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Western New York, March 2003

Business Expansions

New this Month

The Federal Reserve and the central bank of Ireland recently approved M&T Bank's (Erie County) proposed acquisition of Allfirst Financial, clearing one of the final hurdles for the largest deal in the bank's history. The acquisition, which will create as many as 275 local jobs over the next two years, should be completed by the end of the month.

The Joint Schools Construction Board (Erie County) recently approved Buffalo's $1 billion school construction project that guarantees jobs for union workers and requires those same unions to help train minority workers. Work on the long-awaited school project is expected to begin this spring, with the first nine schools scheduled for $130 million in improvements.

HSBC Holdings hopes to close its $14.2 billion acquisition of Household International by March 31. The transaction is one of the largest international bank deals in recent years, and it could have a major impact on the Buffalo Niagara region.

The boundaries of the Dunkirk/Sheridan Empire Zone (Chautauqua County) have been expanded to include at least 21 businesses. The inclusion of those businesses in the zone is expected to generate more than $20 million in investments with 1,295 jobs retained and more that 100 new jobs created.

Account Management Services of New York (Erie County) a debt collector, is in line for a $500,000 grant from the state, in return for filling an economic hole left behind by the departing call center, Telespectrum. The company begun moving employees in the now vacated call center and plans to employ about 400 people in the first year. Telespectrum will repay the state $350,000 of a $750,000 grant that it received in 2000. The terms of the grant called for Telespectrum keeping the jobs until 2006 in order to keep the full amount.

Buffalo's Bioinformatics Center (Erie County) recently signed up a new corporate partner that will help transform lab research into job-generating products. Tata Consultancy Services, an infotech giant based in India, signed a research sharing partnership with the University of Buffalo. The company also announced the opening of a regional office in Buffalo.

The head of the Seneca Casino (Niagara County) informed local leaders that Niagara Falls could receive $9 million for its share of 2003 casino profits. New York State is expected to receive about $36 million at year's end under the Seneca Nation's agreement with the state. The Casino currently employs 2,225, with 300 more by Memorial Day.

National Fuel (Erie County) will take an extra week to hammer out final details of a lease agreement that will move its headquarters from downtown Buffalo to Amherst.

Business Contractions

New this Month

A proposed budget for Buffalo Public Schools (Erie County) would cut 605 teachers and 242 other jobs. It would virtually eliminate prekindergarten classes, extra help for struggling students, interscholastic sports, extracurricular activities, instrumental music and reduce kindergarten to half-day sessions. The board recently shaved roughly $5.5 million from the $68 million budget gap by voting to close three schools and terminate leases at three rented facilities.

General Motors Company (Erie County) will furlough about 480 workers at its Tonawanda engine plant starting next month, as two aging engine lines will be eliminated. Under the UAW contract, laid-off workers will receive 95 percent of their regular pay, in a combination of unemployment and supplemental benefits. The layoffs are being offered to volunteers in order of seniority.

Ford Motor Company (Erie County) All 795 workers who were on temporary lay off at the Ford stamping plant this month have been recalled.

Moog Inc. (Erie County) announced the elimination of 100 workers at its Elma plant.

American Axle and Manufacturing (Erie County) has put off construction of a planned training facility at its Cheektowaga plant. The addition was supposed to house training for safety programs and new employee orientation. The company is currently awaiting state approval for a grant to support the project's $750,000 estimated cost. A $600,000 grant is pending from the state Dormitory Authority.

International Steel Group's (ISG) and Bethlehem Steel (Erie County) have signed an asset purchase agreement that moved ISG a step closer to completing the deal. A bankruptcy court hearing is scheduled for April 22. Bethlehem's president reaffirmed his company's plan to terminated health care benefits for its retirees at the end of this month, but lawyers for thousands of retirees plan to ask a judge this week to block the bankrupt company's plan to cut off health benefits. In western New York the company provides health care benefits for about 12,000 retirees and family members. ISG and the United Steelworkers of America are expected to set up a Retiree Benefit Trust, funded by a percentage of company profits. Also, under an agreement between Bethlehem and the Steelworkers union, the company will provide COBRA coverage for six months after the retirees' benefits are terminated.

Labor Disputes

New this Month

Nothing to report.

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