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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.


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’s 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!

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?

Money = power. Power = money.

   Business stories are bustin' out all over today.

   On Page 1:
- Verizon's planned data center to get low-cost power - Thomas J. Prohaska/The Buffalo News
   Verizon Communications was granted 25 megawatts of low-cost hydroelectric power Tuesday for its proposed data center in Somerset, an enticement designed to help win the $1 billion-plus project for the Kessel Buffalo Niagara region.
   The New York Power Authority board of trustees, meeting in the Power Vista at the Niagara Power Project, approved the deal unanimously.
   "This would be a huge shot in the arm for New York State and Niagara County," said Richard M. Kessel, [right] Power Authority president and chief executive officer. "We are working very hard to make this a reality."
   New York is competing for the final designation with one other state, according to Kessel. And that other state is Wyoming, State Sen. George D. Maziarz said he has been told. [Maybe they would like to be next to this.]
   Verizon spokesman John J. Bonomo would not confirm that. ...
- Buffalo: Data center capital of America? - Network World  

   On the local front:
Flight 3407 group finds ally on safety - Jerry Zremski/The Buffalo News
   Regional airlines aren’t perceived as being as safe as their big-name partners, a business travelers group and the Families of Continental Flight 3407 stressed Tuesday at a National Transportation Safety Board symposium on the relationship between the two kinds of air carriers.
   When the Business Travel Coalition surveyed its members, one respondent noted that at least one company keeps a “black list” that includes “certain carriers that they won’t allow their employees to fly on,” said Kevin Mitchell, the group’s chairman.
   Also at the symposium, John Kausner — whose daughter, Ellyce, was one of 50 people killed in the February 2009 crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 in Clarence Center — noted that his daughter bought her ticket on Continental’s Web site without knowing that the plane would be flown by a regional pilot who never would have been hired by Continental.
   That airline — Colgan Air — “passed the buck” after the accident, as did Continental and the Federal Aviation Administration, Kausner said.
   “And make no mistake about it: It’s all about the buck,” Kausner added.
   John H. Prater, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, said major airlines have laid off highly paid, experienced pilots while contracting with regionals that hire pilots at far lower salaries. ...
   In response, Roger Cohen, president of the Regional Airline Association, insisted there’s “one level of safety” for the regional airlines and the major carriers.
   “Every carrier does recognize that it’s bad for business not to be as safe as you can be,” Cohen said.
NTSB probes safety of airline partnerships - AP
- Federal panel probes safety of code-sharing agreements - USA Today
Airlines' 'code sharing' practice examined - Marketplace/American Public Media
Airline Officials Tout Commuter Air Safety Improvements - Wall Street Journal

   A song for Somerset:


-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

... Airline merger takes off.

- Southwest to acquire AirTran - Matt Glynn/The Buffalo News
   Southwest Airlines agreed Monday to buy AirTran in a $1.4 billion deal that would solidify the low-fare airline’s position as the largest passenger carrier at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
   Together, AirTran and Southwest, under their current schedules, would carry one of every three passengers flying out of Buffalo and offer more than one of every five flights. The combined airline would rank just behind US Airways in the number of flights. ...
   Both carriers offer non-stop flights between Buffalo and Orlando, Fla., but none of their other nonstop destinations overlap. C. Douglas Hartmayer, a spokesman for the NFTA, said it was too soon to say what the planned merger will mean for local fliers.
   “Hopefully it will be a good thing,” he said. “We would look forward to expanded service to new markets.”
- Southwest’s $1.4 billion AirTran deal pays for itself - Reuters
- What Southwest-AirTran Combo Could Mean for You - CBS News
- Southwest: there's nothing stopping them - Atlanta Journal-Constitution
   Its original route map, the story went, was drawn up on a cocktail napkin as the founders had a drink in a bar.
   Its funky and funny TV commercials and noteworthy style of service, including singing flight attendants and peanuts-only refreshments, have drawn attention whenever they air and wherever they take to the air.
   And its low fares have won the praise of the flying public.
   From the get-go, Southwest Airlines has stood apart in a tradition-bound industry, and its unique path has led it to operational and financial  success while some old-line carriers have been bought, sold or folded.
   Now, the one-time upstart from Texas,  the largest domestic carrier in the U.S.,  is spreading its wings to Atlanta.
   The first response? A welcome.

   Not a Southwest Airlines spot. Even funnier:


-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

Hiring. Giving. Taco with your gas?

   In Business Today:

- Region’s job market seen as stabilizing - David Robinson/The Buffalo News
   The region added a modest number of jobs for the second straight month during June in a sign that the painful job losses that the area endured since the end of 2008 may be a thing of the past.Ineedajob
   But while the job losses have stopped, the ensuing job growth is tepid, with the region gaining 2,400 jobs over the last year, more than half of that coming from temporary census jobs that now have largely ended. Excluding those government jobs, private-sector employment increased by 0.3 percent, or 1,200 jobs.
   Even with that job growth, the region’s
unemployment rate inched up to 7.7 percent during June as a growing labor force offset the modest improvement in the number of jobs available, the state Labor Department said Thursday.
- Senate close to restoring jobless benefits - AP/Buffalo News
- Manufacturing cools in June as factory output falls 0.4% - AP/Buffalo News  
- City’s Unemployment Rate Fell to 9.5% in June, the 6th Straight Monthly Dip - New York Times
- Unemployment rises to 12.8% in Miami-Dade - Miami Herald
- Georgia jobless rate drops for third straight month - Atlanta Journal Constitution
- State’s jobless rate declines to 12 percent - Providence Journal
- Tennessee jobless rate falls in June to 10.1 percent - Chattanooga Times Free Press
- Unemployment hits 7.9 percent in June - Anchorage Daily News
- Ohio unemployment rate falls to 10.5 percent - Cleveland Plain Dealer 

- Ford dealers donate 2 vans in 15th year of a tradition - Dino Grandoni/The Buffalo News
   The Ford Dealers of Western New York and Northern Pennsylvania presented vans to two area charities in its annual Ford Friendship Express program Thursday.
   The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Northtowns and Homespace Inc. each received the keys to a 2010 Econoline van at a ceremony at Marcy Casino in Delaware Park. Since 1996, the dealerships have donated 60 vehicles to nonprofits that have racked up 1.25 million miles with the vehicles. This year marks the program's 15th anniversary.

- Noco adds Mighty Taco to Buffalo store - Jonathan D. Epstein/The Buffalo News
   ... Continuing its “store-within-a-store” concept, Noco Express Shops is introducing a new Mighty Taco location inside its South Buffalo store. The popular taco shop has already started operating there but will have a formal opening today at 155 Bailey Ave., at McKinley Parkway. ...

Continue reading "Hiring. Giving. Taco with your gas?" »

Avoiding fees. Changing names. Playing ball.

  Business-related news from Page One and Business Today:

- Bank fees overdraw welcome - Jonathan D. Epstein/The Buffalo News
   The days of paying a $35 overdraft fee on a $2 cup of coffee could be over.
   Under new
federal rules, consumers who overdraw their accounts using debit cards at an ATM or merchant won't get socked with fees unless they have "opted in" for the overdraft coverage. But their transactions with insufficient funds will be rejected. ...
   About 82 percent of bank customers haven't overdrawn in the last 12 months, while the rest do it more frequently and account for most of the fees.
   "Those folks used that as a financial planning tool," said Jim Holding, marketing director for Northwest Bancshares, parent of
Northwest Savings Bank. "They use that as part of their day-to-day financial working."
   [Appropriate pop culture reference below.]

- Phaseout is set for Colgan Air name - Phil Fairbanks/The Buffalo News
   The name Colgan Air, synonymous with the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 in Clarence Colginair Center, is going away.
   No one will comment on when the Colgan name will be phased out, but the airline’s parent, Pinnacle Airlines, confirmed that the name will eventually disappear.
   “Over time, our intent is to phase out the Colgan name as we reorganize into two operating airlines,” Pinnacle spokesman Joe Williams said in a statement.
   Pinnacle’s confirmation that the Colgan name is being phased out came just days after it announced its $62 million purchase of Mesaba Airlines, a regional carrier owned by Delta Air Lines.
   Pinnacle did not offer a timetable on when the name change would occur. Colgan, which flies under the name Continental Connection, operated the plane that crashed in Clarence Center in February 2009, killing 50 people. Continental subcontracted the Newark-to-Buffalo route to Colgan.

- Baidu chief boosts China - John Boudreau/San Jose Mercury News/Buffalo News
   The head of China’s biggest online success story, who is a University at Buffalo graduate, has some advice for U.S. companies hoping to break into the world’s largest Internet market: You’d better hurry, and you’d better be willing to work with the government.

Continue reading "Avoiding fees. Changing names. Playing ball." »

Under fire. On strike. Below $3.

   New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo took a break from his campaign for governor [or maybe not] by announcing another strike in his ongoing crack-down on unscrupulous debt collectors who seem to thrive in the Buffalo area.
- State tries to close 2 local debt collectors - Dan Herbeck/The Buffalo News
   State attorneys filed lawsuits Tuesday against two Hamburg-based debt-collection companies whose Cuomo employees allegedly used threats, obscenities and harsh intimidation tactics against consumers.
   The legal actions seek to permanently shut down two companies — Northern Asset Management and Eastern Asset Management — owned by Hamburg businessman Frank Santiago.
   There are clear laws that say how a debt-collection company can do business, and we allege that this debt collector and his companies broke those laws,” Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement.
   "Threats, intimidation, obscene language and overt harassment are just some of the day-to-day business practices that were employed by this operation. Their actions must come to an end.” ...
   Santiago denied Cuomo’s allegations.

   Meanwhile, also in Business Today:
- Red Cross workers here to strike - Matt Glynn/The Buffalo News
   Unionized workers for the American Red Cross Blood Services Division in Buffalo are set to go on strike today.
   The walkout will involve about 100 area workers who collect, process and distribute blood, said James Wagner, president of Local 1122, Communications Workers of America. Another 60 tele-recruiters who recruit blood donors will not join the strike for fear their work would be moved immediately to Rochester, he said. Wagner had initially said that group would join the strike....
   “It is to protest over the National Labor Relations Board complaints issued against the Red Cross in violation of labor law,” Wagner said.
   The CWA is launching the strike based on unfair-labor practices related to changes in the workers’ 401(k) retirement plan, pension, health benefits and the suspension of a chief steward, Wagner said. The union also has raised complaints about blood safety. Wagner said the criticisms are aimed at the American Red Cross, not its Buffalo chapter.
   Despite the strike, Red Cross operations in the Buffalo area will continue, said Marianne Schreyer, spokeswoman for American Red Cross Blood Services in the New York-Pennsylvania region

- Falling gas prices good news for drivers - Mark Williams/AP/Buffalo News
   Gasoline prices dropped Tuesday for the 26th straight day as lower oil prices continue to work their way to the nation’s drivers. It looks like there is room for pump prices to move even lower. [They have today already.]
   After hitting a national average of $2.929 per gallon May 6, retail gasoline prices have fallen 20.2 cents, or nearly 7 percent, to $2.727 per gallon Tuesday.
   In the
Buffalo Niagara region, a gallon of regular averaged $2.94 Tuesday, down 4 cents from a week ago, and down 6 cents from a month ago.
   Tom Kloza, of the
Oil Price Information Service, said that while the daily streak of lower prices is likely to end before mid-June, prices still have another 10 or 12 cents to fall.

-- George Pyle/The Buffalo News

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