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Western New York, June 2003

Business Expansions

New this Month

Theater in the Mist (Niagara County) Construction has begun on the Theater in the Mist, an $8.5 million family-oriented tourist attraction that will bring more jobs and people to downtown Niagara Falls. In the short term, 32 construction jobs will be created.

The conversion of the former Dunkirk Kmart into a Home Depot (Chautauqua County) is progressing on schedule toward a July opening. The store will employ about 150 people.

Empire Zone (Erie County) The Buffalo Common Council voted unanimously on June 10th to approve boundary changes to one of its state Empire Zones. The boundary changes will help 59 companies and developers that have committed to creating 400 jobs within three to five years. The 133 acres of land scattered across the city will be added to one of Buffalo's two Empire Zones. Two major companies that have signed up for the program are Great Lakes Orthodontics and FedEx/Tower Group, a custom clearance business. These companies have opted to stay and expand and are projected to lead to at least 100 additional jobs. The boundaries still face review by state officials.

Casino (Erie & Niagara Counties) The leaders of the Seneca Nation of Indians have selected the Buffalo Convention Center as the site of their second casino in Western New York. Seneca Nation President, Rickey Armstrong, has indicated that the casino would likely generate 2,500 to 3,000 jobs. However, County Executive Joel Giambra rejected the Seneca Nation's selection and suggested swapping the county's claim to a casino for a share of Niagara County's gaming profits. He also suggested that Erie County forfeit its proposed gambling casino in favor of a second one for Niagara Falls, with profits to be shared by the two counties. Despite the County Executive opposition, the Seneca Nation of Indians is still focusing its attention on downtown Buffalo for a casino and is considering a variety of sites. Niagara Falls Majority Leader Dennis Virtuoso, has introduced a resolution for the July 15th Legislature meeting offering the Seneca Nation help in finding a site for a second casino in Niagara Falls.

Valmed Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Erie County) has decided to open a new telemarketing center on Grand Island. Valmed's parent company, Andrx, opted to shift work to Grand Island because of an incentive package offered by Empire State Development Corporation and an $854,000 inducement package from Erie County Industrial Development Agency. The company was able to retain 74 current jobs while creating 54 positions at the facility.

American Rubber Products Corp. (Erie County) applied for Industrial Development Assistance on June 19th. American Rubber Products Corporation located at two leased sites in North Tonawanda wants to build an addition to one of those sites. The $450,000 project would preserve 117 jobs.

Business Contractions

New this Month

UPDATE: Buffalo Public Schools (Erie County) City of Buffalo teachers demonstrated in front of City Hall on June 11th to express solidarity with 485 laid-off teachers and to demand that proportionate job cuts be made among district administrators. District officials said layoff notices have been sent to 12 percent of both the teaching and administrative staffs. But there are far more teachers than administrators, translating into job cuts for 485 teachers and 30 administrators. Teachers at the rally also pushed for a two-month extension of their healthcare benefits, changes in the way charter schools are funded and for the county to share a portion of its extra one percent sales tax with city schools. On June 18th, the Buffalo Board of Education agreed on a budget for next school year. The $507.5 million spending plan will cut 679 jobs, including 413 teacher positions. A combination of $5.4 million in state and federal funds will also allow the district to avoid the planned elimination of sports, instrumental music and restore the jobs for 73 teachers and 64 teacher's aides that received layoff notices. The board is expected to pass a final budget on June 25th.

UPDATE: City of Buffalo (Erie County) On June 5th the Common Council approved a budget that will raise taxes, lay off 46 employees, and cut more than 50 vacant jobs of the more than 2,700 jobs in city government. Governor George Pataki has proposed a much more powerful oversight board for Buffalo that could set the size of the city's school district budget, reduce the number of city workers, enact wage and hiring freezes, and involve itself in binding arbitration between he city and employee unions. The Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority will have vast say over future municipal budgets and should be set up by July 3rd. The control board will be composed of nine members, with five being appointed by the Governor and will also include the mayor, county executive, and the state comptroller. The State Senate and Assembly would name the final slot. The measure is awaiting approval.

Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center (Erie County) in Buffalo closed on June 6th due to financial problems. The not-for-profit agency employed 57 people.

UPDATE: Seneca Nation (Cattaraugus County) New York State remained on a collision course with Native American tobacco sellers on June 23rd after District Judge William Skretny refused to order the state to stop enforcing its ban on internet and mail-order cigarette sales. The 26-page ruling refused to issue a temporary restraining order against the state and its controversial health law preventing cigarettes from being sold to the public over the Internet. The ruling means the ban will remain in effect indefinitely, but tobacco retailers would continue trying to have the law found unconstitutional. Seneca Nation President Ricky Armstrong said 1,500 or more people working in Internet tobacco businesses run by Seneca members could lose their jobs. Two lawsuits were recently file regarding the ruling. The first by the Senecas and revolves entirely around Native American issues, while the other was file by Buffalo attorney Paul Cambria Jr. The law firm filed the suit on behalf of two Seneca Nation tobacco sellers.

UPDATE: Thousands of workers at six former Bethlehem Steel (Erie County) sites voted to ratify a labor agreement with International Steel Group. The contract calls for hourly wages ranging from $15 and $20.50 per hour, a new training program, quarterly profit sharing payments and expanded health and safety rules. A new pension plan will be defined under the Steelworker Pension Trust Fund and a fund will be created to provide health care for retirees of Bethlehem Steel.

UPDATE: The new engine line that General Motors (Erie County) was awarded in April help preserve 720 jobs at the plant and help secure its future for years to come. The work force though is still expected to drop from about 3,400 to less than 3,000 through attrition by early 2005.

Labor Disputes

New this Month

Nothing to report.

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