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Wall Street Journal discovers Hotel @ The Lafayette

It's not everyday that a global paper like The Wall Street Journal pays attention to something happening in Buffalo.

But it's not everyday that they learn of the rebirth of an architectural treasure like the Hotel Lafayette -- now the Hotel @ The Lafayette after developer Rocco Termini's $43 million renovation and reopening of the century-old grand dame of early-20th century luxury hotels.

Columnist Carla Blank lays out in a Sept. 11 story the hotel's storied past, and pays tribute not only to the building's legacy -- it was designed by Louise Bethune, the first female American professional architect -- but also to Buffalo's own heritage and collection of architectural gems. She describes its decline, and also its painstaking rebirth under Termini's direction, with master craftsmen working by hand to restore its beauty.

And she explains her own fascination with Bethune, and how that gave rise to plans for her new book on the architect herself.

She also gives a plug to the ongoing revival of Buffalo, with a focus on the very type of cultural tourism that Western New York's economic development leaders are seeking to target.

"If the imagination, creativity and sheer drive that it took to revive this grand lady, the Lafayette Hotel, is an example of Buffalo’s grit, will and determination, then the town can say with former resident Mark Twain that 'the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.'"

- Jonathan D. Epstein




Computer programming conference planned this month

The local tech community is hosting a conference for computer programmers and software developers later this month.

The Nickel City Ruby Conference, held Sept. 20 and 21 at the downtown branch of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, is meant to show off this region as a mecca for developers high-tech companies.

Ruby is an open-source programming language, and this is the first Ruby-focused conference held in the region. The event is organized by members of the Western New York Ruby User Group.

Attendees include prominent members of the national Ruby and open-source programming communities, including keynote speakers Jeff Casimir, head of Jumpstart Labs; Sara Chipps, founder of Girl Develop
It; Zach Holman, a developer at Github; and Neal Sales-Griffin, co-founder of Starter League.

Before the main conference, on Sept. 19, O’Reilly Media will host an Ignite Conference. Following
the main conference, on Sept. 22, Jim Hurne will lead a CodeRetreat at Z80 Labs in Buffalo.

More information on tickets, speakers, the schedule and sponsorship is at

---Stephen T. Watson

AVOX Systems marks completion of renovations

AVOX Systems Inc. is hosting a grand opening Thursday to mark the completion of renovations to Building 2 on its Lancaster campus, work that is part of a $6.5 million, physical-plant investment by the former Scott Aviation.

AVOX, which makes oxygen and respiratory products and systems for the aerospace and defense industries, is making extensive renovations to two of its buildings and mothballing the oldest structure on the 28-acre campus.

The subsidiary of French aerospace company Zodiac Group has 359 permanent employees who work in three buildings at the corner of Erie Street and Walter Winter Drive, the oldest of which, Building 1, dates to the 1940s. Of those workers, 213 are union members.

AVOX has moved out most of the employees who worked in Building 1 but the structure still is in use. Renovations are continuing on Building 3, and this work should be done by January.

The $6.5 million project received an estimated $200,000 in sales-tax breaks from the Lancaster Industrial Development Agency and a $400,000 economic-development grant from New York State Electric and Gas for electrical infrastructure.

AVOX and Zodiac officials will be joined for Thursday's grand opening, which is meant to thank the company's workers, by State Sen. Pat Gallivan, R-Elma; Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak, D-Cheektowaga; and Lancaster Supervisor Dino Fudoli.

---Stephen T. Watson

State Senate hearing eyes reforms of medical industry regulations

Members of the State Senate majority coalition are holding a hearing Wednesday in Buffalo to seek ideas on needed regulatory reforms from members of the local health care and medical services community.

The hearing is the first of 10 scheduled over the next five weeks meant to generate proposals for a package of legislation meant to make New York a more business-friendly state.

State Senators Patrick M. Gallivan, R-Elma; David Carlucci, a Rockland County Democrat; Kathleen Marchione, a Saratoga County Republican; and David Valesky, an Onondaga County Democrat, are hosting Wednesday's event, which runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Gaylord-Cary Meeting Room at Roswell Park Cancer Institute's Research Studies Center.

The senators have invited officials from major health care and medical services institutions and organizations to testify about regulatory issues that hamper economic development in the region and statewide.

Those scheduled to appear include Dr. Donald Trump, Roswell Park's president; Jessica Crawford, president of the MedTech association; Dr. Thomas Madejski, assistant treasurer of the New York State Medical Society; Dennis Galluzzo, executive director of the Pharmacists Association of Western New York; and Dr. Willie Underwood, legislation chair of the Erie County Medical Society.

---Stephen T. Watson

Study: Market power drives higher hospital, specialist prices

A new national study of medical claims data from 13 markets, including Buffalo, found hospitals and specialist physicians charged private insurers a price far higher than the Medicare rate.

The non-profit Center for Studying Health System Change analyzed claims from 2011 for 590,000 active and retired, non-elderly autoworkers, and their dependants, for various medical procedures.

The center found hospitals in those markets generally charged private insurers 1.5 times the Medicare rate for inpatient care and twice the Medicare rate for outpatient care.

Specialist doctors also charge the private insurers average prices that are higher than the Medicare rate, but primary care physicians generally charge comparable rates to both.

The center promised the hospitals and physicians anonymity in exchange for the use of their data.

The markets included St. Louis, Detroit, Cleveland and Indianapolis. In the Buffalo market, three unnamed hospitals negotiated prices for private insurers that were, on average, 1.58 times the Medicare reimbursement rate for inpatient procedures. The Buffalo hospitals' prices were fourth-most-expensive out of the 13 markets for inpatient procedures.

For outpatient procedures, the Buffalo hospitals negotiated prices with private insurers that were on average 1.35 times the Medicare rate, ranking the region second-cheapest out of the 13 markets.

The study, which criticized the lack of transparency in the pricing arrangements between insurers and medical providers, found disparities in pricing among, and within, the different regions.

"The variation in hospital and specialist physician prices within communities underscores that some hospitals and physicians have significant market power to command high prices, even in markets with a dominant insurer," the study's authors wrote.

---Stephen T. Watson

Four health-care reform sessions planned this month

UPDATE: Another, recently scheduled session at City Hall added to this list, bringing total to four. STW

Experts on the Affordable Care Act's provisions will explain the effects of federal health-care reform in four events over the next couple of weeks here that are open to the public.

The educational forums are hosted by separate organizations but all have the goal of providing more details on the sweeping changes included in the Affordable Care Act as its key provisions go into effect next year.

The free events include:

  • An informational seminar hosted by the Evans Agency and featuring speakers from Evans and the Harris Beach law firm. The session runs from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Wednesday in Templeton Landing, 2 Templeton Terrace, Buffalo. Registration is recommended. Contact Pam Sikorski at or at 780-8068.
  • "ABCs of Health Care," a town-hall meeting sponsored by the Buffalo Common Council and Majority Leader Demone A. Smith, will be held at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the council chambers, on the 13th floor of City Hall, 65 Niagara Square. Representatives from BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, Independent Health, Univera Healthcare and Kaleida Health will attend. No registration required. Contact council staff at 851-5105 for further information.
  • "Health Care Reform: What does it mean to you?" is the subject of a session hosted by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Sept. 17 in its offices, 665 Main St., Suite 200. Panelists include representatives from BlueCross BlueShield, Independent Health, Univera and the Lumsden & McCormick accounting firm. Registration is requested and can be done through this page or by calling Charlene Janiga at 541-1770.
  • "The Road Ahead: Launching New York's Health Benefit Exchange" will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 17 in the WNED Studios, 140 Lower Terrace, Buffalo. Kyle Kotary, director of external affairs, outreach and marketing for New York State of Health, and Elisabeth R. Benjamin, vice president of health initiatives at the Community Service Society of New York, will speak. Registration is required and can be done by visiting the website of the Health Foundation for Western & Central New York.

---Stephen T. Watson


Interim Roswell Park medical director receives permanent job

Roswell Park Cancer Institute has named Dr. Anthony L. Picone as its medical director.

Picone has served as the cancer center's interim medical director for the past six months, replacing Dr. Judy Smith. A Roswell Park employee since April 2009, he is a cardiothoracic surgeon in the Department of Thoracic Surgery.

As medical director, Picone coordinates and plans strategic and tactical components of the cancer center's clinical services. He also advises Dr. Donald L. Trump, Roswell Park's president and CEO, and other top officials on administrative and clinical issues related to medical practices, the hospital said in a statement announcing Picone's appointment.

“A well-known and respected faculty member and a skilled clinician, Dr. Picone possesses great strength in practice development and working with community physicians. His combination of clinical, educational and research expertise is impressive and will be valuable in developing new mutually beneficial programs with our many regional partners,” Trump said in the statement.

Picone also holds various appointments at Kaleida Health, Erie County Medical Center, Sisters of Charity Hospital and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md.

---Stephen T. Watson



Local business today

When it opened 10 years ago, the Sonoma Grille brought some style Dining out for life LOCAL KIRKHAM dining life and flair to the Lord Amherst. An elegant, fine dining establishment with classy entertainment, it joined the competitive and growing  'white-tablecloth' dining scene. When Iskalo Development bought the Lord Amherst property two years ago, the restaurant run by Michael and Marilynn Militello stayed in business. But the nice run for the Sonoma is coming to an end. Iskalo has big plans for the site, with a new Hyatt and a renovated Lord Amherst. A completely redone restaurant will open, but it's not clear of the Militello's will be running it.

Solar power is fighting to stay viable as the natural gas boom pushes down utility costs. So when a large indusrial customer quadruples its solar commitment, it a cause for some celebration. Solar is clean, and Galanispays for itself over time. Sealing Devices is unveiling an array of solar panels at its Lancaster plant today that is four-times the size of the system they installed a few years ago.  Company President Terry Galanis Jr. said the panels will supply 25 percent of the company's power.


Who has been hired, honored or promoted lately?

-- Grove Potter


Hospice Buffalo restructuring expands pediatric program

A structural realignment will allow a Center for Hospice & Palliative Care program that provides home care for children to expand and serve more pediatric patients, center officials announced Tuesday.

The Essential Care for Children program since 1998 has been part of the center’s Home Care Buffalo, a certified home health agency that also cared for adult patients. As part of a certified home health agency, the pediatric program was required to follow a strict medical model, said Dr. Christopher Kerr, the center's interim CEO and chief medical officer.

By aligning the program under Supportive Medical Partners, the center’s palliative care physician and nurse case management practice, the program can serve the holistic needs of children with serious and terminal illnesses.

The five employees who have served the dozen or so children now in the program will continue to serve them under this realignment, which is expected to double the number of children served, Kerr said.
With the center ending Home Care Buffalo’s operations, its two adult patients were shifted to the care of another home health agency of their choice, officials said.

In another change, the center is partnering with Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo to establish an inpatient palliative care service, based at the hospital and led by a newly hired pediatric palliative care physician.

---Stephen T. Watson

Busy factories, for now

Factories in Western New York are humming. The most recent report from area purchasing managers shows that July was the best month in a year for local manufacturers. Graham And more impressive, the level of production was at a nine-year high.

But a dark cloud Durable looms on the national horizon. The orders for durable goods dropped 7.3 percent nationally, the steepest drop in almost a year. Those busy factories are filling previous orders. An uptick in orders is needed to keep the momentum.

-- Grove Potter   

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