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  • Western New York, June 2011

Western New York, June 2011 Business Expansions and Contractions

Business Expansions

New this Month

The Seneca’s announced a $1 million fund to finance community beautification projects in the neighborhoods surrounding the small Buffalo Creek Casino, next to the rusting framework of the would be larger permanent casino site. Leaders of the Seneca Nation remain determined to build a gambling hall on its downtown Buffalo (Erie County) site. The Senecas are working on a new design or the facility and hopes ground can be broken next spring. If it is built, the casino could have an accompanying hotel, and the project would probably be scaled back from the $333 million casino-hotel project that was envisioned by the Senecas four years ago. Lawsuits against the project have been pending since 2006.

Since opening its data center in Lockport (Niagara County) last year, Yahoo! has become one of the most efficiently run sites that the company operates. Because of that efficiency, the company is planning to expand its Western New York presence. While there is no confirmed time frame or scope for the next project, the company is looking at land in the area around the existing facility to make an even more efficient facility than the one on site.

APP Pharmaceuticals is seeking incentives from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency to expand its factory on Grand Island. The agency will hold a public hearing on June 17th. The maker of injectable pharmaceuticals expects to create 36 jobs in conjunction with the expansion, bringing its total workforce to about 611.

Erie County's state control board has agreed to borrow $98 million to help Erie County Medical Center build a nursing facility at its Grider Street campus so it can close the Erie County Home in Alden and finance other construction around the hospital. County government has agreed to contribute $11.5 million to the project, under a separate pact requiring that construction begin by next June. A corridor will connect the new nursing home, estimated to cost $103 million, to the main hospital so nursing home residents can walk or be wheeled into ECMC instead of being transported there in an ambulance.

Northtown Lexus has opened its new home in Amherst, (Erie County) an $8 million project several years in the making. The new Lexus location is twice as big as the old one, just across Sheridan Drive, and offers more space for employees and customers. Northtown Lexus has about 54 employees, and expects to add 20 more jobs as its business grows over the next two years.

General Motors announced on Friday, June 17th, that it was investing $33 million to increase the four-cylinder engine line production at the GM Tonawanda (Erie County) Engine plant — a move that will retain and create another 100 jobs at the facility. The plant currently has 844 full and part time workers. Production of a newer, more fuel efficient version of its Ecotec Engine, which is currently used in the Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain crossover vehicles, is one of the fastest growing segments of the automotive market. A few years ago, when GM was at the height of its financial woes, the workforce at the plant had dropped to approximately 600 employees and it was facing an uncertain future. In the past year, GM has invested $425 million in the plant to bring in two new engine lines and the workforce has begun to increase.

United BioChemicals, a Sanborn (Niagara County) life sciences company is growing, with plans for a $ 1 million expansion. The company currently employs 31 and will add a total of 22 new hires over the next three years.

Norampac, a division of the Cascades Packing and Paper Products Company, will invest $430 million to build a new plant in Niagara Falls (Niagara County). The Greenpac Mill project will employ 108 people in the manufacture of “green” environmentally friendly materials. The plant project will also result in the 500 temporary construction jobs.

TitanX Engine Cooling, a heavy0-truck components maker, is expanding its Jamestown (Chautauqua County) facility and increase its workforce. The $6.65 million expansion project is expected to create 40 jobs and retain 357 jobs that could have been moved out of state. The expansion is expected to be completed by June 2013.

Business Contractions

New this Month

Erie County Executive Chris Collins has already dropped 410 jobs from this year’s Erie County payroll and expects to drop 300 more in 2012. Collins says about 200 jobs he intends to dissolve will be empty, either through attrition or efficiencies created by his management. Still, 100 county employees could be laid off next year to complete an approximately 20 percent cut in the work force over his first term in office. Of the 410 he targeted this year, about 220 were occupied.

No specific job titles are exempt yet from a plan to lay off 9,800 New York State workers, and everyone from state troopers and prison guards to nurses in state health facilities could be getting pink slips in the coming weeks. If layoffs are carried out proportionally to the geographic locations of state jobs — which a Cuomo spokesman said is not yet certain — it could mean the loss of nearly 1,000 state jobs in Western New York. The first wave of pink slips have been sent out to New York State employees. Because there is no deal with the Public Employees Federation union, the state is following through on its threat to eliminate the jobs of some workers represented by the union. 451 PEF members are getting layoff notices today, June 30, 2011.

The September closing of Ford Motor Co.’s assembly plant in St. Thomas, Ont., will trigger 150 layoffs at Ford’s Woodlawn (Erie County) Stamping Plant. The automaker has filed a WARN notice with the state Department of Labor saying the furloughs will take place as of Sept. 5. The stamping plant provides sheet metal for vehicles assembled at the Ontario plant.

The second phase of terminations at Contract Pharmaceuticals Ltd. Pharmacy Niagara has begun, with 33 more employees receiving notification today (June 17th) their jobs would end by Sept. 16.The company filed a WARN layoff notice today with the state Department of Labor. The layoffs follow the shutdown in May of the company’s blowmolding department, which affected six individuals. The Mississauga, Ont.-based company announced a year ago it shutdown its Buffalo manufacturing site by the end of 2011, eliminating 260 jobs. Operations have been slowly shifting to the company’s Mississauga facility. The shutdown was blamed on slow growth in the pharmaceutical outsourcing market and the global economic downturn.

HSBC Bank USA has been actively soliciting a buyer for its upstate branches. The likely bidders for HSBC's upstate New York branch network have remained quiet as of Friday, June 17th, days after the reported deadline for submitting initial offers passed. HSBC is the largest bank in Western New York, with 71 branches and over $13 billion in deposits in the eight-county area. Besides its branches and related branch administration, HSBC also has its regional headquarters in Buffalo, as well as corporate finance, technology, audit, corporate real estate, customer service and upstate commercial banking functions. The bank declined to break down the total employee base to indicate how many workers are actually tied to branches. That leaves many of the bank's more than 5,000 local employees -- including more than 530 working in area branches -- worried about their futures.

Labor Disputes

New this Month

While contract negotiations continue with the three unions representing nearly 8,000 Kaleida Health employees, the workers have agree to extend the existing master contract that was scheduled to expire at midnight May 31. The existing agreement will be extended through June 27th to complete bargaining on outstanding items. About 3,000 workers picketed outside of Buffalo General Hospital on June 6th. The three unions informed Kaleida Health on June 14th they have decided to bring a strike authorization to a vote June 28. Contract negotiations between Kaleida Health and the unions — Local 1168, Communications Workers of America; 1199 Service Employees International Union; and the International Union of Operating Engineers, all of which negotiate collectively — began in March and stretched into June through contract extensions. They notified Kaleida Health late Monday of the decision to hold a strike-authorization vote. Kaleida has 8,000 employees, with 7,700 represented by the three unions. Kaleida has avoided a massive potential strike, reaching a tentative contract agreement after 4 months of negotiations. The agreement between Communications Workers of America, (CWA 1168), the International Union of Operating Engineers (Local 17), and 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, is for a new two-year Master Bargaining Agreement, which covers more than 8,000 unionized employees. The contract must now be ratified by the union membership in the coming weeks.

The Buffalo News management has put further strains on its relations with its largest union, the Buffalo Newspaper Guild CWA-Local 31026. In the contract proposal, the team is seeking ways to cut $1.8 million in costs through staff reductions along with cutbacks in wages and benefits. The cuts could translate to between 20 and 25 cuts in the newsroom staff. The union’s contract expires on July 31.

Unionized workers at HealhNow New York took to the streets in their latest protests of the company’s lockout following expiration of their contract in late April. Members of the Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 212 were joined by 11 other area unions in protest, as more than 100 workers picketed HealthNow’s downtown Buffalo (Erie County) headquarters for three hours. For more than a month, 390 skilled workers have been locked out of their jobs while less experienced people are fielding calls and processing claims. Negotiations restarted last month with six bargaining sessions thus far. The next negotiation is slated for June 8th.

Union members who agreed to a wage freeze to stem job losses in the Ken-Ton School District (Erie County)claim they’ve been betrayed with additional layoffs that weren’t part of the agreement. Dozens of members of the Ken- Ton School Employees Association showed up at Tuesday’s School Board meeting, with several speaking out against the unexpected layoff of 14 members of the support staff. The ranks of the 800-plus members include teacher’s aides. The additional layoffs are the result of changes in special-education enrollment; updated figures were learned after the KTSEA vote.

Health-care workers at three area nursing homes have settled new contracts in recent weeks. The three-year collective bargaining agreements cover more than 400 members of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. The nursing homes involved are: Absolut at Gasport, 55 workers; Oakwood Nursing Home; 185 workers; and Newfane Rehabilitation Center; 160 workers.

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