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Western New York, November 2012

Business Expansions

New this Month

Empire Genomics, a company that develops tests to pinpoint whether a specific medical drug or treatment will help an individual patient, plans to hire 50 new employees over the next five years at is offices on the edge of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus in Buffalo (Erie County). The new workers will to conduct, manufacture and market a new test meant to determine the best form of treatment for multiple myeloma, a blood-based cancer.

Brown Electric has officially moved its headquarters from its longtime home in the City of Tonawanda (Erie County) to a newly-constructed building in Pendleton (Niagara County). The move will consolidate all of its operations into one site and hopes to hire at least 10 new workers.

Fast-growing Buffalo-based (Erie County) debt collection agency Mercantile Adjustment has acquired rival Creditors Interchange. The purchase of the Cheektowaga-based agency creates a combined firm with more than 500 employees and offices in five states and Canada. A news release from the Mercantile Adjustment Bureau does not disclose what will happen to Creditor’s Interchange employees or operations.

General Motors’ Tonawanda (Erie County) engine plant has begun adding to its workforce as the plant gets ready to begin production on the new Gen 5 engine line. All total, GM’s investment in the Gen 5 small-block is expected to create or retain more than 1,600 jobs in five North American plants, including 700 locally. As of November 1, 110 workers have joined the plant. Another 30 will be added by December 3, and 30 more will be hired by January 2, 2013.

Welded Tube USA, a subsidiary of Welded Tube of Canada, has finalized an agreement to buy 45 acres in Lackawanna’s (Erie County) Tecumesh Business Park. Construction is underway and is expected to be finished in February of next year and could lead to more than 100 new jobs when completed.

The Buffalo Niagara Region hosted a series of events to help prospective entrepreneurs their ideas to the marketplace. Buffalo’s first Startup Weekend coincides with the national Startup Weekend and Global Entrepreneurship Week. The 54-hour event, which began on Friday November 16th at Medaille College, offered would-be business owners the chance to work in teams, receive feedback and mentoring from experts and incubator space. Buffalo’s Startup Weekend is meant to help technology companies get off the ground and is aimed at people who have an idea for new computer software, Smartphone applications or mobile technologies. Close to 100 people registered for the 3 day event.

HealtheLink is continuing to grow its clinical information exchange with the addition of Beechwood Continuing Care in Getzville (Erie County). Beechwood becomes the second long-term care facility to join the network. HealtheLink’s exchange connects patient information from more than 400,000 local individuals to over 2,000 physicians who have opted into the network.

A former school in Buffalo (Erie County) known as Riverside Academy will be the site of a $20 million transformation by DePaul Key Housing. A formal ground breaking on the Riverside Apartments construction project was held on November 14th. The developer is constructing 68 low-income apartments, 45 of them for people who receive mental health treatment. The school’s auditorium will be preserved for community use. The apartments, which are scheduled to be completed in early 2014, will create more than 350 construction jobs and 40 permanent jobs related to human services for residents and around the clock building security.

A Washington Street property in downtown Buffalo (Erie County) was purchased for $1.2 million by The University @ Buffalo. The university is buying up properties to clear out for construction of its downtown medical school.

Rich Products Corp. is investing $18.45 million in its Niagara Street Headquarters in Buffalo (Erie County). The company is revamping its customer innovation center which will include new culinary research center. Work on the project is expected to start this winter and be completed by the first quarter of 2014. The investment, which is being financed privately by Rich Products, the region’s largest privately held company, and incentives offered by the Empire State Development Corp., will retain 651 workers and add 17 new workers to the company. (November 26, 2012-Business First) The region’s first Hyatt Place branded hotel has been targeted for a vacant parcel behind the Lord Amherst Hotel in Amherst (Erie County). Iskalo Development Corp, which last year acquired the latter property, are working with Amherst officials on the proposed 137-room, six-story hotel. The hotel, along with the recently renovated Lord Amherst and Sonoma Grill, will anchor a hospitality-based complex. Construction is expected to begin next spring and be opened by the summer of 2014.

LongHorn Steakhouse is preparing to open its first Buffalo area location next month, and has signed a lease to bring a second restaurant to the region. A former Borders bookstore on Walden Ave. in Cheektowaga (Erie County) will be redeveloped into the steakhouse and is expected to open early next year.

Large portions of the former Bethlehem Steel property in Lackawanna (Erie County) could be ready for major private sector investments in the next few years, due to the relocation of a short line rail line that services much of the land. A complex multi-party agreement has cleared the way for the Erie County Industrial Development Agency to move ahead with long-stated plans of moving an existing South Buffalo Railway line back from its current location and deeper into the property. The relocated line will open an estimated 400 acres of prime real estate. The Bethlehem Steel property has already landed one new tenant, Welded Tube, which will bring 125 new jobs. All of the rail work should be completed by the fall of 2013.

Despite giving layoff notices to 60 employees in downtown Buffalo (Erie County), HSBC Bank USA N.A. is currently hiring for approximately 100 positions in commercial banking, mortgage underwriting, and information management and call center operations. The bank employs about 3,000 people in the region.

QMC Technologies, a Depew (Erie County) company that makes stainless steel machined parts, is getting almost $90,000 in tax breaks from the Erie County industrial Development Agency for its $575,000 expansion project that will add three new jobs to its workforce.

West Herr Automotive Group is expanding again in Amherst with the acquisition of a former construction company property on Millersport Hwy. The property includes a 5,400-square-foot building that tentatively will be a new dealership.

A combination of incentives helped sway PHH Mortgage Corp. to move ahead with plans for a new back office servicing center in Amherst (Erie County). PHH will move from its current location in Depew and has promised to retain 400 jobs and potentially create another 400. The firm, which acquired the mortgage operations from HSBC bank, had considered a number of sites, both locally and outside the region before selecting the Amherst site. Construction is expected to start this spring and the building should be completed by 2014.

A former First Niagara Bank retail branch in Snyder (Erie County) is set to reopen next year as a Lake Shore Savings Bank. Lake Shore Bancorp Inc. the Dunkirk-based parent company of the bank purchased the building. The branch is one of five First Niagara offices that closed following First Niagara’s acquisition of HSBC Bank USA. The office will become Lake Shore’s 11th retail branch location and is expected to open in the second quarter of 20163 pending regulatory approval.

The former Sheehan Memorial Hospital was purchased at a Bankruptcy Court auction for $2 million by lone bidder McGuire Development Corp. McGuire executives hope to keep the property as a medical-related facility by adding a medical practice and an organ donor company as anchor tenants while expanding the McGuire Group’s certified nursing program at the location. Plans for reusing the property began immediately but can take up to three-six months.

Business Contractions

New this Month

TNiagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster presented his 2013 “disaster budget” to the City Council on November 1st. Because of the holdup of casino cash, the budget will raise property taxes and layoff 82 seasonal workers and 20 full and part-time employees. The proposed $83 million budget, which is $2.4 million less than the previous year, spares firefighters and police offers from layoffs.

Economics and market viability has prompted developer Ciminelli Real Estate Co. to drop plans for a proposed 92-room hotel that would have been an anchor to the Conventus Building, a medical office building it is proposing for the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The Amherst (Erie County) based company will still move ahead though with plans on developing. The Conventus building will be six stories and 287,000-square-feet. Kaleida Health has agreed to lease 85,000-square-feet of the building to house medical offices and ambulatory services, while UBMD is leasing 60,000-square-feet of space for practical and clinical research.

Hostess Brands Inc., the maker of Wonder Bread and Twinkies, will shut down and liquidate-after it received final approval for its wind-down plans in bankruptcy court on November 29th. The Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union went on strike Friday, November 9th, after a judge imposed contract concession that 92 percent of the union’s workers rejected. Hostess has already closed 3 of its 36 plants permanently, blaming the strike. A distribution center in Amherst (Erie County) employs 38 people. The company said it is in talks with 110 potential buyers for its brands.

The proposed 2013 budget in Niagara County would raised the tax levy by 3.7 percent and cut 40 jobs, most of them vacant positions. The job cuts include 35 full-time, four part-time and one seasonal job.

HSBC USA N.A. has given layoff notices to approximately 60 employees in downtown Buffalo (Erie County), following a reorganization of the financial institution. The jobs, some of which are being transferred to an unnamed third party vendor, primarily impact mailroom, money center and marketing division employees. Specific job end-dates vary according to position.

Labor Disputes

New this Month

Hundreds of Buffalo Firefighters gathered on the steps of City Hall in Buffalo (Erie County) on Thursday, November 8th for a rally in protest of working without a contract since the last one expired in 2001. City of Buffalo Police and teachers have also been without a contract since 2001.

A tentative contract agreement has been reached with the Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Sherriff Timothy Howard with the Police Benevolent Association. About 140 members of the county union that represents road patrol deputies in the Sheriff’s office were expected to vote on the proposal. The agreement would cover the period between January 1, 2009-December 31, 2016. The union is one of seven county unions currently working under expired contacts.

A contract extension between the Village of Lakewood and the Town of Busti (Chautauqua County) will continue police services in both municipalities. Since June, officials from both Lakewood and Busti have met several times to discuss a new contract agreement. Village officials want to enter into negotiations to reach a long-term contract with the town officials.

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