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Western New York, May 2011

Business Expansions

New this Month

First Niagara Financial Group, which last week announced plans to add 500 jobs in upstate new York over the next three years, said Wednesday, May 11th, that it will become the sole tenant of the restored and renovated Larkin U Building, starting in mid-July. The Buffalo bank will move 180 employees in various departments from three other locations in the region to the historic building downtown Buffalo (Erie County). The Larkin U Building still has the capacity to handle another 85 jobs.

Tonawanda Terminals, a facility owned by NOCO Energy Corp. of Tonawanda (Erie County), has opened a new biotreatment recycling facility that cleans “petroleum-impacted soil” to make it available for reuse. The facility gives gas stations, car dealers and property developers a new and cleaner option for disposing of soil polluted with gas or oil—besides dumping it into a landfill.

The Sheraton Hotel in Niagara Falls (Niagara County) will house a TGIFriday’s restaurant and sports bar. Canadian Niagara Hotels bought the former Crowne Plaza Hotel earlier this year. The 391-room hotel is the second largest in the city, trailing only the Seneca Niagara Hotel. The TGIF restaurant will open in late June.

GM has announced that it will add or keep 4,000 jobs in the U.S. by hiring new employees or calling back furloughed workers over the next year and a half. GM will spend $ 2 billion at 17 plants in eight states to create the new work. GM’s Town of Tonawanda Engine Plant is poised to increase its employees as the company installs two new engine lines. The two lines, announced last year, are set to into production in 2012 and early 2013. The plant currently has 623 active hourly workers and an additional 138 hourly workers on layoff. The site also has 154 salaried employees. Plant officials have said that the two new engine lines could push the site’s employment above the 1,000 mark, a figure which would include the return of workers presently on layoff.

Plans to turn an empty hotel in Buffalo (Erie County) into a $40 million apartment complex and “one-stop” wedding destination took a big step forward when a city agency approved an $800,000 loan. Developer Rocco Termini received the loan from the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency to renovate the landmark Hotel Lafayette. The renovations on the main floor of the building was hoped to be finished by October, but due to construction delays, the project should be completed in about a year.

M&T Bank Corp. will create 133 new jobs in Buffalo (Erie County) as a result of its purchase of Delaware-based Wilmington Trust Corp. The new jobs will be created in information technology, operations, finance, credit and customer service functions. These jobs are on top of the 5,000 that the bank already has in WNY, up by 1,800 since 2000.

The ECIDA approved $1.4 million in property, sales and mortgage recording tax incentives to support Niagara Transformer Corp. $8 million expansion project. The Cheektowaga (Erie County) manufacturer plans to build a 24,000-square-foot addition to allow for the production of transformers that are larger in scale and higher in voltage than is possible in its current facility. The project will add 14 new jobs to its current workforce of 66.

Olive Garden opened a new restaurant in Amherst (Erie County). The 7,441-square-foot restaurant will employ 165 people.

New York State is urging businesses to hire young people ages 14 to 21 for summer jobs. Summer Jobs Express is a $21 million program that will subsidizes the wages for at least five weeks-June 13 through September 30. Through a network of One-Stop Career Centers, Summer Jobs Express will provide the readiness training so that the employees will have basic skills when they start their jobs.

Falls Metal Recycling, a metals recycling company, is planning to open a facility on a Brownfield site in Niagara Falls (Niagara County). The company will receive 2,500 kilowatts of low-cost power as part of its $14.6 million project to build a recycling facility on a 14-acre site. The project is expected to create 45 new jobs.

A former restaurant in the Southtowns will be re-opening in August as Buffalo’s Best Grill. Buffalo’s Best Pizza and Wings and Buffalo’s Best Catering is expanding to the new location, having been in operation in Buffalo for more than 10 years. The new restaurant will have seating for 160 people and will hire between 40 and 50 people on a full and part time basis.

Business Contractions

New this Month

Metropark, a clothing and accessories store, will be closing all 69 of its stores including its location in the Galleria Mall in Cheektowaga (Erie County). The store opened when the shopping center added a new wing three years ago.

HSBC Holdings Plc began detailing elements of a massive cost-cutting and strategy initiative that could see the British bank sell its U.S. credit-card business and possibly shed some of its 475 U.S. branches, most of which are in New York state. The initial news poses a potential threat to Buffalo and Western New York, where HSBC is the largest bank, with more than 70 branches and over 5,000 employees in the eight-county area. The London-based banking giant said it plans to cut $2.5 billion to $3.5 billion in expenses globally over the next three years in a bid to become more efficient.

The Buffalo Board of Education adopted a 2011-12 budget that will actually cut 302 positions-most of them teachers-but reduces class-size increases for a few additional attendance teachers. 75 teachers will be transferred to the grant portion of the district’s budget, 67 positions may be accounted for through teacher retirements, leaving 160 positions to be cut, including 75 teacher’s aides and about 75 teachers The proposed Buffalo Schools budget for the coming school year included the reduction of 148 jobs throughout the district, including 84 teaching positions and seven teacher aide positions. 66 teachers took advantage of an early retirement incentive offered by the district.

Kaleida Health’s plan to close its Waterfront Health Care Center is on hold—for now. The state Department of health this week rejected Kaleida’s closure plan for the West Side (Erie County) long-term care facility. The DOH had initially approved a closure plan in April 2010 for the site, but Kaleida kept it open while it worked with community groups to find a buyer or another solution to keep it open. Earlier this year, Kaleida announced it had come to an agreement with a downstate nursing home operator to take over the site on May 1, but eh union rejected the offer, citing significant wage and benefit cuts. DOH approval is needed before issuing a 90-day notice to employees and the Department of Labor. 200 workers at the site will be affected.

Employees of Dresser-Rand manufacturing plant in Wellsville (Allegany County) have been out of work since May 13, when employees were sent home due to flooding in the plant. All employees are expected to return to work by the end of June, as the plant is being cleaned up from the flooding.

Labor Disputes

New this Month

BlueCross BlueShield of WNY union members will picket outside of Kleinhans Music Hall on May 10, 2011. The 390 members of the Office of Professional Employees International Union Local 212 have been locked out of their jobs since April 26, following contract expiration. All parties have agreed to meet via a federal mediator on May 13th.

Contract negotiations for 200 health workers at Bertrand Chaffee Hospital in Springville (Erie County) have moved into the next phase, with the addition of a federal mediator. 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and the New York state Nurses Association, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service joined negotiations on May 12 between the unions and the hospital. About 25 registered nurses, members of NYSNA are negotiating a full contract renewal. Their current agreement ends on May 15. 175 SEIU members are negotiating on economic terms left open last year when their three-year agreement was settled.

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