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Western New York, July 2012

Business Expansions

New this Month

Mighty Taco’s first ever downtown Buffalo (Erie County) location held its grand opening on Monday, July 9, 2012. The Chippewa Street location will employ about 24 people.

Construction of 49 townhouses in the “Fruit Belt” neighborhood in Buffalo (Erie County) is slated to start in September. The $16 million project will be overseen by the St. John Fruit Belt Community Development Corp. and will see 17 buildings constructed on various parcels. Through a workforce development program, the project has a goal of 60 percent minority participation, which will include training for unemployed Fruit Belt neighborhood residents for jobs that are in demand.

A 100-room Comfort Inn and Suites in Niagara Falls (Niagara County) was proposed by local hotelier Ali Riziek to the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency. The hotel would service people using Niagara Falls International Airport and the Fashion Outlets Shopping Center. The hotel would be located on Niagara Falls Boulevard and would also construct a chain restaurant. The $1.4 million project would employ 30 people.

Three new hotels, all within a short distance of the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, are expected to be constructed in the coming months. Combined, 400 new rooms will be constructed. Included in the construction will be the nearly 153-room, six- story Aloft Hotel, which a Canadian development firm has been working on for nearly a decade. It will be the company’s first hotel site in the immediate Buffalo Niagara region. Construction of a four-story, 127-room Hampton Inn will begin in the fall. The Townplace Suites will be a 119-room, four-story hotel and construction is slated to begin in the fall as well.

Checker’s Drive In is targeting the Buffalo (Erie County) area as part of an aggressive expansion campaign that will see the chain move into new markets. The Tampa-based restaurant is considering opening as many as 20 new Checker’s sites in the immediate Buffalo Niagara region.

A new federal grant of nearly $3 million from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research will support nanotechnology research at the University of Buffalo. The money will allow an international research team to design nanomaterials whose internal structure changes shape in response to stimuli such as heat or light. The researchers will use the computational capabilities of UB’s supercomputing center, the Center for Computational Research.

San Francisco-based T.Y. Lin International has agreed to lease the first floor office space in the 100 South Building, a nearly 100 year old building that sits near Buffalo City Hall. The firm specializes in engineering, architecture and land surveying.The building which had sat vacant for more than a decade was restored by Frey Electric Construction Co, with more than $6 million worth of investments. The building is anchored by 26 market rate apartments that are 100 percent leased.

Welded Tube, a Canadian firm, has agreed to invest more than $50 million in building its first U.S. operations in Lackawanna (Erie County). The manufacturer of cold-formed carbon and low-alloy tubular-steel products is proposing a series of three projects that will ultimately see the firm create 121 new jobs. The company is negotiating the purchase of a 40-acre parcel inside the Tecumesh Business Park where it will develop a 100,000-square-foot plant and then in separate phases, a 30,000 sq. ft. pipe testing plant and a 34,000 sq. ft finishing plant. The company hopes to have the first phase of the operation running by August 2013.

Dinosaur BBQ will arrive in Buffalo next spring. The popular Syracuse-based restaurant has agreed to lease a building in downtown Buffalo (Erie County).

Salvatore’s Grand Hotel is planning a $2 million-plus expansion in Lancaster (Erie County). The expansion, which should be finished by November, will add a fifth floor with 19 rooms, due to the increasing demand of guests, particularly Canadian shoppers.

Panera Bread, a popular bakery-café chain, is planning to move into the current Blockbuster Movie location on Elmwood Ave. in downtown Buffalo (Erie County). However, the financially troubled movie chain has not officially closed the location. The restaurant chain has submitted plans to the Buffalo Planning board and if approved could be open as early as next year.

The ECIDA has approved tax breaks for the West Buffalo Charter School in downtown Buffalo (Erie County). The school, in conjunction with Ellicott Development, is converting the former building into a school that will house 162 students from Kindergarten through second grade, with plans to add a third grade next year, and a fourth grade within two years. The school is expected to open this fall and will employ 28 full-time and five part-time workers once it is fully operational.

The region’s first Country Inn & Suites has officially opened its doors in West Seneca (Erie County). The site is part of an aggressive growth campaign the owner has in line for the Country Inn chain.

Construction of an Olive Garden restaurant in Lakewood (Chautauqua County) took another step forward as the village planning board officially approved the site plan. The restaurant will employ about 34 people when completed.

Sears Holding Corp., parent company of Kmart and Sears, has added more stores to its list of closings, but again, local stores have been spared. The initial list, released in January, had 81 stores listed, but none were in the Western New York region.

Firehouse Subs, a Jacksonville-based sub chain, has opened its first restaurant in the Buffalo (Erie County) area. The company is expected to open at least 10 locations in the immediate Buffalo Niagara region in the coming months.

The Clarence Industrial Development Agency approved more than a half a million dollars in tax exemptions in for two development projects. Niagara County Produce is planning to build a new $6 million market, greenhouse and warehouse near its existing facility. Once the new facility is completed, the old site will be torn down. The business plans to add 16 full and part-time jobs to its payroll once the project is completed.

Niagara Asset Management is planning a $1 million retail/office project in the hamlet of Clarence Hollow.

The Wyndham Garden Hotel & Suites and Apartments, an Ellicott Development project valued at $28 million, is rising in Amherst (Erie County). Concept Construction Corp has erected the steel framework for the six-story structure. Construction began in April and is expected to be completed by winter 2013. The number of workers at the site on any given day varies from 23-30.

The former AM&A’s flagship store in downtown Buffalo (Erie County) may come back to life by downtown developer Rocco Termini. The Erie County Industrial Development Agency has already received a formal inquiry for an incentive package that may help finance the project. The IDA will hold a public hearing to consider the request. Termini, who just completed the redevelopment of the Hotel Lafayette, said his investment group wants to spend approximately $60 million to renovate the eight-story, 350,000-squre-foot building into a mixed use facility with a combination of hotel rooms, apartments, retail and offices.

Lufkin-RMT has confirmed that it will add more workers to its Wellsville (Allegany County) plant. The bearings maker company is expanding its operations and will hire more skilled workers with the help of an $850,000 grant from the Allegany County Industrial Development Agency. Currently the plant employs 60 workers, most of whom are skilled machinists. The company said that number could double in the next several years.

The Niagara Development Corp. is helping fund a $10.9 million project to rehabilitate the Days Inn Hotel on Main Street in Niagara Falls (Niagara County). The hotel will be redesigned on the exterior and all 168 rooms will be renovated. If the project is approved by the city, the conversion is slated to be completed in 2014.

LA Fitness, one of the fastest growing gym chains, plans to open four Buffalo-area (Erie County) locations in 2013, creating about 200 new jobs. The expansion will begin early next year with the opening of two facilities, one in Buffalo and one in Clarence. The centers will be the two largest in the area. Each club will have 45-55 employees.

Z80 Labs, a business incubator designed to jump-start the local high-tech entrepreneurial culture, held its grand opening on Monday, July 23rd. New York State approved a $4 million grant to help the incubator get started, with most of that money earmarked to help companies after they graduate from the incubator. Z80 Labs will offer facility services, membership and access.

The U.S. Postal Service announced this week (July 23rd) that it will be hiring 45 temporary mail handlers for the Buffalo Processing and Distribution Center (Erie County). The processing center was saved from moving to Rochester this past May, saving 700 jobs.

An upscale eatery will open in the Theatre district in downtown Buffalo. Perfetto, set to open in the fall, will be the fourth restaurant to move into the location. Three others have failed in the last eight years.

Business Contractions

New this Month

The coal-fired power plant in Dunkirk (Chautauqua County) can mothball more than 70% of its generating capacity this fall and could stop producing electricity entirely in less than three years without hurting the reliability of the state’s power supplies. As a result, the plant’s owner, NRG Energy is expected to be cleared to move ahead with plans to close two of the Dunkirk plant’s biggest generating units within two months and could result in the end of all power generation at the facility by mid-2015, if not earlier. The shutdown of the plant threatens the jobs of 145 people at the power plant and would jeopardize $8.5 million in payments NRG currently makes to local schools and government.

AFA Foods in Ashville (Chautauqua County) will close by October 16th, laying off 100 workers. The meat processing plant has been linked to the recent pink slime reports that made many institutions and businesses cancel orders.

Labor Disputes

New this Month

Members of the Teamsters Local 264 went on strike at the Sorrento Cheese plant in Buffalo (Erie County). The company has been negotiating a new labor contract with the Teamsters union for several months, covering 257 workers at the plant. The union and the company were at an impasse in negotiations. Workers approved a new three-year contract on July 11th.

Members of CWA Local 1133, Service Technical, Clerical Bargaining Unit, approved a new contract with Mercy Hospital in South Buffalo (Erie County) on July 9th. The new contract will cover the workers thought June 3, 2016.

The nurses at Mercy Hospital in South Buffalo (Erie County) voted down a new agreement July 9th paving the way for a possible strike. The 752 nurses, members of CWA Local 1133, would all be involved if a strike happens. Union officials will meet with hospital management and a mediator to look at the issues which caused the vote with the RN Bargaining Unit to fail.

A tentative agreement has been reached between Erie County and CSEA Local 815. The 2,400 or so union workers have been working without a contract since 2006. The agreement now needs to be approved by the union membership before it would become finalized. The union and County had reached an agreement in 2010, but was rejected by the union members.

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