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Western New York, February 2010

Business Expansions

New this Month

PriceRite is getting ready to open its third Western New York grocery store. The Connecticut-based grocer is currently transforming a 38, 0000-square-foot former Linens ‘N Things store in Cheektowaga (Erie County). The company is in the process of hiring 100 full-and-part time workers to staff its newest location, which is slated to open in the spring.

Electro Sonic of America LLC, a Canadian electronics distributor, has leased 65,000-square-feet in Tonawanda (Erie County) that will serve as the hub of its U.S. operations. The company has hired 55 people to work in the warehouse and distribution center and is investing $20 million to expand the warehouse. The company, headquartered in Toronto, picked the Tonawanda site to serve as its U.S. logistics center.

The University at Buffalo has created an advisory panel to ensure that Western New York has a qualified and diverse pool of workers needed for jobs created by any future expansion of the university. UB anticipates 275 jobs alone will be created with the 2011 opening of the building UB is constructing with Kalieda Health. The council will take a look at what job opportunities are on the horizon, what skills and training are needed, and how local residents can access job-development programs in preparation for current and anticipated opportunities.

A $425 million-dollar investment into the General Motors Powertrain Plant in the Town of Tonawanda (Erie County) is expected to create 470 jobs at the plant, and ensure its future as the producer of GM’s next-generation, fuel-efficient, four-cylinder Ecotec engine. By the time GM completes its investment, the plant will have the capacity to build 370,000 Ecotec engines a year. Currently the plant employs about 600 hourly workers, while about 375 are on indefinite layoff. At its peak in 1979, the plant employed 6,000, and as recently as 1990, the number was 4,300.

Business Contractions

New this Month

Gibralter Industries will close its processed steel manufacturing plant in Cheektowaga (Erie County) after the Hamburg-based business sold the last of its steel industry assets to Worthington Industries. The shutdown completes Gibralter’s transition from a company that processed steel for industrial customers, into one that makes and distributes such products as grates, gutters, vents and frames for homes and commercial buildings. It also means the end of about 70 jobs at the plant and will leave the company’s headquarters its only Western New York presence. Gibralter closed its Tonawanda plant in 2007, and merged it with the Cheektowaga plant, as a cost saving measure.

Avox Systems, a Lancaster (Erie County) company that makes oxygen and respiratory products and systems for the aerospace and defense industries has temporarily laid off 20 hourly workers and plans to transfer some work to facilities in Mexico, affecting an additional 50 workers. In addition to a sluggish economy, the company is facing pressure form a competitor in Asia, forcing the company to make the shift. Currently, the facility employs 350 people.

The last two Swiss Chalet restaurants in Erie County will close at the end of February.Both restaurants are owned by Cara Operations, an Ontario-based company that operates several restaurant franchises, including Swiss Chalet, Montana’s, Kelsey’s and Harvey’s. Over the last few years, the company has closed five other Swiss Chalets, two Montana’s and one Kelsey’s location in the Western New York area.

Labor Disputes

New this Month

Workers at New Era Cap Co. approved a tentative agreement providing wage and benefit concessions that will enable the company to keep operating its plant in Derby (Erie County) while closing one in Alabama. Employees represented by Local 14177, Communication Workers of America, voted to ratify the agreement announced last week. Company officials hope that as the economy rebounds, they will be able to add as many as 100 new manufacturing jobs in the middle to end of next year.

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