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United bows to consumer pressure

You can take away our in-flight meals, cram us into uncomfortable seats for hours at a time and charge a fortune for our checked bags, but don't mess with our pets.


That's the message United Airlines got recently from 46,000 petitioners who disagreed with the company's PetSafe pet transporting program. The policy did not allow for certain breeds of dogs to be transported in the company's planes.


Nine breeds were on the no-fly list, including the pit bull terrier, cane corso and American staffordshire terrier.

"They used to "fly the friendly skies," but United's new policy of canine profiling is anything but friendly to families who travel with their dog, if their dog happens to look like a pit bull," wrote Best Friends Animal Society, one of several pro-animal groups.

United reversed the policy this week, but still requires the breeds to be transported in a specific kind of reinforced container.


Concerned bank investors speak out.

From Business Today:


First Niagara Financial Group CEO John R. Koelmel spent much of the company's annual meeting defending himself and the company's business strategies Wednesday. He spoke before about 75 investors, many of them disgruntled about First Niagara stock's decline and dividend cut in 2011. Koelmel attributed the bank's slipping performance to several factors outside the company's control and said it had nothing to do with its $1 billion purchase of 195 HSBC Bank USA branches.


Profits were up at Evans Bancorp during the first quarter. Profits rose at the 26.9 percent from a year ago.  It reported net income of $2.4 million, or 58 cents per share, up from $1.9 million, or 46 cents per share, in the same period a year ago. The increase was attributed to growing loan revenues, rising deposits and strenghtened credit. Evans Bancorp is the Hamburg-based parent of Evans Bank.


Pinnacle Airlines will be under the microscope of federal aviation safety inspectors since filing for bankruptcy, to be sure the company's financial problems will not encourage it to take shortcuts that might put passengers at risk. Enhanced oversight is the standard policy for the Federal Aviation Administration when any passenger airline files for bankruptcy.


The New York State Power Authority's Recharge New York program will give 64 Western New York Companies low-cost electricity. The biggest local recipient, Calspan Corp., will receive 5,500 kilowatts. Others to receive the low-cost power include Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo General Hospital, and Yahoo Inc.



Profits were up at Financial Institutions during the first quarter. Profits rose six percent, while the company reported net income of $6.2 million, or 42 cents per common share, up from $5.8 million, or 33 cents per share, a year ago. The bump is attributed to an increase in loans and lending income. Financial Institutions is the Warsaw-based parent company of Five Star Bank.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

The Reverend Horton Heat will be at the Tralf tonight:


The seaway is open!

From Business Today:


The St. Lawrence Seaway kicked off its 54th navigation season Thursday. The Welland Canal bypasses Niagara Falls to connect Lake Erie and Lake Ontario and is an important part of the Seaway. An opening ceremony celebration was held at the canal, during which the captain of the first vessel to enter the waterway was honored with a beaver pelt top hat. The captain and his chief engineer signed the hat, which will be kept in a nearby museum, per tradition. The Seaway is expecting a 3 percent increase in the cargo that passes through this year. You can follow the ships in the seaway at this site.


In response to consumer concerns, several national grocers have taken ground beef with the so-called "pink slime" filler off store shelves. So who in Western New York is still using it, who is not and who never has? Pink slime refers to "lean finely textured beef," beef tissue that is treated with ammonia as part of the harvesting process and added to ground beef to get a leaner product at a lower cost.


Profits were down 70 percent at Ecology & Environment during the second quarter. The drop is attributed to higher administrative costs, higher indirect staffing costs and a loss on foreign exchange rates. Profits were $504,000, or 12 cents per share, from $1.8 million, or 42 cents per share, a year earlier. The company's revenues were down just 4 percent. Ecology & Environment is an environmental consulting firm in Lancaster.


The Communications Workers of America union is pressuring Verizon to extend its FiOS fiber-optic service to the City of Buffalo. Verizon has proposed a deal to purchase wireless spectrum from cable companies for $3.6 billion and cut deals with some cable companies, which has raised anti-trust concerns. The CWA wants the Senate antitrust subcommittee that is looking into the situation to put conditions on the deal that would make bringing FiOS to Buffalo possible.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Happy Friday:


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:


Linsanity takes hold at New Era Cap Co.

From Business Today:


New Era Cap Co. is getting in on the Jeremy Lin action. The Buffalo-headquartered hat maker began selling licensed "Linsanity" caps Tuesday, planning to meet the explosive demand for merchandise featuring the breakout New York Knicks basketball player. The company had to order another batch of the special-edition cap after selling out during the first day.


Western New Yorkers heading to New York City may find it a bit easier to find a flight. Delta Airlines has announced it will begin offering non-stop service to New York's LaGuardia Airport. It will give Buffalo Niagara International Airport 42 percent more capacity to New York City.


APP Pharmaceuticals on Grand Island has received a warning letter from the Food and Drug Administration saying it has failed to address several serious violations the government agency found during a 2011 inspection. APP has said it will address the problems and that remedying the problems should not affect production or profits.


The longtime CEO at Lifetime Healthcare Cos. has announced he will retire. David H. Klein will step down as CEO of the Rochester-based parent company of Univera Healthcare by the end of this year. He has been in the healthcare industry for 40 years.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Happy Leap Day!

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:


Power Drives gets grant and more

From Business Today:


A Buffalo company has received a $250,000 vote of confidence. Power Drives, a company that makes locomotive-warming equipment, received the grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to equip 11 trains in the state with the technology.

Power Drives' Powerhouse equipment allows train operators to shut locomotives down while keeping the engine warm, instead of running them continuously to prevent freezing. The equipment is said to reduce the use of diesel fuel and curb emissions.


Low-income National Fuel users will be able to get more help weatherizing their homes. The state Public Service Commission approved changes in National Fuel's Conservation Incentive Program, adding more than $800,000 to the fund for low-income weatherization efforts. The increase was made possible by a 40 percent cut in the program's advertising and "education" budgets. The National Fuel Accountability Coalition had been pushing for an increase in funding for weatherization efforts.


A Chautauqua County plant will close early next year, taking 51 jobs with it. Zurn Industries, which makes plumbing products, notified the Department of Labor it will close its Falconer plant. The Erie, Pa.-based company seems to be planning to move the local plant's work to an operation it runs in North Carolina. A newpaper there reported Zurn sought and received incentives to add about 40 jobs to the North Carolina plant.


A southtowns auto dealer is celebrating a whopper of a milestone. Conroy Motor Corp., perhaps the oldest Ford dealership in New York State, is celebrating its 100th anniversary. In 2006, Ford Motor Co. ranked it the 13th oldest Ford dealership in the country. The family-owned business started selling Fords just three years ater the Model T arrived on the scene.


Assemblyman John D. Ceretto is happy Unifrax is expanding, but furious that the company will receive a $700,000 capital grant from the Empire State Development Corp. to relocate its headquarters from Niagara Falls to the Town of Tonawanda. Ceretto sent a letter of complaint to kenneth Adams, CEO of the economic development group.

"Why is Empire State Development providing these types of incentives for the company to relocate out of the city? Why can't Unifraxbe encouraged to stay in Niagara Falls?" Ceretto wrote.

Empire State Development said that without the incentive, Unifrax would have moved to Indiana.


Wilson Farms has begun its conversion to 7-Eleven. The Texas-based convenience store chain, which bought Wilson Farms's 188 stores in June, has finished changing seven stores over to the new banner and will finish another two before the end of the year. The rest will get converted in 2012. Another 10 existing 7-Eleven stores here will also receive capital improvements by December. 



First-quarter profits at Taylor Devices in North Tonawanda more than doubled in the first quarter. Demand jumped for the equipment the company makes that protects buildings and bridges from damage during earthquakes and high winds, resulting in a $408,117 jump in profits.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

Don't miss the T-NT football game tonight between North Tonawanda and Tonawanda:


62 auto insurers here have perfect service record, real estate listings posted and the high monetary cost of DWI

From Business Today:


Several local auto insurance companies had perfect records in 2009 and 2010 when it came to customer complaints, according to data from the Annual Ranking of Autombile Insurance Complaints.

Of the state's 179 insurers, 62 of them had zero consumer complaints upheld against them by state regulators. The largest carrier with a perfect record was Erie Insurance Co. The company had 18 complaints against it, 15 of them were withdrawn or rejected while three of them had "questions of fact." Erie had an average of $64.1 million in premiums during the same period.


Check out our roundup of real estate transactions in Erie County and Niagara County for the week ending Sept. 2. There were a total of 300 sales in Erie County, 75 in Niagara County.

Erie County's highest-priced property went for $6.05 million, while Niagara's priciest was $2.12 million. The median property price in Erie County was $118,500, while Niagara's was $95,500. Transactions are compiled from each county's clerk's office.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

From MoneySmart:

Don't feel like splurging on a cab home after happy hour? Deciding to drive with a buzz could end up costing you much, much more. Reporter Stephen T. Watson spells out the costs of driving under the influence.

 It doesn't feel like October out there, does it?


Cleveland BioLabs works with Russian fund, NT company offers solar-powered car charging stations, Restaurant Week starts and jet sharing company plans open house

From Business Today:


A local company is joining forces with a Russian investment fund to develop cancer-treatment and other drugs. Cleveland BioLabs and Rusnano, a $10 billion fund owned by the Russian government, will work on developing five drugs that are in the preclinical stage.

The venture, called Panacela Labs, could require up to $26 million in funding over a four-year period.


 A North Tonawanda manufacturer is plugging into environmental concerns. Audubon Machinery Corp. has charging stations for electric cars in its parking lot.

But the company takes the stations one step further than just plugging into the electrical grid--the stations are powered by wind and solar energy. Employees with electric cars can charge their cars for free during the workday.


Local Restaurant Week kicked off in Western New York Monday. More than 200 independently owned restaurants are offering a wide array of meal specials priced at $21.11.

Some pricier establishments offer just one entree for that price, while others offer several courses for two plus wine.


Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

I wonder what $21.11 gets you at this restaurant:



Capital One buys HSBC card business, Lord Amherst Hotel sells, LIDS acquires Buffalo's Rally Jungle and Vision Airlines ends service in Niagara Falls

From Business Today:


HSBC has found a buyer for its U.S. credit card business. Capital One Financial Corp. will buy $29.6 billion in loans from HSBC Holdings plc for about $2.6 billion. About 140 workers here are affected by the deal, but have been offered jobs with Capital One. They are mostly in the card fraud prevention and investigations department. The sale does not include the $1.1 billion credit card business of HSBC Bank USA.


A well-known property in Snyder is expected to be sold next month. Williamsville-based Iskalo Development is in the process of buying the Lord Amherst Hotel, which is currently owned by the Genrich family. Both the seller and buyer are remaining mum on the details, but family member Willa Long said the hotel is successful and not losing money. The 95-room hotel, located at 5000 Main St., was built in 1960. The property also includes the Sonoma Grill restaurant next door to the hotel.


A national sporting goods dealer just acquired a Buffalo company. LIDS, which has nearly 1,000 retail locations nationwide, bought Rally Jungle, which makes corporate, team and charity-branded sportswear. Rally jungle has a unique merchandising model, in which it creates social media Web pages for organizations to sell custom-made apparel for fundraising purposes. The company was founded by John DeWaal, a former vice president at New Era Cap Co.


Vision Airlines is ending its service out of the Niagara Falls International Airport. It began offering service last December with twice weekly flights to Destin/Fort Walton Beach in Florida. Of the three airlines working out of the airport, it had the fewest number of flights and offered the least service, officials said.

Who is getting hired, promoted and honored?

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