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Western New York, January 2012

Business Expansions

New this Month

AES Corp has reached a preliminary deal to sell its coal-burning power plant in Somerset (Niagara County) to a group of bondholders in a $300 million deal that is part of its bankruptcy filing. AES Eastern Energy Corp. filed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy organization, blaming a depressed power-generation market in New York that deeply cut into the revenues generated by the power plant. The settlement preserves the jobs of about 211 people. The deal should close by the end of March.

KeyBank is buying 26 of the HSBC bank branches in the Buffalo Niagara region that First Niagara Financial Group was forced to sell as part of its acquisition of HSBC’s upstate Branch Network.

Kohl’s department store is opening a new location in Olean (Cattaraugus County). The new location, which will open in March, is looking to hire 130 workers to fill positions such as register operators, department associates, customer service associates and freight unloaders.

The English Pork Pie Co.; a Cheektowaga (Erie County) food company that had been on the verge of moving to Ohio last summer, is staying in the Buffalo region. The company has grown rapidly since it opened in 2008 and outgrew its current 6,000-square foot space. The company is moving to a new 37,000 square-foot site in Buffalo. Currently the pie production company employs 50, and is expected to double its work force within the next two years.

Dunkin Donuts is continuing its expansion in Western New York with the opening of two new sites. The stores, located in Sanborn (Niagara County) and Grand Island (Erie County) will create approximately 40 jobs. The new locations will bring the total number of Dunkin Donuts location in the Buffalo Market to 40.

First Niagara Financial Group is selling 27 more upstate branches, including a half dozen in Western New York to Community Bank System and Financial Institution, which owns Five Star Bank, in the wake of its acquisition of HSBC Bank’s upstate New York banking network. Nearly all of the workers at the branches begin sold are expected to join the banks that are acquiring those offices.

The U.S. Postal Service’s William Street processing center, where about 700 jobs are in limbo while officials decide whether to close the facility, is hiring. The facility is hiring up to 35 temporary workers to cope with seasonal flows of postal delivery. Such hires, sanctioned under a 2011 union contract, help with the Christmastime rush and summertime vacation periods.

Steuben Foods was approved for a $2.5 million grant from the Empire State Development Corp. that will cover a portion of the cost of machinery and equipment the company is purchasing and installing to expand production of a low-acid aseptic and extended shelf life food and beverage products. The $26.2 million project at the private label food manufacturer in Elma (Erie County) will retain 426 jobs and create 150 new jobs.

Buffalo Lafayette LLC, which was formed to renovate the Hotel Lafayette, will receive up to $2 million from the Empire State Development Corp. to cover a portion of construction and renovation costs. The total cost of the project is $19.2 million and will create 70 new jobs and retain another 30.

Tim Hortons opened a new location in Alden (Erie County) on January 27th. The opening created 25 full and part-time jobs.

A 24-hour Best Fitness will open in late spring or early summer in Buffalo (Erie County) in the former Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant location. The restaurant closed in May 2010 after a decade in operation. The gym will employ 15 to 20 people.

Business Contractions

New this Month

A Cheektowaga (Erie County) burger restaurant owned by a former Fuddruckers franchisee has closed. The Buffalo Burger Company posted a sign on the door to notify customers of the closing.

An iconic North Tonawanda (Niagara County) pizzeria abruptly closed its doors on January 4th after 40 years in business. Pizza Junction filed for bankruptcy protection in 2010 and a last minute sale of the business to a new owner fell through.

Northrop Grumman is laying off 94 workers at its Amherst Systems business unit effective January 31. In October of last year, employees were informed of plans to eliminate a total of an estimated 800 positions at the Los-Angeles based company’s electronic systems sector facilities across the country. The layoffs are across the board and involve virtually all organizations and functions including engineering, manufacturing, and various administrative support positions.

VWR Education closed its Science Kit warehouse in the Town of Tonawanda (Erie County) on January 19. The company moved the work to Rochester putting 40 people out of work.

First Niagara Financial Group is laying off as many as 346 assistant branch managers throughout its four-state franchise as it adjusts its branch staffing to meet its customers’ current and expected needs. The Buffalo-based banking company confirmed that it is cutting the No. 2 position in all of its branches because the post is not necessary. After the latest cuts, the bank will have more than 6,000 employees across four states.

The Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station finds its future in question once again under a Pentagon budget blueprint released on January 27th. The Air Force will retire 65 of the kind of transport planes that are based in the Falls, though it has not yet indicated which bases would be losing the planes. Defense Secretary Leon Lanetta has asked congress to to approve a new base closure commission to decide how to consolidate the nation’s numerous military bases. The last two base closure commissions proposed shuttering the Falls facility but determined campaigns by resident and federal lawmakers persuaded the commissions to reverse their decisions. The base, which employs 3,500 people, is Niagara County’s largest employer.

Labor Disputes

New this Month

Contract talks are under way between Medina Memorial Hospital and Local 1199 Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers East. The union represents 325 of the Niagara County hospitals employees. There are three separate bargaining units: registered nurses; licensed practical nurses and medical technicians; and service and maintenance workers. All three contracts ran out on December 31, 2011, but were extended until February 15 as the talks continue.

Workers at a Lockport (Niagara County) rehabilitation center will hold an informational picket on January 25 related to impending layoffs of workers slated to begin January 24. The Odd Fellow and Rebekah Rehabilitation and Health Care Center workers, members of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, have been working with management at the facility to identify cost saving measures to avoid possible layoffs. The picket will be held if a settlement is not reached on January 20. The 110 employees have delayed two scheduled wage increases and took a cut in hours, brining full time workers from 40 to 37.5 hours. The Old Niagara Road Facility in Lockport (Niagara County) employs a total of 175 full and part-time employees.

About 300 union members picketed a Niagara Falls (Niagara County) construction site over the weekend of January 22. The union members were protesting the hiring practices of Norampac, a Canadian firm that is building a new plant in the Falls. The project is being subsidized with more than $100 million in tax credits, low-cost power and grants from the state and its partners. Local labor leaders have complained for months about what they describe as Norampac’s lack of commitment to hiring local electricians, iron workers and other skilled trades members for the project.

Union representatives from 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East reached a tentative agreement with Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center after nearly four months of bargaining. The labor contract covers 29 employees, including physical therapists, occupational therapists, social workers, therapists and discharge planners. The agreement is subject to membership approval during a ratification vote on February 1st.

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