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Time runs out for Uniland--again

From Business Today:


A proposal meant to help out Western New York's coal-fired power plants has been left out of the state budget. The proposal would have had the New York Power Authority buy energy from the region's coal plants for three years. Critics said it propped up an outdated, dirty mode of energy, but proponents of the bill said it would provide much-needed help for the region's struggling power plants.


Computer Task Group has landed three new contracts, expanding its reach in the electronic medical records business. Two contracts are with major U.S. health systems, while the third is with one of the largest hospitals in the western United States, the company said. Terms of the deals were not disclosed.


Since the financial crisis hit, the American public has become cynical about the banking industry, to put it mildly. In his annual letter to investors, M&T Bank Corp. Chairman and CEO Robert G. Wilmers calls for the restoration of banking's integrity in order to win back public trust and the industry's good name.


Uniland Development Co. has missed a deadline to hold up its end of the bargain in a deal that landed them $490,000 in federal aid money. But the developer has been given more time to secure a tenant for its Lancaster industrial park and meet job creation requirements. The company has received a series of extensions over the years. The Eastport Commerce Center is located on the corner of Walden Avenue and Pavement Road. The grants it received came through Erie county and the Lancaster Industrial Development Agency.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

What a beautiful morning!


Natural gas prices too low?

From Business Today:


With natural gas prices dropping near a 10-year low, National Fuel Gas Co. has decided to pull back on plans to drill in the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania until prices come back up. It's the second time it has scaled back in two months. Its natural gas production is still expected to increase significantly during the next fiscal year, and scaling back on this drilling should only have a "modest" effect on production, the Amherst-based company said. Natural gas prices are down 54 percent since June, to $2.25 per 1,000 cubic feet.


The Erie County Industrial Development Agency has put a moratorium on considering hotel renovation projects for tax breaks, but that didn't keep it from approving $275,000 in breaks for a project that fell outside the moratorium. The ECIDA Monday approved sales tax breaks on a $5.5 million renovation project at Cheektowaga's Millennium Hotel. Because the hotel qualified for the breaks under the agency's current guidelines, it decided to approve the breaks rather than risk a lawsuit from the hotel.


You'll soon notice a difference in Canadian currency the next time you cross the border. The money has undergone a redesign to make it more durable and secure and to prevent counterfeiting and fraud. $100 and $50 bills have already gone into circulation, $20 bills will come out later this year, and $10 and $5 bills are due by the end of 2013.


The ECIDA board was taken to task Monday for approving the controversial tax breaks on the Millennium Hotel. Just after the approval, members of the Occupy Buffalo activist group began vocally protesting the board's actions. The board's new chairman, retired Rep. John J. LaFalce, yelled at the protesters and told them they would no longer be able to attend such meetings. Public comment isn't allowed during the ECIDA's monthly board meetings--only during public hearings.


An advertising agency with offices in Buffalo has been recognized by its industry's premier publication. Advertising Age magazine ranked Eric Mower and Associates the 5th best place to work in its 2012 rankings. Winners were chosen through a rigorous process that included surveying employers and employees.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

 It's a great day for the Moody Blues:


IDA wars, again...

From Business Today:


A new proposal by Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo, seeks to rein in the power of suburban industrial development agencies in Erie County and give most of the responsibility of doling out tax breaks to the Erie County IDA. Suburban IDAs would only be allowed to give school tax breaks if the school districts that would benefit from the taxes approve them. IDAs have come under increased scrutiny for giving tax breaks to retail and restaurant projects. The legislation is backed by County Executive Mark Poloncarz.


Mensch Capital Partners LLC, which is led by Andrew J. Shaevel and includes Paul Ciminelli and Paul J. Kolkmeyer, have closed the deal on the Westwood Country Club for $2.5 million. Jon Cohen and Todd Sugarman, who are leasing the property, will operate the club. They have launched a major marketing initiative and have cut rates drastically, which has increased membership by about 80 people.



The former Daffodil's restaurant on Maple Road in Williamsville has a new owner. Mike Rizzo, who owns Banchetti by Rizzo's restaurant and banquet facility, closed the deal Monday, paying $700,000 for the restaurant. It was most recently operated under the name Verbena, but has sat empty since 2010. It will likely become a restaurant and banquet facility again.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Speaking of Daffodils, spring has sprung!



Buffalo needs more venture capital

From Business Today:


Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst, organized an economic action forum with several local leaders that was held at the University at Buffalo Tuesday. Elected officials, community organizers and business leaders and owners gave their thoughts on what it will take to rebuild Western New York. The region needs more venture capital, better ties among companies and colleges and locally-driven solutions, rather than plans from Albany, said Howard Zemsky, a Buffalo developer and the regional co-chairman of the Western New York Economic Development Council. 


Unemployment in the Buffalo Niagara region rose to its second-highest rate in 22 years for January. The local unemployment rate rose to 9.1 percent during the first month of the year. During January 2010, the unemployment rate jumped as high as 9.6 percent here. By comparison, the rate was 5.6 percent in January 2007, before the recession hit. 


One day after cancelling all its flights without notice and stranding travelers at the Niagara Falls International Airport, Direct Air has announced it will suspend all service until May 15. The company said it had to ground Monday's flights because it couldn't afford the bill to fuel up its planes. Direct Air said the two month hiatus will allow it to address "operational matters." The company is telling travelers who have booked flights before May 15 to arrange for a refund with their credit card company.


 Synacor Inc. made a good showing during its first quarter as a publicly traded company. The Buffalo-based Internet content provider earned $7.7 million, or 34 cents per share, during the fourth quarter, compared with a loss of $369,000, or 2 cents per share, a year ago. $6.1 million of its profits came from an income tax benefit stemming from a reduction in the company‚Äôs deferred tax assets.


Independent Health has been ranked number one by J.D. Power & Associatesfor the third year. The Williamsville-based insurance company ranked highest in customer satisfaction out of 13 companies in New York and New Jersey.



The company that owns the Great Wolf Lodge water park in Niagara Falls, Ontario has a new owner. Wall Street private equity firm Apollo Global Management LLC said Tuesday it bought Great Wolf Resorts for $703 million. 


County ExecutiveMark Poloncarz has criticized the tax breaks doled out by local economic development agencies, and Lancaster Supervisor Dino J. Fudoli is not happy about it. At Tuesday's Lancaster IDA meeting, he accused Poloncarz of making changes to agency policies in order to reward political allies and suck up to union groups.  


Noco has bought three lubricant distribution warehouses in Pennsylvania from Windward Petroleum. The purchase widens Noco's lubricant distribution territory, which will now stretch from Buffalo to Vermont, and Ottawa, Ont., to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

It's Wednesday. That's halfway to Friday:


Small business loans getting federal boost

From Business Today:


Loan guarantees from the Small Business Administration make it easier for banks to extend loans to small businesses, and that is helping small companies thrive. Lenders in the Buffalo and Rochester areas have loaned a total of $34.9 million in 221 loans over the last five months.



Two of the fastest-growing credit unions in the country are based right here in Western New York. Western New York Federal Credit Union in West Seneca ranked 31st for growth in a recent ranking, while St. Joseph's Parish Federal Credit Union in Buffalo ranked 50th. The ranking was put together by Washington, D.C.-based industry research firm Callahan & Associates and compiled to create the 2012 Credit Union Directory: The Cooperative State of Mind.


Check out the real estate listings for Erie and Niagara Counties for the week ending Feb. 3. The median sale price in Erie County during that period was $101,350. The median price for Niagara County was $83,500.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Sure feels like spring out there:


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?

LaFalce may head ECIDA board

From Business Today:


County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz has appointed three new but not unfamiliar faces to the Erie County Industrial Development Agency board. Retired Rep. John J. LaFalce, Buffalo Urban League President Brenda McDuffie and World Trade Center Buffalo Niagara President Christopher Johnston have all been appointed spots. Reports say LaFalce may become the next chairman and McDuffie the next vice chairman.


Two more Canadian companies will relocate operations to Western New York, thanks to a little help from Buffalo Niagara Enterprise.

Avanti Advanced Manufacturing, a plastic injection molding company and Blockbuster Costumes, which distributes costumes and party supplies, will relocate to Buffalo and Sloan, respectively. The BNE helped bring a third Canadian company, Nutrablend Foods, in 2009 and helped it commit to expanding here in November. All three are expected to invest more than $1 million and create 35 jobs.



Scores of banking customers have become victims of credit and debit card fraud, after computer hackers in Orleans County broke security at stores and transaction-processing firms on Black Friday. All of Medina Savings & Loan Association's customers were hit, as were customers at M&T Bank Corp. and HSBC Bank USA.


Sen. Charles E. Schumer wants to know whether oil producers and refiners have engaged in price fixing, and he's asking the Federal Trade Commission to hurry up and figure it out. The FTC launched an investigation last summer at the urging of New York Democrats. If price fixing is happening, it needs to be uncovered soon, as gasoline prices rise, he said. In Buffalo Niagara, gas is selling for an average of 45 cents more per gallon than it was at this time last year.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Happy Friday!



A new Mini store coming.

From Business Today:


 If you're in the market for a Mini Cooper, you may soon have a new location to choose from. Towne Automotive Group sent plans for a standalone Mini dealership to the Clarence Industrial Development Agency seeking possible financial assistance. The dealership currently sells BMWs and Minis out of one dealership on Main Street near Transit Road, but is planning a new 10,000-square-foot center on Main Street near Westwood Road. The projected price tag for the project is $2.5 million.


The Kodak Theatre may soon have a new name. The Hollywood venue, which hosts the Academy Awards, has been sponsored by Kodak since 2001 in a 20-year deal worth $72 million. But the Eastman Kodak Co. won bankruptcy court approval Wednesday to remove its name and back out of that deal. It will save the bankrupt company about $3.6 million per year.


Dresser-Rand Group in Olean, which develops supersonic compression technology, has been awarded $500,000 toward the planned construction of a $9.6 million research and development facility by Empire State Development. The economic development agency also awarded $200,000 to Buffalo's Galvstar LLC, a maker of galvanized steel that is set to anchor the former American Axle plant. Empire State Development gave $3.36 million in grants to projects throughout the state.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

It's Friday, people!



State pension reform approaching

From Business Today:


The local business community is getting behind a proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo's Tier VI pension reform aims to control state employee pension costs and save $123 billion over 30 years by limiting benefits for new hires. Andrew J. Rudnick, president and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, and Heather C. Briccetti, president of the Business Council of New York State, came out in support of the plan Thursday, saying the reform is a good step toward getting the state into better financial shape and making the region more friendly to businesses. But not everyone is happy about it.


Profits slipped at Lake Shore Bancorp during the fourth quarter. The Dunkirk-based parent company of Lake Shore Savings Bank saw profits dip 34 percent. The decline is attributed to a $500,000 write-down for an investment the bank made in an unnamed payment processing startup. Profits were $587,000, or 10 cents per share, down from $895,000, or 16 cents per share,  during the same period last year.


Five Star Bank will eliminate its top executive position in retail banking, a position that paid $426,757 last year. The Warsaw-based Financial Institutions subsidiary attributed the move to improving the company's efficiencies. The duties filled by the former executive vice president of the bank and regional president for the bank's Western Region,John J. Witkowski, will now be doled out to other executives. Witkowski is a former NFL quarterback.



Wegmans has issued a recall of hard-cooked eggs and prepared foods made with them. Eggs sourced at Minnesota-based Michael Foods were found to contain the bacteria that causes listeriosis, which can result in illness and death.

The eggs were sold hard-cooked, pickled and Kosher and also used to make prepared foods. Fresh eggs are not affected.

No illnesses have been reported associated with the recall.


Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

 Happy Friday!


Exporting can help the bottom line.

From Business Today:


Small businesses hoping to export goods overseas can look to the Export-Import Bank of the United States for help. The Washington, D.C.-based bank is the federal government's export credit agency. It helps small businesses with trade financing they might not be able or willing to get from private lenders. Representatives from the bank were in town this week to visit small businesses in the region, such as Buffalo's Advanced Machine Design, a manufacturer of presses and other equipment.


There are signs of new life at a struggling Amherst country club. Westwood Country Club has added 80 new members since it was sold to its restaurant's owners a month ago. Hopes are high that the influx of new people--and their money--will continue, breathing new life into the club and sparking a financial turnaround. Windows on the Green owners Todd Sugarman and Jon Cohen bought the 67-year-old club for about $3 million and have vowed to get to work on renovations and upgrades. The duo discounted membership rates to bring new people in, but so far have only broken even in terms of membership. The club needs to recruit at least 120 more members if it wants to remain viable.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

I wonder if the Underhills will become members at Westwood?


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