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Statler threatened. Jeweler closes. Medical building to rise.

    Buffalo. Can't figure out to do with what was once a major hotel. Losing a long-time downtown business. But can't keep up with the demand for more medical facilities.

Statler buyers face Monday deadline - The Buffalo News
   Six days and counting.
   That's how much time U.S. Bankruptcy Court has given Mark D. Croce and James J. Eagan to conclude a $700,000 sale agreement to purchase the embattled Statler Towers on the northeast corner of Niagara Square.
   That's also how much time remains for government to help save the iconic Statler and make its future redevelopment viable, Croce told The Buffalo News in discussing his plans publicly for the first time Tuesday.
   If a deal isn't completed, preservationists warn, the 18-story Statler will be heading toward demolition.
   "Our plan is to re-energize the first two floors and effectively stabilize the property to take the time to come up with an organic future redevelopment plan that will allow the building to grow as the market will bear," Croce said.
   But the historic 800,000-square-foot 1923 structure -- once the largest in adopted Buffalonian Ellsworth M. Statler's hotel chain -- needs government funding, too, Croce said. ...

96-year downtown landmark closing shop - Matt Glynn/The Buffalo News
   After 96 years in business in downtown Buffalo, Weisberg Jewelers is preparing to close its doors. Weisberg
   The business plans to end its nearly centurylong run in January after going through one final holiday shopping season, said Edward G. Wicks [right], the president....
   In 1914, the year that Weisberg Jewelers was founded, Woodrow Wilson was president, World War I was beginning, and the Boston Braves won the World Series.
   Weisberg Jewelers at one time had multiple locations. For decades, its store was a fixture of the Main Place Mall before moving to its present home at 11 Court St. about nine years ago. The store has four employees. ...
   [I was on a bus a few months ago and the driver was calling out the stops. At one point, she said, "Main Place Mall. The mall without any stores." It wasn't completely accurate. But more so than it used to be.] 

Medical complex eyed at Main, High streets - Brian Meyer/The Buffalo News
   Plans to build an $80 million medical complex at Main and High streets on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus were unveiled Tuesday in City Hall.
   “This is really the first privately held investment of this size on the medical campus,” Timothy Vaeth, a vice president at Ciminelli Real Estate, told members of the city Planning Board. ...
   One large tenant will be Kaleida Health, which plans to locate an outpatient surgery center in the building. There also will likely be an imaging center, laboratory space and medical offices. ...
   The ambulatory surgery center that Kaleida is planning would fill about one-fifth of the space in the structure. The surgery facility is viewed as the first step toward the eventual move of Women and Children’s Hospital from its Bryant Street location to the medical campus. ...

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Acting locally: Beer and sports

   Is is just me, or are stories about beer getting to be a pattern here? And, of course, what goes with beer [apart from more beer]? Sports!

- Brothers to convert Cold Storage building into Wilson brewery -  Teresa Sharp/The Buffalo News
   WILSON — Good news is brewing in the village, with the planned conversion of the long-vacant, century-old Cold Storage building on Lake Street into the community’s first microbrewery.
   The property at 638 Lake St. recently was purchased by a local family, and sights have been set on opening the Woodcock Brothers Brewing Co. by next summer.
   Mark Woodcock and his wife, Andrea, of Youngstown, and brother, Tim, and his wife, Debbie, of the Village of Wilson, are behind the estimated $1.3 million project.
   They also envision the addition of a small restaurant and plenty of rental retail space in the nearly 50,000-square-foot complex.
   The brewery would use about 24,000 to 30,000 square feet in the stone building portion of the site, Mark Woodcock said.
   “We will leave about 12,000 square feet across three levels in the stone building open, which we feel would be perfect for a winery to join us,” he said. “We feel this could really enhance this as a destination.”

- Businessmen to tap 'fandemonium' - Dino Grandoni/The Buffalo News|
   Athletes who have played in Buffalo have said over and over that sports fans here are among the most devoted in the country. In the words of legendary sportscaster Van Miller, it's "fandemonium" at Buffalo sporting events.
   Which is why a pair of businessmen are trying to create a local sports museum that will be the first of its kind in Buffalo, one that they want to call -- yes -- Fandemoneum.
    The museum, named after the term coined by Miller, the longtime Bills play-by-play man, is the brainchild of two native Buffalonians: Gregory D. Tranter, who lives in Massachusetts, and Michael R. Weekes, who recently moved back to the area. ...
   What Fandemoneum (ending in "eum" like "museum") [like Newseum] will look like isn't the biggest question mark. Where to put it and how to finance it are. ...
   Tranter and Weekes met at the "Buffalo Bills 50th Season" exhibit at the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society, where Tranter took guests on tours through the memorabilia, most of which was from his sizable collection of over 100,000 Bills items. ... They did some research and saw existing sports museums for the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh's sports franchises.

   OK. All together now:

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

In case you don't have enough to worry about...

   From this morning's Business Today:

- Power grid is inefficient, expensive and vulnerable - George Pyle/The Buffalo News
   If inventor Thomas A. Edison came back to life today, he might be amazed by such inventions as the cell phone and the Internet.
   "But," one of New York's premier experts on electric power noted Wednesday, "if Thomas Edison were to come back to Earth today, he not only could recognize the power grid, he probably could repair it."Smartgrid
   And that, said
Robert B. Catell, chairman of the New York Smart Grid Consortium, is the problem.
   A system so crucial to nearly every aspect of modern life has advanced very little in more than a century, when Edison was one of its creators and Western New York was the location of the first power grid, connecting the hydroelectric plant in
Niagara Falls with the street trolley system in Buffalo.
   What New York and the nation are now struggling with, Catell said, is a power delivery network that is expensive, inefficient, vulnerable to failure or sabotage and unable to bring the benefits of new sustainable and nonpolluting energy sources to the homes, businesses and public buildings that need them.
   The answer to that is the so-far theoretical idea of a smart grid — decentralized, computer-controlled, interactive, two-way system of power distribution that will take full advantage of clean power sources and information technology. It was the subject of discussion Wednesday as academics, engineers, power company executives and attorneys gathered for the latest seminar in the University at Buffalo-sponsored series called "The Business of Energy."

   More than one person to comment on this morning's story notes that this article fails to give proper cred to the other genius of electricity's early days, Nikola Tesla.


-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News 

  

There was no oracle for Delphi workers

   In 1999, when the Delphi auto parts company was spun off from General Motors, the bean counters proclaimed the pension fund then set up for salaried workers to be hale and hearty, and the separate Delphi-Oracle pension fund for hourly, union-represented workers to be rather more creaky.
   So, when Delphi moved out, GM promised that if the hourly workers' pension fund ever cratered, GM would make up the difference. No such promise was made for the salaried workers.
   Fast-forward to 2010. Delphi, in bankruptcy for five year, finally emerged by rejoining its former parent, which also made a pit stop in bankruptcy court. The pensions, as can happen when the guaranteeing company goes bust, were canceled and put into federal receivership.
   But, by that old contract, GM is topping up the pension payments for the hourly workers represented by the United Auto Workers, so their loss is minimal. But the salaried workers, who have no such lifeline and are limited by the small benefits paid by the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, are seeing their health insurance disappear and their monthy benefits cut by up to 70 percent.
    Ooops.
    Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to name a company after an ancient soothsayer who, legend had it, would say whatever sooth you wanted, if you paid enough gold.
   And maybe it's appropriate to be writing this on the Ides of March.

The story from Sunday's Buffalo News:
- Delphi retirees feeling frustrated

The salaried workers organization:
- Delphi Salaried Retirees Association

The letter from 32 members of Congress asking for help for the salaried retirees
- Dear Mr. President
   As a 60 percent shareholder in GM, the federal government is in a position to do something to restore fairness for these retirees and to minimize the economic impact of the pension loss on their communities. We request that the Administration bring GM to the negotiating table to work out a fair solution for the Delphi retirees.

Dismal science takes over art venue.

From Sunday's Business Today section:
- Burchfield Penney to host conference on avoiding another recession
   For three days this week, the dismal science will take over one of Buffalo's brighest arts venues. But the arts will also inform the discussion of economic theory.

   It's the Fourth Bi-annual Cross-Border Post Keynesian Conference, set for Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Buffalo State College's Burchfield Penney Arts Center.

   Conference organizer Ted Schmidt, an associate professor of economics at Buffalo State, said the “post Keynesian” in the title is a reference to a growing school of economic thought that holds that the work of John Maynard Keynes, widely regarded as the greatest economic thinker of the 20th century, has been mangled into mainstream theories that understate the need for government action to prevent market economies from careening over the cliff. Minsky
   Most so-called Keynesian theorists, Schmidt said, cling to the idea that markets are mostly self-regulating and that only rarely — as in the recent fiscal bailouts of banks and other large financial institutions — must governments step in with “pump-priming” infusions of capital.
   “Macroeconomics sort of took off from that and never looked back,” Schmidt said
.
   Post Keynesian thought, on the other hand, holds that global financial markets are inherently unstable and require more active government management to prevent another collapse of the size of the Great Depression of the 1930s. It’s great guru is Hyman Minsky [right], an economist whose works fell out of favor in the decade since his death but have gained a new currency as economies across the globe have teetered on the brink of failure.
   The arts portions, which are free and open to the public, include a showing of Tim Robbins' film Cradle Will Rock, Thursday at 7 p.m., and a of production Depression-era songs, stories and images, "...Whose Names Are Unknown" at 8 p.m. Sunday Saturday.

  Related:
Why capitalism fails - The Boston Globe [A lot more about Minsky]
- One Cheer for Hyman Minsky  - Barrons
- Why There Was No Depression - Robert J. Samuelson/The Washington Post
- Rational Irrationality: The real reason that capitalism is so crash-prone - The New Yorker

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News