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Western New York, September 2012

Business Expansions

New this Month

Area developer Mark Hamister announced his plans to invest $40 million into the renovation of the Tishmann Building in downtown Buffalo (Erie County). The Hamister Group relocated to Amherst 10 years ago, but will return its corporate headquarters and 40 employees back to the city of Buffalo to the top three floors of the renovated building. The lower floors will be occupied by a 123-room Hilton Garden Inn and 12 apartments. The hotel will employ around 50 people. The building has been vacant since its former tenant, National Fuel, moved to the suburbs several years ago.

Tim Horton’s is planning construction of its newest location in Buffalo on Abbott Road. The 1,871-square-foot building is currently vacant. The deal is expected to close later this fall or by early winter, with construction beginning next year. Tim Horton’s currently has more than 180 area locations.

Plans are underway to turn a former summer camp property into a year-round “glamorous camping” destination. The Camp Lakeland property in Franklinville (Cattaraugus County) would be renamed The Woods at Bear Creek Family Resort. Plans call for renovating the cabins into upscale units, while the property will feature such amenities as 14 miles of nature trails, an Olympic-sized pool, basketball and tennis courts and horseback riding. The project, which will be done in several phases, will also include a high-end RV park to be developed. The project, which will receive assistance from the Cattaraugus County IDA, will create 40 full-and part-time jobs.

A grand opening for the University at Buffalo’s Clinical and Translational Research Center was held on September 20th. The $291 million center is a joint UB-Kaleida Health venture and represents the latest major investment in the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. The Kaleida portion, which houses the Gate’s Vascular Institute, opened earlier this year. The building is part of UB’s medical school, which is relocating to the downtown medical campus in 2016.

General Motor’s Town of Tonawanda Engine Plant built the final Ecotec 2.4 liter-four-cylinder engine on Wednesday, September 19th, an engine it has produced since 1999, to make way for the manufacture of new products. The plant will continue to make 2.4 liter blocks, heads and cranks for export to china through the first quarter of 2013. This is the third engine the plant has wrapped up in the past couple of months. With the shift in work, 40 employees from the GM components Holdings Plant in Lockport will transfer to the Tonawanda site on October 1 to help support the new product lines. Currently the plant employs 1,018 hourly and salaried workers.

Praxair will receive a $1 million Economic Development Fund grant, enabling the Tonawanda (Erie County) company to finish developing and implementing customized software to operate its new centralized logistics center. The company, which develops, separates and distributes atmospheric processes and specialty gases, needed to redevelop its old logistics system. As part of the $12.5 million projects, Praxair consolidated three existing centers, retaining 700 jobs through 2017. Without the state help, the project would most likely have been moved out of New York State.

The long vacant Sattler’s Department Store at 998 Broadway in Buffalo (Erie County), is now the site of the City’s newest ALDI grocery store. The grand opening was held on September 13th.

A vacant Swiss Chalet restaurant in Lancaster (Erie County) will find new life as a Denny’s restaurant later this fall.

Catholic Health System has settled on a downtown Buffalo (Erie County) site for its new administrative headquarters. A vacant downtown parcel, often referred to as “Block 21” is controlled by Uniland Development Co. Several city and suburban sites were considered in the year-long search for a space. Catholic Health has been one of the most coveted leases in local commercial and real estate circles. The site would sit on the southern edge of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and occupy all 120,000-square-feet of the proposed building. Currently, Catholic Health has its administrative offices spread over eight Buffalo and suburban sites.

Walmart Stores Inc. has confirmed it will be shifting its Thruway Plaza store a few miles east down Walden Ave. to the current Super Flea site. Walmart will construct a 183,000-square-foot super center-styled store. The new location will create at least 85 new jobs at the Cheektowaga site, the bulk of which will be full-time positions.

Buffalo State College plans to increase its number of full-time faculty members to its highest level in 15 years. Thirteen professors were hired for this fall, bringing the total to 416 full-time faculty members. The goal is 433 over the next three years, which is the same level as 1997.

Continued growth in downtown Buffalo (Erie County) has prompted an Edible Arrangements franchise owner to open a location in the central business district. The 1,000-square-foot store will open on October 2nd in the Brisbane Building, which is located from the newly opened Lafayette hotel. The opening will come just days after Butterwood Desserts officially opened the doors on its bakery restaurant operation in the Lafayette.

Goldman Titanium Inc. is working with the ECIDA and City of Buffalo on an expansion project that will see the company add 12,000-square-feet to its plant and headquarters, The Buffalo (Erie County) manufacturer of titanium-based products, is adding a new line of processing for titanium scrap. Eight new jobs would be added to its current workforce of 48.

Sustainable BioPower LLC plans on investing $5 million to construct a 16,000-square-foot facility in West Seneca’s North America Center business park. The company processes waste products like food scraps through a technical process that converts them into energy that is sold to National Grid for its power bank. Initially, 7 jobs will be created.

Niagara Community College’s new culinary arts institute has welcomed back more than 350 students at its brand new location. The $25 million facility occupies the former Rainbow Centre on Old Falls Street in downtown Niagara Falls which sat vacant for several years. A fine dining restaurant, deli, pastry café and wine boutique are scheduled to open later this fall. The school will house more than 1,000 students in the next three to four years.

Business Contractions

New this Month

The closing of a food processing plant in Chautauqua County happened a month sooner than expected. AFA Foods Inc. shut the facility on September 12th, eliminating 100 jobs. Initially the company had set a closing date of October 16th.

NRG Energy mothballed two of the four units at its Dunkirk (Chautauqua County) on September 11th. The closing reduces the workforce by about 60.

More than 60 workers will be out of work at Buffalo Niagara International Airport. The layoffs, which will begin on December 4th, come after word that Regional Elite Airline Services LLC is ceasing ground operations.

The lingering NHL lockout has forced the cancellation of all pre-season September games and could cost downtown Buffalo business big money. Businesses such as Lagerhaus 95 has stopped hiring and current staff will have fewer hours.

Buffalo-based New Era Cap co. is losing millions of dollars each year to counterfeiters, which could cost local workers their jobs. New Era seized 850,000 fake caps worth more than $35 million last year alone. Senator Chuck Schumer announced a plan at the company’s headquarters in Buffalo on September 21st that will help trace the source of counterfeit caps and step up enforcement online. New Era employs 700 people in Western New York.

HSBC Bank USA N.A.’s local workforce will shrink a bit in the coming months as the global financial institution makes reductions to its business operations in Western New York. The first wave of cuts is set to affect the bank’s U.S. anti-money laundering monitoring team in Buffalo, and the second wave involves as many as 200 mortgage servicing jobs in Depew. But, nearly half of the 77 people who made up the local anti-money laundering team have already found new jobs, either at HSBC or other area employers. The bank’s current employee base of roughly 3,000 workers will remain steady for now, in part because the bank has posted for 100 open positions in other areas, such as mortgage underwriting, commercial banking, information management and call-center operations.

Labor Disputes

New this Month

The Buffalo Public Schools is moving forward with plans to involuntarily transfer 54 teachers out of three low-performing schools. An arbitrator last week determined that the teacher’s contract does not universally prohibit involuntary teacher transfers, but certain aspects of the way the district implemented the transfers violated the union contract. The board appealed the decision, and with that will remain eligible for more than $5 million in federal school improvement plan funds for 2012-13. The district and the union are scheduled to appear in State Supreme Court today, September 6, 2012, regarding the arbitration decision.

Registered nurses at Sisters of Charity Hospital in Cheektowaga (Erie County) voted down a proposed contract with the Catholic Health System on September 11th. The previous contract for the 232 RN’s represented by Communications Workers of America Local 1168, expired on August 31.

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