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Western New York, October 2012

Business Expansions

New this Month
A historic building in the Larkin business district in Buffalo (Erie County) could soon be brought back to life as a multi-tenant office building. The development team of Savarino Cos and FFZ Holdings will present their development plans at an October 16th community forum and the Buffalo Planning Board is expected to begin its review of the project when it meets on October 23rd. The entire project, which could start this winter, has an estimated cost of $35 million.

Kisling Interests LLC is moving forward with its plans to convert the former home of DamonMorey LLP law firm in Buffalo (Erie County) into high-end apartments and a pair of penthouse –style units. The building at 298 Main has been vacant since the law firm moved its offices to the new Avant Building. The project has been granted approval from the Buffalo Planning Board, clearing the way for work to begin on the $6 million project.

Ellicott Development Co. will officially open its latest area hotel in West Seneca (Erie County) on October 3rd. The hotel, the region’s first Country Inn & Suites, is part of the Carlson hotel and restaurant chain. The $12 million hotel project will create as many as 30 new jobs.

The 8th Annual Western New York Construction Career Days was held at the Operating Engineers Training Hall in Lakeview (Erie County). The two-day event is geared towards high school students and veterans, and gives them a first-hand look at what jobs in the trades entail. The prospects for employment in the trades are favorable as there is currently a shortage in the trades and will get worse, as the average age of current construction workers is 46.

Catholic Health is planning another renovation project at Mercy Hospital in Buffalo (Erie County). Plans filed with the Department of Health call for investing nearly $1.4 million to renovate procedure rooms and holding areas on the fourth floor of the hospital.

The Bonadio Group LLP has formed the Bonadio Construction Consultants Division, one that caters exclusively to the hard-hit construction industry. The company is now offering management consulting services to contractors and others who work in the construction field. The Bonadio Group is the sixth-largest CPA firm in Western New York, with 51 local CPA’s, and works with over 250 contractors across the state. The company plans to hire additional personnel to provide local construction consulting services.

Development team FFZ Holdings and Savarino Cos. have decided to move ahead with an upscale, market-rate apartment building on the site of the former Erie Freight House, a South Buffalo and Buffalo River landmark. In the next few weeks, City Officials are expected to begin their review process of the proposed $15 million project. The project is one of the first along the Ohio Street corridor and may lead the way for other private sector developments. This is the second restoration/redevelopment project that the company has announced in the last week.

The long-vacant 9 Genesee Street Building that overlooks Roosevelt plaza in Downtown Buffalo (Erie County) has been acquired by Genesee Block LLC. Tentative plans call for renovating the building’s upper floors into apartments, while tenants are being sought for the 1st floor. The deal is the latest in a series to take place along the 500 block of Main Street/Roosevelt Plaza downtown.

J. Christian Fashion Boutique opened its doors in the Market Arcade complex on Main Street in Buffalo (Erie County), marking the first new store to open in the historic building in recent years.

McMahon LLC has acquired the former Network Piping Building with plans by general contractor and woodworker David McMahon to move his company into the building. Growth by the company and of D&M Plywood, the company that McMahon shared lease space with, has prompted the move into its own space.

The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency approved an incentive package for JSK International Corp., the parent company that is undertaking the $23.6M renovation at the landmark Hotel Niagara in Niagara Falls (Niagara County). The 12-story hotel, which dates back to 1924, has been vacant for years. Once restored, the hotel will create 70 full-time and 85 part-time positions. In addition, the project will create more than 100 construction jobs. The 160-room hotel is scheduled to open in the summer of 2013.

Eastview Plaza in Amherst (Erie County) is planning an expansion to accommodate the areas second HomeGoods store, a TJ Maxx subsidiary. Benderson Development Co. has filed a proposal with the Amherst Planning Board seeking approval to add over 10,000-square-feet to house the store. Earlier this year, HomeGoods opened its first store in the area, in also in Amherst.

Catholic Health Systems has confirmed its plan to build its companies administrative headquarters in Downtown Buffalo (Erie County). Construction of its $46 million, 140,000-square-foot headquarters and training center will begin this fall with a formal groundbreaking on October 30th. The project, which is expected to be tenant-ready by the summer of 2014, will bring over 700 workers into the core of downtown Buffalo.

Sustainable Bio Power, a company that turns organic waste into electricity, will receive nearly $900,000 in tax breaks through the Erie County Industrial Development Agency to build a renewable energy facility in West Seneca (Erie County). The facility is expected to take about four months to build and is expected to have two to four full-time employees.

Wendt Manufacturing Corp. received nearly $115,000 in sales and mortgage breaks by the Erie County Industrial Development Agency for its $1.65 million project to renovate the former Gibraltar Industries Plant in Cheektowaga (Erie County). The company also plans to build a 4,800-square-foot addition. Wendt purchased the former Gibraltar factory in September 2011 and has been operating there since January of this year. It now employs 36 people and plans to add nine jobs over the next two years.

Goldman Titanium, a Buffalo (Erie County) company that processes titanium scrap metal, received $89,500 in sales and mortgage tax breaks from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency for a $645,000 that will extend its current facility and add a processing center for solid titanium. The company currently employs 48 people and will add 7 more with the expansion.

The Buffalo and Erie County Regional Development Council approved a $750,000 low-interest loan to Linita Design & Manufacturing Corp., a Canadian-based business that opened a U.S. facility in Hamburg (Erie County) in 2009. The company, which makes steel gates and other products to regulate the flow of water in and out of dams, will use the loan to help finance a $2.75 million expansion. The expansion will allow the company to add 30 jobs to its current workforce of 45.

A new Dunkin’ Donuts has been approved for the south side of Lockport (Erie County). The new 2,000-square-foot building will be constructed by Bevilacqua Development.

The Town of Lockport Industrial Development Agency (Erie County) has agreed to sell another 12 acres of land in the town industrial park to the Internet giant Yahoo. Yahoo has not informed the town about the timeline for its plans to develop the newly purchased land, or how many jobs might result. The land sits immediately east of Yahoo’s existing $150 million data center, which employs 75 people.

The Walden Galleria Mall in Cheektowaga (Erie County) held a job fair on October 19th to hire workers for the upcoming holiday season. More than 30 retailers have openings in customer service, sales and management positions.

Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel held its bi-annual job fair on Saturday, October 20th to fill about 50 positions. Many of the openings are for food service positions, which would help fully staff an expanding Thunder Falls Buffet inside the casino complex. The popular eatery is undergoing remodeling and is expected to be unveiled on December 21st.

Jiffy-Tite Corporation, a Lancaster (Erie County) auto parts manufacturer, is looking to expand its current line of automotive fittings and broaden its business into new markets beyond the auto industry, with a $10 million expansion. But, the company has not yet decided if the expansion will be to its Lancaster factory or out of state. The company, which currently employs 130, could create 80 new jobs over the next five years if enough incentives and tax credits with New York development officials are enough to keep the company here.

A private Canadian company has purchased a troubled manufacturer on the East Side of Buffalo (Erie County). Buffalo OutFront Metalworks was about to close, but businessman Tony Van Es plans to renovate the facility, purchase new equipment and plans to add as many as 60 employees over the next few years. The purchase of the facility, which will make portable garden centers used by retailers across North America, is part of Van Es’s expansion plan into the U.S.

Byblos Hospitality Group of Dubai teamed up with downtown Buffalo developer Roger Trettel and a local surgeon to purchase the Holiday Inn Resort & Conference Center on Grand Island (Erie County) for $4.4 million. The Middle Eastern luxury hotel and hospitality giant has plans to remake the hotel into an upscale destination center. Plans are still being developed, but the new owners have stated significant upgrades and renovations will be made to the hotel to make it more of a resort in line with the company’s properties in the United Arab Emirates. The majority of the staff will be retained and more will be hired as the hotel continues to grow.

A formal grand opening ceremony for the expanded Seneca Allegany Casino & Hotel in Salamanca (Cattaraugus County) was held on October 24th. The project, which totaled $53 million, added 201 rooms to the complex’s existing 200 hotel rooms. The 11-story wing, which includes nine floors, has been under construction for the past 18 months. The first wave of rooms opened in late September. The entire wing should be open between Thanksgiving and mid-December. An estimated 30 new jobs will be created once the new hotel wing is complete.

Seneca Nation leaders are hoping some of their land in Chautauqua County will become a retail shopping destination. Outgoing Nation President Robert Odawi Porter and County Executive Greg Edwards announced a plan of building an outlet mall just off state Thruway Exit 58 in Irving. The $50 million development would provide millions of dollars in investment, 300 construction jobs and 750 full- and part-time retail jobs. The project hinges on several factors, including current Seneca Nation of Indians tribal council member Richard Nephew winning the election for president and current President Porter winning his bid for the treasurer’s seat.

The new 2014 Corvette’s state-of the-art engine is set to be built at the General Motors plant in Tonawanda (Erie County). The plant was recently renovated to support the building of the Corvette Lt1 type of engine—GM’s Generation 5 of small block engines. GM announced the $400 million expansion in the plant in 2010. The building of the Gen 5 engines is set to create more than 710 jobs at the Tonawanda plant. 75 people from other GM plants in Lockport and Rochester have been brought in for the project in the past month, and 130 people have been brought back from layoffs.

Construction began on Buffalo Promise Neighborhood’s new early education center, which will help prepare children in the 14215 zip code in Buffalo (Erie County) for kindergarten, elementary school and beyond. The childhood center is the first step in the cradle-to-college-and-career initiative in the Buffalo Pro0mise Neighborhood.

Groundbreaking of a new school in Buffalo (Erie County) will be held on October 17, 2012. Buffalo Promise Neighborhood Early Childhood Education Center is being funded by a $1 million grant from the Oishei Foundation and is scheduled to open next year.

Business Contractions

New this Month

First Niagara Financial Group Inc. has laid off 180 employees, including 30 in the Buffalo-Niagara region. The layoffs come four months after First Niagara acquired HSBC Bank’s Upstate New York retail network. The cuts stem from the bank’s recent decision to outsource the buildings maintenance and facilities work. Overall, the cuts will result in a loss of 100 jobs at the bank.

Capital One’s local credit-card office will be closed by early January 2013, further reducing the number of employees at One HSBC Center in downtown Buffalo (Erie County). The financial company announced the job cuts on September 27. The company originally planned to lay off 78 workers, but 17 of those employees have already found new jobs.

Olean ceramic tile manufacturer Dal-Tile Corp. is planning to close its Cattaraugus County plant in January of next year, costing 174 workers their jobs. The Dallas-based company passed on an incentive package from New York State and Cattaraugus County and will instead transfer the plants’ work to its facility in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

SmartPill Corp; the financially strapped Buffalo (Erie County) medical device manufacturer that was acquired by an Israeli company earlier this month, is planning to move its manufacturing operations to its new owners factory in Israel by the end of the year. Four years ago the company decided to shift its manufacturing operations from California to the prominent Main Street site. The move will result in the loss of about 13 local jobs and is a blow to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, where SmartPill had assumed a visible role in the community’s efforts to build a hub for life sciences research and medical device manufacturing.

FWS Furniture has closed the last of its three Buffalo (Erie County) locations, giving customers little or no warning and leaving workers without paychecks. A recorded message from the company informed customers that business operations were closed due to difficult economic conditions and a decline in the home and furnishings sales industry in Western New York. One year ago, Crawford Furniture closed all five of its retail furniture stores, putting over 100 people out of work.

Hospice Buffalo Inc. expects to lay off 84 workers temporarily at three sites next year as it begins a major renovation at its Cheektowaga (Erie County) campus. The agency filed a WARN notice with the Department of Labor about the layoffs, which will begin on January 15, 2013.

Dupont’s Yerkes Plant in the Town of Tonawanda (Erie County) is cutting jobs as part of broader employment reductions in the Delaware-based corporation. Low production volumes in the site’s solid surfaces and polyvinyl fluoride films business units are cited as the reasons for the cuts. The company has not specified how many jobs are being eliminated, but said the plant will continue to employ about 600 people. The cuts are expected to take effect at the end of the year and will be in jobs across the plant, in both union and nonunion positions.

The cancelation of the regular-season schedule through the end of November by the National Hockey League because of the NHL lockout is having a severe economic impact on the local downtown Buffalo (Erie County) businesses that rely on hockey-generated revenue. Templeton Landing has had to lay off workers, and downtown developer Mark Croce, who owns several restaurants and bars, may have to layoff many of the 300 people he employs in the downtown service industry. The potential loss of all 42 games of the season has State Senator Tim Kennedy asking the Empire State Development Corporation to begin developing emergency support plans to help small businesses make ends meet as the downturn continues.

Labor Disputes

New this Month

Two dozen members of the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters staged a demonstration on October 9th outside the One Canalside construction site, targeting Elma-based contractor Gypsum System. The company prevailed in bidding over a segment of work over a firm the carpenters union works with, Mader Construction. Representatives of the Carpenters union are questioning whether the bidding process was conducted fairly. Union members are hoping that there will be more phases to this project that their contractors will have a fair shot at.

Both the Iroquois Faculty Association and the Iroquois Administrators Association have reached contract settlements that will save the Iroquois School district in Elma (Erie County) $250,000 over the life of the agreement because of an agreed 1.7 percent reduction in the salary step schedule. Administrators will also start contributing $1,000 annually toward their health insurance. The teacher’s contract is effective September 1 through June 30, 2015, while the administrators is in effect July 1 through June 30, 2014.

Buffalo School Superintendent Pamela Brown offered to give $2,500 to each of the 106 teachers affected by the involuntary transfers in an effort to resolve a stalemate between the union and the district over the transfers. In addition to her offer, the Buffalo Teachers Federation would also have to agree to one of two teacher-evaluation plans that Brown offered. But, the Buffalo Teachers Federation rejected the offer, saying it was “unacceptable”, noting that the union won an arbitration ruling saying the teacher transfers violated the contract. Reaching a deal is significant to the district, as more than $50 million in state and federal aid is riding on the superintendent’s ability to get the President of the teacher’s federation to agree on an evaluation plan that the state will approve. The union would have to agree to drop the court case on the transfers and also agree to one of the evaluation plans offered. Districts must approve evaluation plans by January 17, 2013, or forfeit their increase in state aid.

Health care workers at all levels and from all different facilities, ranging from hospitals to nursing homes, held an informational picket on October 24th. CWA Local 1168 organized the picket in front of Kaleida, one of the largest health care providers in the area. Dangerously low staffing levels are putting patients at risk every day. Health care workers are hoping to get a staff ration bill signed into law.

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