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Western New York, April 2009

Business Expansions

New this Month

Kohl’s Corp. celebrated the grand opening of its new 88,000-square-foot store in the City of Buffalo (Erie County) on April 1. The store employs 150 full-and-part-time workers, 70 percent of whom are city residents. The project, which cost roughly $3.4 million, was announced in January of 2008.

First Niagara Financial Group is expanding its branch Network into Pennsylvania with the purchase of 57 National City Bank branches. The huge deal gives the Lockport (Niagara County) based savings bank 167 offices throughout New York and Pennsylvania. Between 100 and 125 jobs will be added in upstate New York, almost all in the Buffalo area. First Niagara now employs about 2,000, about half in Western New York.

Construction will begin today (April 8, 2009) on a $23.6 million Armed Forces Reserve Center that will give the Army a permanent training site on the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station (Niagara County) for the first time. The two-story, 86,000-square-foot training center is slated to open in August 2010. The project is part of a series of federal investments that have been committed to the Air Reserve Station since it was taken off a list of defense facilities targeted for closure by the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission. The closure commission in 2005 recommended closing the Air Reserve Station. The new facility will accommodate over 500 Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers.

Embassy Suites held a job fair April 17th & 18th in Buffalo (Erie County). The 150-room hotel is expected to open its doors July 1st and needs to fill up to 90 full-time jobs including clerks, restaurant and wait staff, banquet servers and housekeepers.

KeyCorp announced that it will add six KeyBank branches in Western New York over the next two years, in its biggest expansion in this market in almost 20 years. All six will be newly built facilities. As part of the expansion, the bank will add 45 new banking positions, as well as generate construction jobs for local contractors. KeyBank currently operates 40 branches in four Western New York counties and employs about 1,000, including about 400 in a recently upgraded call center in Amherst, where it recently added 70 jobs.

Green All-Terrain vehicles have come to Ellicottville (Cattaraugus County). Electric Vehicle Systems, an Illinois-based company was recently purchased and relocated to the area. The company uses exclusive patented electric technology to create its eForce all-terrain vehicles, powerful, rechargeable, zero-emission electric ATV’s. The eForce is assembled in Ellicottville using electronic components made in Buffalo. The company currently employs four full-time employees, and hopes to have a total of 10 workers by the end of the year.

$18.5 million in federal economic-stimulus funds is allowing the Buffalo City School (Erie County) officials to prepare a budget that will not only avoid layoffs and program cuts, but add 34 teachers, 6 security guards and 2 attorneys. The new teachers will allow for additional grade levels at three city schools and expansion of other projects. An anticipated enrollment decline of 800 students and closer monitoring of class sizes will allow for the elimination of 50 teaching positions and 41 aides and assistants but those reductions will be covered by retirements or represent positions that are already unfilled, so will not require layoffs.

Martin’s Fantasy Island on Grand Island (Erie County) held a job fair on April 18th. The popular theme park is looking to hire 400 full and part-time seasonal workers.

A joint agreement between the City of Buffalo and Erie County will allow the county to maintain and staff all of Buffalo’s parks and recreation spots for the 2009 season. Erie County will budget for 52 full-time and 144 seasonal employees to oversee the park system.

TeleTech Holdings will be adding as many as 500 temporary customer service positions to its Niagara Falls (Niagara County) work force over the next month. The jobs, which will be for inbound customer support, will be added by the second week of May.

Business Contractions

New this Month

Fenner Precision has cut about 25 hourly and salaried jobs at its Buffalo (Erie County) plant, ending its participation in the Labor Department’s Shared Work program. Fenner, which makes motion control products and rollers, made the cuts in response to continued reduced demand in the multimedia market. A spokesperson for the company said the Shared Work program, which is a tool employers can use to avert layoffs, was “no longer a viable solution to a long-term economic problem.”

The Whiting Door Manufacturing Corp. has taken the precaution of issuing a notice of a significant layoff at its manufacturing facility in Akron (Erie County) even though company officials say they currently have no plans to actually let any more workers go. The 55 year-old maker of doors and related equipment for delivery trucks has already been hit by the downturn in the automobile economy. The company’s workforce has gone from a high of 620 in July 2007 to just less than 400 today. The company is also already taking advantage of the Labor Department’s Shared Work program.

Western New York’s biggest construction company, LPCiminelli, announced that the CEO will close a separate development company he owns and fold its core housing business into his larger firm. GPS Construction Services, a non-union firm, will stop taking on new work and will be phased out gradually after completing ongoing projects. LPCiminelli, a unionized company, will acquire the assets of GPS and absorb its expertise in projects, but is not formally merging with GPS or assuming its contracts. GPS’ 40 employees will be gradually laid off as projects are completed through the fall but some could be hired by LPCiminelli as the economy recovers and new projects start.

American LaFrance LLC, one of the nation’s largest and oldest manufacturers of fire truck and emergency vehicles, is in the process of closing two plants, including one in Hamburg (Erie County). The 66,000-square-fott facility is slated for closure by the end of May. The dip in vehicle orders is blamed on tighter municipal budgets. About 70 people will lose their jobs as a result of the plant closure.

General Motors Corp. Powertrain plant in Tonawanda (Erie County) is cutting 60 management jobs at its facility. The job cuts are equal to about 30 percent of the Tonawanda plant’s white-collar work force. The plant’s hourly workforce has already been impacted by the slowdown in auto sales and the decline in GM’s production. About 350 of its roughly 1000 hourly workers are on layoff.

CSX Transportation is cutting some 200 jobs at Frontier Yard in Buffalo members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainman. The union revealed the company’s decision following a meeting with CSX officials. The job losses, according to the union, represent about 20 to 25 percent of the workers at the rail yard. The yard has experienced a drop off in activity due to a slowdown in industries it supports, such as the automotive sector. General Motors Corp. requires fewer rail cars to serve its Tonawanda engine plant, and American Axle and Manufacturing has closed much of its local manufacturing. The business slowdown has already led to about 125 workers being put on furlough at the yard.

HealthNow New York, parent company of BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, is cutting 19 more local jobs. This is the second time in as many months that the company has trimmed its workforce and officials said it likely will not be the last. Last month, HealthNow cut 17 employees, as restructuring made those positions unnecessary. The company is realigning how it functions and officials still plan to recruit for open positions.

SPX Processing Equipment is closing a North Buffalo (Erie County) process equipment facility with 46 employees. The plant, which makes stainless steel fittings and related products for the sanitary and pharmaceutical industries, is expected to close by the end of July.

Labor Disputes

New this Month

308 service employees at Sisters of Charity Hospital in Cheektowaga (Erie County) voted to join the Communication Workers of America Local 1168. The employees include certified nursing assistants, secretaries, environmental service workers and transcriptionists. The local already represents more than 200 registered nurses at the hospital.

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