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Watching medical bills

From Business Today:


The Department of Financial Services released a report Wednesday saying consumers are at risk for receiving unexpected medical bills they can't afford. The state's insurance regulators are looking into unexpected, out-of-network medical costs and whether some insurance companies bill too much or reimburse at too-low rates.


An investors' group is recommending National Fuel Gas shareholders to vote against a proposed executive pay package. The Amherst-based energy company's CEO David F. Smith made $7 million last year, and would get $38,000 less this year, according to the proposal. But Institutional Shareholder Services advised that Smith's paycheck is out of whack when compared to National Fuel's stock performance and the pay received by other natural gas utility executives. 


As both houses prepare to pass 2012 budget proposals, Senate Republicans are passing a proposed budget of their own. Their plan includes a 20 percent tax cut for 200,000 small businesses in New York. The tax breaks would cost $65 million and bring the state's tax rate from 6.85 percent to 5.5 percent.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

 What were you doing when you were 13?


Power plant closing threatens budgets

From Business Today:


 AES is closing its Somerset power plant for up to 6 months. The company is in bankruptcy and owes $600 million. The plant will be auctioned March 26, but no layoffs have yet been mentioned for the plant's 115 workers. The closure has community leaders worried, since many budgets are heavily funded with tax revenues from the plant. The Barker school district's 2012-2013 budget is counting on AES for 38 percent of its funding.



Carl Paladino's company  Ellicott Development wants to buy three city-owned parcels to build a medical office. The three small properties are on an empty lot on the north side of St. Paul Mall, located between Best and East North streets. Their estimated total value is $69,900. Ellicott also wants to turn the former Our Lady of Lourdes church into a mixed use-space featuring retail and residential opportunities.




 Solar Liberty  has been recognized by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the U.S. Department of Energy. Solar has been designated the largest solar installation company in New York State in 2011, based on the number of systems installed and the amount of kilowatt capacity brought online last year.


Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

It looks like the waters of March are holding off today:


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!



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:


Minimum wage debate

From Business Today:

TeresaBiersbachAlbany is proposing a raise in the minimum wage, from $7.25 to $8.50 per hour. There's some debate over whether that is a good thing.

Workers say the extra scratch would be a welcome boost as they attempt to eke out a living. But some employers are fighting the change, saying it will increase their cost of doing business.


The New York State Energy Research Development Authority rolled out its On-Bill Recovery Loan program Monday. The program allows homeowners to finance energy-efficient upgrades through NYSERDA, rolling the payments into their monthly utility bill. The amount of the monthly payment is designed to mirror the amount of savings realized by the home improvements, to keep utility bills down.



A Buffalo Internet service provider is raising its expectations and its stock price as it gets ready to take itself public next month. Synacor had originally planned to raise $75 million with it's initial public offering. But now, with profits expected to jump from $3.8 million to $4.2 million, Synacor said it expects to sell 7.8 million shares at $10 to $12 each, resulting in $94 million.



BlueCross Blue Shield of Western New York's parent company HealthNow New York is making a major change to its computer system. Within five years, HealthNow will transition away from its current Facets operating system, and move into the Core Operating System Transition (COST) will eventually be hosted at another arm of Blue Cross in South Carolina.  

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

It's only Tuesday? Really?


Biz Links: Property deals around the region

From Business Today:


Two buildings in Orchard Park have sold. One was bought by a local dentist looking to expand, the other was bought by two parties with the intention of being divided among them. Pediatric dentist Michael Foley bought 3364 Southwestern Boulevard for $465,000 to be used as a second branch of his dental practice. The former Bally's Matrix health club at 55 Weiss Avenue sold in three transactions to neighboring property owners who plan to knock it down and split a three-acre parcel of land.


Two local companies went above and beyond the state's energy conservation requirements in multifamily buildings and are being recognized for it. C.J. Brown Energy PC and Buffalo Energy received multiple awards from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.


An Amherst restaurant has sold its building to a car dealership, but will reopen in a larger space. Falafel Bar's owner and chef Oded Rauvenpoor sold the building at 3689 Sheridan Drive to Northtown Automotive Group for $248,000. The dealership will knock down the building to build a second entrance for its nearby Hyundai-Subaru dealership. Falafel Bar will move into the recently closed HucklebucketsFamily Grill & Sports Bar in the Northtown Plaza.


Check out recent real estate transactions in Erie and Niagara Counties for the week ending Nov. 11.  The highest-priced property in Erie County went for $1.025 million while the highest price tag in Niagara County was $650,000.


Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

From MoneySmart:


If you're of a certain age, you might be able to audit courses at a local college for free or at a very low cost. See Emma Sapong's story in today's MoneySmart section.


In the market for a pet? Shelters and rescues can be an inexpensive--and rewarding--way to find one.


Less than a week until Christmas!


Biz Links: Local labor market screeches to a halt

From Business Today:


The local labor market has screeched to a stop. The Buffalo Niagara region added no jobs this November over the same month a year ago. It's the first time in 12 months we didn't see a job increase, and the worst numbers we've had in 16 months. Despite a much celebrated increase in construction jobs, most other sectors were weak. The private sector added 600 jobs over the past year.


After giving a questionable grant given to the Clarence Chamber of Commerce, the Clarence Industrial Development Agency is reviewing its grant policies. The State Authorities Budget Office mentioned the Clarence IDA in an October report, raising doubts as to whether the $10,000 grant was in line with general municipal law.


A wind farm planned in Wyoming County just got state approval. The Stony Creek Energy wind farm project, set for the Town of Orangeville, was approved by the state Public Service Commission on Thursday. The town will be host to 59 wind turbines up to 430 feet tall. It will receive $667,000 annually for 20 years from a Chicago company called Invenergy. The town will receive a total of $3.3 million over 20 years and about six jobs will be created.


 A Sanborn manufacturer just took ownership of a product it already produces. Katz Americas acquired the name, images and design rights of Paperkraft Coasters, a line of pulpboard-based beverage coasters. The acquisition will add four employees to the company's 50.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

It's Friday, people!


Biz Links: Three WNY companies expanding

From Business Today:


A Lancaster manufacturing company will expand with help from tax breaks. WNR Pattern and Tool will nearly double its workforce and its footprint on Pavement Road near Broadway. The Lancaster Industrial Development Agency has approved $84,000 in tax breaks for the $102,000 project. The IDA estimated the project's impact at $1.5 million.


Greatbatch Inc. has acquired an Oregon company for $60 million. Greatbatch bought battery maker Micro Power Electronics. The acquisition will roughly double Greatbatch's presence in the commercial battery market.


A Hamburg maker of industrial, temporary lighting has acquired a Pennsylvania company for $500,000. K&H Industries has acquired Sunlite Safety Products, which makes a rechargeable LED lantern. K&H, which employs 35 to 40 people, hopes they will be able to add jobs as a result of the acquisition.


Noco Energy Corp. has unveiled its new, greener gas station across from the airport. The company tore down a smaller Noco Express store and built a larger one using green methods that will help conserve energy. The gas station boasts infrastructure for electric car charging stations which can be added in the future. The store also has a flight check-in kiosk for travelers and a real-time flight arrival and departure screen.


Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?


Biz Links: Time to pitch the deal.

From Business Today:


Four representatives from the Western New York Regional Development Council are gearing up to make their pitch to a state advisory panel, in hopes of securing $40 million in economic development funding.

Howard Zemsky, one of those representatives, said while the money won't solve all the region's problems, it will set Western New York on the right path.

In fact, he said, the strategic plan the council put together to prioritize which projects should be eligible for the money will go a long way toward putting the regin's leaders on the same page.



Many people in Western New York may be vehemently against the practice of extracting gas in the Marcellus Shale region via hydraulic fracturing, but an Amherst energy firm says we are benefitting from gas extracted there already.

Energy Mark president Gary Marchiori said heating bills in the region will be $351 less expensive on average this winter than last year, thanks to increased production in the Marcellus Shale and other shale formations across the country. The increased production is driving prices down, he said.


M&T Bank has been rated outstanding in terms of its performance under the federal Community Reinvestment Act by federal bank regulators. It was lauded for its lending, investment and services to the community.

The Community Reinvestment Act was enacted by Congress in 1977 to encourage banks to meet the credit needs of their communities by requiring them to invest everywhere that they take deposits. M&T has had the Federal Reserve Bank's highest CRA rating every year for nearly 30 years.



American Airlines' declaration of bankruptcy is a big story in the transportation industry. But in the Buffalo Niagara region, its real effect is little more than a hiccup. That's because American Airlines has a very small presence here, with just 3 percent of the market. At one time, it had the region's third-highest market share. But increased competition caused its enplanements to drop. Today, American Airlines typically runs just four daily flights to O'Hare International Airport in Chicago out of the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Guess who else declared bankruptcy:


The public debates hydrofracking, insurance rate hike documents go live and more

From Business Today:


The state's Department of Environmental Conservation held the first of eight public comment sessions on its rules for hydrofracking in New York. Much controversy surrounds the method of drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale region using hydraulic fracturing. More than 850 people appeared in Dansville for the chance to voice there opinion for or against hydrofracking.

Supporters believe hydrofracking would bring money and jobs into the region, while critics fear the method could pollute the finger lakes and spoil the water for future generations to come.


If you're curious about the details behind insurance companies' rate hike requests, you can now pore over the supporting documentation submitted by insurers. State regulators have posted the documents online.

It's part of an effort toward increased transparency. Past and projected financial information, assumptions and other data submitted by insurers when requesting rate hikes can now be found on the state Department of Financial Services Web site.


 The Public Policy Institute of New York State has put out a report saying New York State should rank much higher in the competition to encourage the growth of life sciences companies because of the state's size and financial strength.

Despite the state's unique abilities and potential in the field, the state still struggles to compete against other states and is losing out on opportunities to create jobs. To remedy that, the report says the state should push for more investment in life sciences firms.


In the Town of Tonawanda, members of the business community met with high school students to shed light on entrepreneurship and what it takes to be successful.

About 25 students from the Charter School for Applied Technologies met in small groups with local small business owners to chat about the perks and pitfalls of owning a business, and what is needed to do it right.The event was coordinated by the school and UB's Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership in honor of Global Entrepreneurship Week.


There's more trouble for Amherst law firm Stephen J. Baum PC. First, Freddie Mac put a ban on sending any more business its way. Now, Fannie Mae is barring them, too.

Fannie Mae's newest retained attorney list notes the local firm is "not eligible for new referrals."


A bankrupt Jamestown furniture maker has filed notice with the state that it will close its manufacturing plant in February. The filing comes just two months after Crawford Furniture said it would close its retail stores to focus on manufacturing. Company representatives said it hopes the plant's closing will be temporary while the company ramps up its network of independent retailers to sell through nationally. But if its attempts at securing more national retail channels fails, the plant will close for good and 101 workers will lose their jobs.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Here's one take on health care insurance companies, courtesy of some very famous comedians:


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