting the event cost almost €9 billion ($11 billion at today’s exchange rate), making the 2004 Games the most expensive ever at that point. Greek taxpayers were on the hook for €7 billion, which did not include the cost of extra projects such as a new airport and metro system.
Within days of the closing ceremony, Greece warned the euro area that its public debt and deficit figures would be worse than expected.
And this article from the Atlantic spells out "3 Reasons Why Hosting the Olympics is a loser's game."
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's $50 million advertising campaign to attract businesses to New York State is set to launch next week. The money will pay for ads around the country letting business owners know that New York is "open for business."
There is debate over whether that is money well spent.
The Manhattan-based agency that landed the contract to handle the campaign, BBDO, is certainly happy about the launch, as are many economic development agencies and other groups.
But not everyone is singing the project's praises.
"If Governor Cuomo really wanted to make New York "open for business," he could do it without spending a dime," writes the Suffolk County Liberal Report. "Just focus on cutting the three New York State business killers--taxes, regulations and eco insanity."
Profits were up during the first quarter at a Buffalo-based information technology staffing and services company. Computer Task Group saw an 18.8 percent increase in profits. It reported net income of $3.36 million, or 20 cents per share, up from 42.83 million, or 17 cents per share, compared to the same period a year ago. The increase is attributed to higher revenues, especially from electronic medical records and other health care technology solutions.
A vacant former food plant in Wilson has a new owner. The former Pfeiffer Foods plant on Lake Street has been sold to Lawta Properties LLC for $419,000. Lawta owns and leases several parcels in Wilson, on most of which it grows corn. It did not respond for comment as to what the new site would be used for. Pfeiffer Foods was Wilson's largest private employer, employing 150 people to make salad dressing. Those jobs were consolidated to another facility in 2009 and the building has sat empty for three years.