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Western New York, July 2005

Business Expansions

New this Month

Wegman’s Supermarket in Depew (Erie County) will close to prepare for a demolition construction project. The chain is temporarily reassigning the supermarket’s 200 employees to other stores. When the new store opens in spring 2006 and the current employees return, the store plans to increase its staff by an additional 100 jobs.

About 1,000 more employees will be hired this fall to operate a 600-room spa-hotel to open late this year behind the Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls (Niagara County). Construction is also expected to start on a new 225-room hotel at the Seneca-Allegany Casino in Salamanca (Cattaraugus County). Representatives of the Seneca Nation of Indians have stated they intend to build a casino in downtown Buffalo and plan to announce the precise location by the end of the summer. The Seneca’s have a December 9 deadline to begin work on the third and final casino in Western New York.

HealthNow New York, parent of BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, unveiled plans for its new modern headquarters in downtown Buffalo (Erie County) on July 20. The unveiling and simultaneous groundbreaking, marked the first time HealthNow officials have released details of their new 425,000-square-foot building. Once the building is completed in August 2007, it will house 1,300 employees who would move from the company’s current headquarters.

The Holiday Inn Select in Niagara Falls (Niagara County) will soon be bought by Sentry Hospitality and NAMWEST. The company announced it will spend $8 million to turn the 400-room facility into a three-diamond Crowne Plaza Hotel. The upgrades include a new lobby, spa, restaurant, pub, banquet space and retail shops, marking the biggest investment in the Falls since the Seneca Niagara Casino was built in 2002. Over the next three years, 100 new jobs will be added.

Business Contractions

New this Month

Erie County’s higher sales tax- 8.25 cents on the dollar- kicks in on July 1. The increase is expected to generate $2.5 million a month-to repay a long-term deficit closing loan. County Legislators approved the increase last month, in an effort to close the $118.4 million budget deficit.

The Buffalo Board of Education (Erie County) cut $10.2 million from its budget on July 13, because they were unable to make cost-saving changes to its employee health insurance program. If savings are not realized soon, the district fears they will likely have to lay off about 200 staff members, most of them teachers. They have two weeks to make the changes.

By month’s end, Carrols Corp. will close another Burger King store in the Buffalo (Erie County) area because of poor sales. In the past couple of months, two other city stores, and one in Orchard Park have been closed. A Burger King restaurant usually employs between 30 and 40 people.

UPDATE: West Valley Nuclear Services Co. laid off 62 employees on July 12, with the terminations effective immediately. The cuts affected every area of the operation

In light of the Erie County Budget crisis, Buffalo & Erie County Public Library officials might have to close between 19 and 24 branches to narrow a projected shortfall in county funding in 2006. The planning committee recommended that the county library board tell libraries to reduce spending by 20 percent during the last quarter of 2005, which might force some libraries to close this year. The closures would involve the layoff of more than 100 people.

Labor Disputes

New this Month

Most of Kaleida Health’s 7,500 union workers have approved a new three-year contract that boosts wages an average of 11 percent at Western New York’s (Erie County) largest hospital system. The agreement covers members of three unions, representing nurses, technicians, clerical and service workers at Buffalo General, DeGraff Memorial, Women and Children’s Hospital, Millard Fillmore Suburban and Millard Fillmore Gates Circle Hospitals, as well as smaller facilities. One union voted against the agreement, the SEIU Local 1199, a group of about 550 nurses at Women’s and Children’s Hospital. That unit, one of 20 covered by the bargaining, will continue talks.

Buffalo Firefighters (Erie County) lost their battle to maintain pay parity with police officers when an arbitration panel ended a tradition that dates back at least 30 years. The Buffalo Fiscal Authority told the city comptroller an existing wage freeze imposed by the board supersedes the arbitration ruling.

The United Auto Workers Union has approved a severance program at Delphi Corp.’s plant in Lockport (Niagara County) allowing production workers to collect $25,000 from the company in return for leaving their jobs. The program is designed to reduce a surplus of workers at the 4,000 job plant. More than 200 workers have sought information about the program, and over 100 have signed up so far to take the bonus.

Unionized production workers at Eastman Machine Co. (Erie County) returned to their jobs on July 25 without a new contract agreement following a 19-week strike. The returning workers will work under the terms of the contract that expired almost 10 months ago. Union and company officials said negotiations on a new contract are expected to resume.

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