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Western New York, March 2012

Business Expansions

New this Month

Mighty Taco has reached an agreement for a new site in North Tonawanda (Niagara County). The fast-food restaurant will open in late summer or early fall of this year. It will be the company’s 21st location in the area.

LongHorn Steakhouse has selected a site in the Quaker Crossing Plaza in Orchard Park (Erie County) for its first area restaurant. The restaurant should open in the next 12 months. The Orlando-based chain has over 370 restaurants in 35 states.

Greenpac Mill LLC has begun to develop its new Niagara Falls (Niagara County) facility and has pledged to use as much local labor and material as possible when constructing its plant. Greenpac manufactures high performance, energy-efficient, light weight liner boards that are sold to corrugated box manufacturers. The company hopes to create 110 new jobs and the construction of its plant could employ as many as 400 workers.

The new Kohl’s store in Olean (Cattaraugus County) held its grand opening on March 7th. The outlet is one of eight new stores that the company will be opening around the country to mark its 50th anniversary. The new store will be the 51st in New York and will employ around 130 people.

Two Canadian companies are moving to Western New York with help from the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise. Avanti Advanced Manufacturing, a plastic injection molding company, and Blockbuster Costumes, a costume and party supply distributor, have both committed to relocate to the region. Blockbuster will hire around 10 local workers. In November of 2011 the BNE closed a deal with Nutrablend Foods, a Canadian company specializing in formulating protein drinks and sports supplements. Together the three companies will invest more than $1 million in the region and create 35 jobs.

An increase in orders has fueled a move for the Chudy Paper Co. Inc. from its longtime Buffalo home to Cheektowaga (Erie County). The move will take place over the next few months. The plant distributes a wide variety of paper-based products and currently has 67 employees. Chudy will be adding employees, although that number has yet to be determined.

A Buffalo developer will reopen a Kettle’s Bar in East Aurora (Erie County) as the American Grille next month. All of the food that the restaurant serves will be purchased locally through area businesses and farmers.

KeyBank N.A. is preparing to open another branch in Western New York next month. The Lancaster (Erie County) branch will be the 9th new KeyBank to open in the region since mid-2009. KeyBank is planning to buy 37 HSBC branches from First Niagara Financial Group Inc. in a deal that is expected to close later this year. Seven employees will be at the new branch.

A 6-year-old lawsuit aimed at blocking the development and operation of the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino was dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge William Skretny on March 14th. The Warren case is separate from a similar one filed by Citizens Against Casino Gambling in Erie County that also seeks to close down the casino. That case is still being reviewed. Daniel Warren, an area resident filed the lawsuit back in 2006.

The University at Buffalo is asking the state to designate a second center of Excellence in Buffalo (Erie County) as another opportunity for academia and to boost private industry and job growth in the region. UB has said for now it only wants the designations, which will help the university when applying for federal grants and recruiting faculty. UB researchers have proposed a Center of Excelling in Materials Informatics that would focus on developing synthetic materials, in light of global concerns over shortages of key minerals essential to new technologies.

A new contract will result in the hiring of 30 new workers for the P&A Group. The third party benefits administrator, located in downtown Buffalo (Erie County), will oversee the state of North Carolina’s Flexible Spending Account for a three-year period.

Kaleida Health has extended its deadline for submissions for the $1 million award for developer’s proposals for the re-use of the Millard Fillmore Gates Circle property until May 4th. The hospital will shut down on March 28; one day after Kaleida completes the transition of all services shifted to Gates Vascular Institute and the adjacent Buffalo General Medical Center just two miles away in downtown Buffalo (Erie County). The property includes 900,000 square feet of buildings on nearly 10 acres of land. Kaleida issued a national request for proposals for re-use of the property.

Fidelis Care has openings for more than three dozen new jobs at its Amherst (Erie County) facility. The nonprofit health insurer is hiring as a result of the expansion of services into Chemung County. The addition of the County brings the total of counties served to 59 across the state. There are three applications pending in other counties.

The $130 million expansion plan of the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino was announced on March 27th. Construction of the casino was halted nearly four years ago because of the economic downturn. The new plans do not include the hotel or four restaurants that were part of the original plan. The new single story casino will include an American-style grill, four-story parking garage and about 800 slots, double what the casino currently holds. About 600 construction jobs and 500 casino jobs would be created. The Seneca Nation of Indians hopes to complete an expanded downtown casino by summer of 2013.

Low-cost power has been awarded to Anubis Buffalo for an expansion from the New York Power Authority. The copper and brass rowing mill in Buffalo (Erie county) is expanding operations as its relocates some of the company’s overseas production here. 74 new jobs would be adding to its existing workforce of 644 with a total investment of $4.7 million.

FMC Corp is expanding production equipment at its Tonawanda (Erie County) facility with an allocation of low-cost power from the NYS Power Authority. The $12 million capital investment will add 16 new jobs to its 172-person workforce.

Nulife, the developer of the first industrial method to recycle glass from older televisions into usable products will receive low-cost power from the NYS Power Authority to expand into Chautauqua County or within the 30-mile Expansion Power Allocation Zone. The company will create 25 new jobs.

The Millennium Hotel in Cheektowaga (Erie County) will receive $275,000 in tax cuts from Erie County for a $5.5 million upgrade to the hotel. The upgrade will create 90 ‘club level’ rooms and add 23 full-time jobs over the next two years.

Eastman Machine Co. has been granted $42,000 in sales tax breaks. The company is planning to install new telephone and data transmission equipment, along with new production machinery on its Washington St. manufacturing facility in Buffalo (Erie County). The company, which currently has 120 employees, expects to add 20 jobs over the next two years.

Business Contractions

New this Month

A round of Pentagon cuts is reaching the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station (Niagara County) putting nearly 1,000 jobs on the chopping block. The Department of Defense is looking to cut $487 billion from its budget over the next 10 years. Figures released by the Air Force show they are looking to cut 987 positions from the base, with all of those cuts affecting Air National Guardsmen and civilians in the 107th Airlift Wing. The budget cutting plan will also shrink the number of C-130 aircraft, from 11 to 8. Currently, the Air Reserve Station employs close to 3,500 hundred people and has an estimated economic impact of $168 million for the area economy. The Air Force is cutting just under 1,000 jobs across New York State, 99% of which are in Niagara Falls.

The Olean City School District (Cattaraugus County) will be shifting hundreds of students to new schools in the fall, after the closing of two elementary schools. The two remaining elementary schools are slated to close in 2015 if voters approve a project to modify the current middle school to accommodate elementary-age students.

Three of the region’s major school districts grappled with their school budgets that will result in either massive layoffs, class size increases, or both.

• At least 49 teaching jobs, and additional support staff would be eliminated under the latest draft of the 2012-13 budget of the Ken-Ton School District. Support staff reductions amount to 30-40 jobs.

• The Williamsville district plans to close a $2.4 million budget gap with larger class sizes, fewer classroom supplies, and cuts to summer school and elementary health classes.

• Frontier Central Schools have already called for cutting the equivalent of 40 teaching positions, 17 support staff and 2.4 administrative positions. Even with these cuts, the district still has more than $900,000 in cuts to make and no plan on how to cut the gap.

AES Corp has shut down electric production at its Somerset (Niagara County) power plant. AES Eastern Energy filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection in late December 2011. A prospective bidder needed to register a proposal by March 19th. This is the 3rd recent shutdown of the plant. The plant employs 115 workers.

The Buffalo School Board says a plan will preserve jobs, but now it is up to the teachers themselves to decide. The Buffalo School Board is concerned about losing $9.3 million in federal grants, should Buffalo teachers insist on factoring out absentee students from teachers evaluations. Under the new state system, a teacher’s evaluation will be based 60 percent on the teacher’s performance and 40 percent on student academic achievement. The teacher’s do not think it is fair to include students with high absentee rates when evaluating a teacher’s performance in the classroom. If the district loses the funding, at least 59 teachers will lose their jobs.

Crawford Furniture is going out of business less than a year after filing bankruptcy protection with the intent of reorganizing. The 129-year-old Jamestown (Chautauqua County) based furniture maker will conduct a public sale of all finished wood furniture from its inventory in April. The company made and sold furniture nationwide through various retailers, including its own stores until recently when the company ran into financial trouble due to competition and the recession. The company closed its retail stores and ceased manufacturing in December 2011.

The owner of the coal-fired power plant in Dunkirk (Chautauqua County) is threatening to close the plant within 180 days unless state regulators determine that its shutdown would hurt the reliability of the state’s electricity supplies. NRG Energy filed a notice to mothball the plant, one of the state’s biggest power plants with a generating capacity of 535 megawatts-because low natural gas prices have made it uncompetitive in today’s lower-cost electricity market. The plant currently employs 145 workers after shedding about 50 jobs last year. The plant’s unionized workers are represented by Local 97, International Brotherhood of Electrical workers.

HSBC Bank USA N.A. plans to shut down its retail branch in the HSBC Tower Center in downtown Buffalo (Erie County) and move all accounts to the Rand Building Branch. The planned closure is April 13th. The closure is part of the bank’s strategy to withdraw from retail banking in Upstate New York. The 10 employees who work at the tower branch will relocate to other branches. First Niagara Financial Group Inc. is set to acquire HSBC’s retail network May 18th.

Grubb & Ellis Management Services Inc. has issued a WARN notice with the NYS Department of Labor. The commercial real estate services firm will close its Tonawanda (Erie County) site which will result in 39 layoffs.

Sheehan Health Network’s board of directors announced on March 24th that the hospital in Buffalo (Erie County) will be closing. The hospital has been in operation since 1888. The board will file a closure plan with the New York State Department of Health. The hospital currently has 150 employees.

Millard Fillmore Gates officially closed its doors on March 28th, ending 140 years of medical care at one of Buffalo’s (Erie County) oldest hospitals. The last services remaining-the stroke program and emergency department will close as of 6 a.m. Wednesday, as staff, patients and equipment shift to other locations, including the new Gates Vascular Institute downtown. Nearly 1,000 employees have been merged into other Kaleida Hospitals. Members of Local 1168, Communications Workers of America, which represents nurses, professionals and technical staff, were concerned about how many jobs would be lost in the transition. IN the end, only 73 employees bumped into Millard Fillmore Suburban, and 82 retired or resigned, leaving the bulk of the staff to make the transition to the new campus. The process may still result in a handful of layoffs.

Labor Disputes

New this Month

Part-time sheriff’s deputies will receive retroactive pay increases thanks to a tentative agreement between Chautauqua County and the Civil Service Employees Association. CSEA Unit 6322, which represents the deputies, reached an agreement through mediation with the state Public Employment Relations Board. The contract for CSEA Unit 6322 expired in December 2009. There are currently five expired county contracts, including CSEA Unit 6322, the Sheriff’s Supervisors Association, the Deputy Sheriff’s Association, the Sheriff’s Employee’s Association, and CSEA Unit 6300.

Allied Waste of Buffalo’s union truckers started a work stoppage on Friday, March 23rd in support of their striking Teamsters Brothers in Alabama. The company is mostly non-union, including most of their employees and all of their supervisors. 95 Teamsters drivers went back to their jobs on Tuesday, March 27th.

Registered Nurses at Bertrand Chaffee Hospital and Jennie B Richmond Nursing Home in Springville (Erie County) ratified a new three-year agreement. The nurses are members of the New York State Nurses Association

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