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July 27, 2015 - 2:41pm
posted by laurie napoleone in Kelly Chamberlain, LuAnne Burns, Speakbubble, magnet, business, patent.

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Kelly Chamberlain and Luanne Burns, 1979 graduates of Batavia High School, have patented a new product called the Speakbubble.

Chamberlain, a 21-year Navy veteran said, “I thought of the idea two years while driving on the highway, I saw magnets and bumper stickers on cars. I do not like bumper stickers because they are difficult to remove and thought about something that could be used to write a message, that could be changed daily or whenever the user wished.”

He further developed the idea and went to the patent office in 2013, completed the lengthy patent application process and was granted the patent for the Magnetic Speakbubble.

Chamberlain describes the Speakbubble as “a dry erase magnet that could be used in your home, office or as a Twitter for your car." It comes with a dry erase marker and allows you to create customized messages for not only the car, but for the refrigerator, lockers, office equipment, and anything magnetic.

After completion of the patent process, colleague LuAnne Burns designed the Web site for the product, which is www.myspeakbubble.com. The product is made in the United States, retails for $15.99 and is not currently available in stores.

Chamberlain and Burns are offering a 20-percent discount on their product for Genesee County residents by using the Promo code “WNY” when ordering on the Web site. In addition, the Speakbubble can be used as a fundraiser or a promotional product for organizations, sports teams, or businesses.

Photo: Kelly Chamberlain and LuAnne Burns.

July 27, 2015 - 1:19pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, Beertavia.

Press release:
The Ellicottville Brewing Company will be visiting Downtown Batavia on Thursday, July 30th, to receive its Beertavia plaque for the “2015 Western New York’s Brew of the Year” for its Blueberry Wheat Beer, which won the best brew at the Beertavia event held on May 16th by the Batavia Business Improvement District (BID).

Ellicottville Brewing Company wanted to receive their award in person and will be at Angotti’s Beers of the World on Jackson Street at 11 a.m. this Thursday.

The inaugural Beertavia was a tremendous success with more than 14 craft brewers in attendance. The goal was to not only bring another event to the Downtown, but also to highlight the advantage of having a brewery in Downtown Batavia.

“Two breweries have been looking at spaces Downtown,” said Laurie Oltramari, the incoming executive director of the BID. “The Batavia Business Improvement District has always strived to provide businesses, new and existing, with opportunities to grow and succeed.”

“Shop Local, Shop Downtown.” Sponsored by: Batavia Business Improvement District. For more info contact the B.I.D. Office at 585-344-0900 / visit us at www.DowntownBataviaNY.com. or like us on Facebook at DowntownBataviaBusinessImprovementDistrict.

July 25, 2015 - 2:02pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, Milestones, Batavia Downs.

Press release:

Representatives from Batavia Downs are pleased to announce they have received two Romero trophies and two Honorable Mention plaques during the closing ceremonies of the Casino Marketing and Technology Conference in Las Vegas. This was the first time Batavia Downs had submitted any promotions to the conference to be judged.

Romero Awards honor excellence in gaming marketing and are named for gaming marketing pioneer John Romero, who passed away earlier this year. Awards are given in two size categories (above or below 1000 gaming positions) and 6 different marketing categories.  The winners are selected by a panel of expert judges.

Lindsay Matikosh, Batavia Downs’ Promotions Manager, was on hand to receive the trophies as they were awarded. The Diamond Trophy was Batavia's Diamond VIP promotion. Last Year's Collect and Win Promotion, "Construction Junction," received a Gold Trophy. Two online promotions: Facebook Friday and Promotions Bracket each received Honorable Mention plaques.

"These awards are to be celebrated by all our staff members," Matikosh said. "We like to say we have some of the best promotions among local gaming facilities, and to have an independent panel of experts tell us that they're actually some of the best in the world of gaming is great.”

“Front line staff in all departments helped remind our players about partaking in these promotions, and their popularity certainly contributed to winning these trophies,“ said Ryan Hasenauer, director of Marketing at Batavia Downs. “It was a total team effort and we are excited to have the trophies and plaques on display near Player's Club for all to see.”

Owned and operated by 15 Western New York counties and the cities of Rochester and Buffalo, Western Regional OTB is a public benefit corporation with headquarters in Batavia, NY. WROTB owns and operates 28 branches, as well as Batavia Downs Gaming, a standard bred racetrack and gaming facility.

July 24, 2015 - 5:44pm
posted by Traci Turner in batavia, business.

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(Pete and Anupa Hirani)

Locals can now buy a cup of frozen yogurt and a few household items at the new Jackson Express Mini-Mart.

Owners Pete and Anupa Hirani decided to expand YoTwisters, the former frozen yogurt shop, into a mini-mart to keep customers coming back in the winter. The frozen yogurt shop could not bring in enough business this winter, forcing them to close during the month of December. 

Since then, Pete and Anupa Hirani expanded the business, renamed it and reopened on July 4.

In addition to the frozen yogurt bar, the mini-mart is stocked with snacks, soda and soft-serve ice cream. They also offer a variety of grocery and cleaning items like sugar, coffee and toilet paper. They will be selling cigarettes and lottery tickets soon.

Anupa Hirani has experience managing convenient stores and is excited to grow her family's business. Her goal is to have customers stop in for frozen yogurt or ice cream and pick up a few grocery items as well. 

"Customers can enjoy a cup of frozen yogurt and buy a few household items they need all in one place without having to wait in a long line at the grocery store," Anupa Hirani said.

In the next couple of months, they plan to use the full kitchen in the back to serve a variety of hot food. Before opening YoTwisters, they owned Salsa & Curry, a restaurant offering Indian and Mexican cuisine. They are looking into bringing back some of their old customers favorite dishes as well as pizza and wings.

July 23, 2015 - 9:21am
posted by Howard B. Owens in jobs, economy, business.

The unemployment rate for Genesee County hit a 100-month low for June, according to Department of Labor statistics.

The rate fell to 4.5 percent. The last time the rate was that low or lower was October 2007, when the rate stood at 4.2 percent.

The lowest rate of that year was 3.8 percent in August and in May.

A year ago, the June rate was 4.8 percent. It was 4.7 percent this May.

For June, there were 24,300 non-farm jobs in Genesee County, down from 24,600 in June 2015.  That June number is still the highest it's been so far in 2015, and with exception of last June, the highest it's been since July 2010.

Unemployment in Wyoming County is 4.9 percent, it's 6.1 in Orleans, and 5.3 in Livingston. In the Buffalo area, it's 5.3 percent and in the Rochester region, it's 5.1.

July 21, 2015 - 4:08pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, Announcements, education, The BEST Center, batavia.

Press release:

The BEST Center's Building Leadership Excellence Certificate Program is now forming a new cohort.

Building Leadership Excellence is an intensive, hands-on program designed to develop proven skills needed to manage, influence, create, inspire and LEAD organizations in today's dynamic economy. You will learn to think and act strategically, enhancing management performance and improving organizational skills in decision making, coaching, innovative problem solving and conflict resolution.
 
As a participant, you will work in an engaging and dynamic team environment. Upon completion of the course you will be able to:

  • Inspire subordinates to work to their full potential;
  • Communicate at an advanced level to better manage conflict;
  • Learn strategies to establish buy-in and ensure accountability;
  • Enhance your coaching skills;
  • Establish a lasting network of capable leader colleagues.

Each session is filled with real-life examples and practical techniques for getting results. Begin immediately applying leadership excellence at your job and in your life!

In today's fast moving, highly competitive marketplace, organizations require highly functioning, innovative leaders. To make the most of this opportunity -- ENROLL TODAY...the next cohort will kick off Thursday, Aug. 6.

Attendance is required in all of the eight half-day sessions scheduled Thursdays, from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Session dates are: 8/13, 8/20, 9/3, 9/17, 10/1, 10/15, 10/29 and 11/5. Graduation presentations will occur on Thursday, Nov. 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Seating is limited.
 
For more information call 585-345-6868 or
e-mail Lauren Cummings at [email protected]

July 21, 2015 - 9:05am
posted by Howard B. Owens in The Divine Tree, business, Le Roy.

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Genesee County's newest retail business -- it opened Saturday -- is catching the consumer trend toward more authentic and artisanal products.

Stocked with handcrafted, infused olive oils and vinegars, speciality chocolates, handcrafted bath items, gourmet spreads and sauces, and one-of-a-kind gift items, The Divine Tree on Main Street in Le Roy was designed by owner Renee Mancini Johnson to appeal to customers who appreciate quality and healthy alternatives to what you might find in a Walmart Superstore.

"I took a lot of time, honestly, I didn't have a lot of time, but I did my homework," Johnson said. "I wanted to get some items that aren't everyday to everyone. It is unique in this aspect in that not everyone knows what to do with an infused olive oil, but there is so much you can do with them. For instance, the butter olive oil, you substitute for any butter or margin you use in a recipe."

Johnson, a lifelong Le Royan, hopes the store will not only appeal to local residents but help bring people from outside the area to shop in Le Roy.

Located inside of one of Le Roy's old Main Street buildings -- most recently a Radio Shack location -- Johnson completed the purchase of the building in April and immediately got busy with remodelling. The original idea was to find the original interior brick walls and expose them, but after stripping away the existing walls, no brick was found, so brick walls were built. The original ornate brass ceiling was uncovered. It had been painted white, so Johnson had it painted with brass metallic paint to bring back that old-time feel.

"A lot of people come in and say they feel like they're not even in Le Roy anymore, and that's what I want," Johnson said.

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July 20, 2015 - 6:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Crocker's Ace Hardware, Le Roy, business.

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Brad Crocker. Photo by Howard Owens.

Press release:

America's most celebrated “helpful place” is celebrating the grand opening of its newest lumber yard, located in Le Roy. The new lumber yard is an expansion to the existing Crocker's Ace Hardware Store located 8457 North Street Road in Le Roy. Crocker's Hardware and lumber staff will bring the company's unique blend of nationally recognized customer service and quality home-improvement knowledge and products back to Le Roy and the surrounding area residents.

Crocker's Ace Hardware is owned by Brad Crocker and Dan Diskin. Brad is the third generation from the Crocker family to own a business in the Town of Le Roy  His grandfather, Clarence, owned and operated a feed mill and farm supply store on Selden Road. His father, Judd, continued the tradition with his brothers, James and Louis, and built Crocker's Ace Hardware on the current site in 1969. Dan Diskin, Brad's partner,  is a native Le Royan also. He started working at Crocker's in college. Brad and Dan purchased the business from Judd and his brothers in 1998.

Brad lives on Selden Road in Le Roy with his sons, Ben and Cole Crocker, his girlfriend, Nicole Boyce, and her daughter, Christina Woodrow. He keeps busy around the house with his watercross snowmobile racing team. Their kids are active in four-wheeling with dad, Cub Scouts, swimming, youth soccer and youth volleyball. Nicole is a professional photographer who enjoys capturing everything from racing to senior portraits.

Dan is a village resident. At home on Myrtle Street are his wife, Cheryl, their daughters, Jenna and Alison, and son, Jack. A third daughter, Tess Diskin Ryan, recently married Joseph P. Ryan, formally of Batavia. They reside in Camp Lejeune, N.C. Cheryl is the records clerk for the Village of Le Roy Police Department. Jenna is a LIVES graduate of SUNY Geneseo; Alison works at JC Penney in Batavia and is a GCC student. Jack is junior at Le Roy High School and enjoys band and theater.

Brad and Dan have been planning the lumber expansion for several years.

“A lumber yard is something that LeRoy always has had,” Dan Diskin said. “For a long time, Le Roy had two -- Wickes and Lapp Lumber. When Potter Lumber (the former Lapp Lumber) closed, it was just the spark we needed to bring lumber back to the people of Le Roy!”

Brad and Dan worked closely with Mickey Hyde and the team at Bank of Castile to finance the project.

“We felt that working with our hometown bank was the best way for us to do business,” Brad explained. “Using government tax breaks and promising that we could add so many jobs if we got a loan did not interest us at this time.”

July 20, 2015 - 6:14pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Cedar Street Sales and Rentals, batavia, business.

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Guy Clark Jr., owner of Cedar Street Sales and Rentals, said that as far as he knows, he has the only test-drive lawn for lawnmowers in the area.

Over a period of months, Clark and his sons Connor (pictured with Guy) and Adam transformed what had just been a strip of weeds next to the store's building into a well-manicured lawn where customers can test drive the complete line of Cub Cadet riding mowers.

Clark went all local in designing and building the test drive area. Jon Ehrmentraut of Le Roy designed the yard. The grass came from Batavia Turf. Tri-County Glass and Armor Building Supply provided materials for a new door from the shop into the yard. Sterling Tent made the awning over the door, and the landscaping was purchased from local nurseries.

Clark figures the little park-like addition to his business will also be suitable for community after-work parties.

July 20, 2015 - 1:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business.

Press release:

The City of Batavia recently ranked as the 14th best city to start a business in New York State, according to NerdWallet, a finance Web site which provides information and comparison tools to consumers preparing to make financial decisions.

The analysis was conducted in connection to a dramatic increase in revenue by New York-based businesses, as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau. It evaluated many factors, including total population, number of businesses with paid employees and unemployment rates. NerdWallet analyzed 83 cities throughout New York State.

“Batavia’s high ranking as one of the best communities in New York to start a business is reflective of tremendous growth of entrepreneurship and economic development in our region,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO of Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC). “There are a wide range of small business resources made available to entrepreneurs by GCEDC and our partners at the Batavia Development Corporation, the City of Batavia and the Batavia Business Improvement District (BID).”  

According to NerdWallet, Batavia’s strengths include an above-average economy, a significant number of existing businesses and a relatively low cost of living.

The ranking included criteria gathered for a total of 83 communities in New York State, each with a population of at least 10,000. The analysis calculated the overall score for each location based on each city’s business climate and economic health using data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Additionally, results from the analysis indicate that college towns are “good for business,” noting that most of the top-ranking cities are home to at least one college or university, many of which are campuses of the SUNY system.

“Batavia and Genesee County are fortunate to be located geographically between (the) two major metropolitan regions of Buffalo and Rochester, both of which have a number of prestigious centers of higher education,” Hyde said. “This exposes our residents to many educational and employment opportunities that often are the result of the education and training provided through Genesee Community College.”

Earlier this year, Batavia/Genesee County was also ranked by Site Selection Magazine as one of the top micropolitans in the United States. The ranking recognized the GCEDC for achieving $58.07 million in new capital investments for Genesee County and the creation of more than 140 new jobs in 2014.

July 17, 2015 - 5:15pm
posted by Traci Turner in bergen, liberty pumps, business.

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To give back to employees for their contributions to the ongoing success of Liberty Pumps, President and CEO Charlie Cook announced today that eligible workers will get a share of the company's profits.

The Employee Stock Ownership Plan is a form of retirement plan and eligible employees will receive shares. The amount of shares an employee receives depends on how long they have been working at the company. To be fully invested, they must work for the company for five years. Every year, employees get a statement with their share information and can sell their shares back to the company when they retire. 

"We have a great bunch of hardworking employees in our company," Cook said. "They act like owners so they deserve to be a part of the ownership."

Employees are excited about the potentially lucrative contribution. They received their first statements in May along with an actual piece of pie to celebrate.

According to Cook, the plan will not change company operations and the current leadership team will remain in place. The company has been family owned for 50 years.

Historically, the company has grown 13 percent yearly and the quantity of shares each employee receives will increase with growth. 

Liberty Pumps is in the process of expanding its facility by 123,000 square feet. The addition will significantly increase the size of the warehouse as well as the product research and development area. Cook plans to continue growing the company and is glad his employees will be benefiting from it.

Photo: Charlie Cook, right, with employees John Hasnay, Jared Murray, Julie Scott, Pamela Parton and Tina Root, on the factory floor of Liberty Pumps. Photo by Howard Owens.

July 17, 2015 - 1:44pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, liberty pumps, bergen.

Press release:

Bergen – Liberty Pumps, a leading manufacturer of sump, sewage and effluent pumps and engineered pump systems, is pleased to announce it has implemented an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).

Liberty Pumps has been a family owned company for the past 50 years. The ESOP continues Liberty Pumps’ commitment to local ownership.

“The ESOP will not change company operations,” says President/CEO Charlie Cook, “our current Leadership Team is just outstanding and will remain in place. The ESOP will enhance an already positive culture where our members (employees) feel empowered, appreciated and respected.

"We believe the ESOP will take this to the next level. When a customer calls in, they will now be speaking to an owner.”

Employees are very excited about the plan and now have even more incentive to provide the high level of quality and customer attentiveness that Liberty Pumps has become known for.

July 16, 2015 - 3:46pm
posted by Traci Turner in batavia, p.w. minor, business.

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There are big changes afoot at p.w. minor.

Owners Andrew Young and Pete Zeliff are working to quickly transform and grow the once nearly moribund Batavia-based shoemaker they rescued last year

As a part of the transformation,Young and Zeliff came up with a new visionary statement to "dream big, get shit done and know how to have fun." They believe the three goals capture their approach to business and what they need to achieve to be successful. 

Before Young and Zeliff purchased p.w. minor, the company's main goal was to stay open. Now the goals are growth and expansion. 

"We came in with a positive attitude, bold ideas and a huge vision," Young said. "It's a different way of doing things and employees really like it."

To fulfill their vision, Young and Zeliff plan on bringing back production from China and creating more jobs. In April, the company received a $900,000 state-backed aid package to help move jobs from China back to Batavia with the goal of creating at least 100 jobs locally. They have already expanded the local staff by 25 new employees.

Two recent hires bring big-time experience to the rejuvenated company. One is a Batavia native who was eager to return home but continue her career in fashion product development; the other has made the West Coast to East Coast migration because she's excited by the opportunity and fresh energy at the new p.w. minor. Both fit into the shift of culture Young and Zeliff are trying to inoculate into the 148-year-old shoe company.

Kristine McCarthy, a 1999 graduate of Batavia High School, arrived at p.w. minor last month with 12 years experience in accessories with two top name fashion companies in New York City.

McCarthy moved to NYC after graduating from the fashion program at Buffalo State College in 2003; she landed a job with a catalog company. In addition to working for the catalog company, McCarthy has worked in the accessories department for Ann Taylor in material sourcing and Coach in product development. McCarthy and her husband, Brian, who also grew up Batavia, enjoyed living in the city but decided to return to their hometown to raise their son, Jack, and be closer to family.

She began searching for jobs in Batavia last winter and came across all the media coverage about the changes at p.w. minor. She reached out to Zeliff and Young via e-mail and expressed her interest in working for the company. Young, intrigued by her career experience and local background, offered her a position. Hiring a product developer was also a big hole they needed to fill.

During her first month on the job, McCarthy has started working with the purchasing team to source new materials and the design team to execute product samples. She is currently overseeing the production of eight new shoe designs for next Spring. Her goal is to make the products both comfortable and fashionable.

One of the aspects of her job at p.w. minor that is different from her other jobs is the ability to watch the shoe designs come to life at the factory.

"It's different being at the factory," McCarthy said. "This job is a lot more hands-on and I'm gaining more knowledge because of it. I want to learn as much as I can about the manufacturing of a shoe and every detail that goes into it."

She is eager to learn from Young and Zeliff and be a part of the company's growth.

"It's such an exciting thing to be a part of," McCarthy said. "They are both intelligent and there is so much I can learn from them. They are great leaders and have great energy."

Erika Williamson, a pattern maker for a Nike development center in Beaverton, Ore., decided to accept a job at p.w. minor and relocate to Batavia to obtain experience working in a factory. 

"If I wanted to work in a factory for Nike, I would have needed to relocate to China or Sri Lanka," Williamson said. "To me p.w. minor was a great opportunity to not have to relocate overseas."

Williamson never heard of p.w. minor until she randomly received a call from a recruiter a month and a half ago about an opening for a pattern engineer. After learning more about the company and having three phone interviews, she was flown out to Batavia and offered a job on the spot.

She has been designing shoes since she was 12 years old and has 10 years worth of professional experience in fashion. She earned a degree in Arts and Apparel Sciences from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. After college, she worked on the fashion segment for KUSI news in San Diego and then moved back to Oregon to do various contract jobs in the apparel industry. 

At Nike she worked on the production floor. She spent two years sewing shoes in production and three years in footwear development. Although she liked designing sports performance shoes at Nike, her passion lies within fashion and developing more high-end style shoes.

Williamson has already started working at p.w. minor drawing and drafting patterns for new shoe designs. One of her goals is to design a comfortable high heel for women who are always on the go. She plans to design a 2- to 3-inch leather heel that is dressy but doesn't leave behind painful blisters after a long day at work.

"I really like working in a factory," Williamson said. "Coming from working on the production floor at Nike, I have found people are more down to earth here. I enjoy working on the equipment and interacting with people. It's a very hands-on job which I love."

Williamson also plans to use her skill in commercialization and full product testing she gained at Nike to get the factory running efficiently after all the production is brought back from China. When she first started working at the development center at Nike, the business unit was small and only three employees worked there. However, in three years the unit grew and became the most sought after group in the company, which led to the creation of 30 jobs. From her experience, she predicts p.w. minor will significantly expand in the next few years.

"With what p.w. minor wants to accomplish and the resources they have, I think within the next three to five years we are going to be seeing a huge growth within the company," Williamson said.

In the near future, Young will be hiring more new employees. 

"We also have some heavy growth plans that will require more hiring," Young said.

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July 13, 2015 - 9:31am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Millennials, population, batavia, business, redevelopment, downtown.

The U.S. Census Bureau put out a press release and the national media ate it up: There are now more people living in the United States who are classified as Millennials than there are Baby Boomers.

The Democrat & Chronicle got into the act by pointing out Millennials now outpace Baby Boomers in Monroe County.

There’s been no similar coverage in Erie County, but Buffalo has enjoyed a reputation for the past couple of years as one of the major cities young adults are helping to revitalize.

So where does that leave Genesee County?

Not on par, it seems.

While nationally, there are 83.1 million Millennials, comprising a quarter of the U.S. population, and the number of Baby Boomers has slipped to 75.4 million, the post-war cohort still rules the roost in the Batavia Micropolitan Area.

According to the Census Bureau Web site, there are 15,422 Baby Boomers locally compared to 14,670 Millennials.

Is Genesee County’s lagging Millennial population a trend that's important?

Absolutely, say those with the jobs related to the area’s development and growth.

“You definitely want to have Millennials in a community,” said Felipe Oltramari, the county planning director. “The next generation will create the jobs and opportunities for future generations to be here. As they become players with purchasing power, we want to make sure they are living here and they’re bringing more buying power and creating more jobs and running our community. From an economic development perspective, and social perspective, you want people here from all sorts of generations.”

The window of opportunity to anchor a small town with Millennials may be closing shortly, according to William Fulton, director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

And it’s a critically important issue for the future of small cities.

“Most people settle down by age 35, and usually don’t move from one metro area to another after that,” Fuller wrote in an article for Governing.com. “And the demographic group behind the Millennials is a lot smaller. Just like Baby Boomers, the preferences of the Millennials will drive our society for two generations. They’re making location decisions based on their idea of quality of life. And they’re going to make all those decisions in the next few years -- by the time they’re 35.”

The good news, according to Fuller, is even if time is short, the goal is obtainable for small cities.

“Even Millennials … want to live near their families and near where they grew up, meaning that if you can create interesting places, they’re likelier to stay,” Fuller wrote. “And you don’t need the endless hip urban fabric of New York or D.C. to compete. You just need a few great neighborhoods for people to live and work in. For most cities, that’s an achievable goal.”

Interesting places, amenities, activities, culture and the opportunity to interact socially, these are the things planners say Batavia needs to retain and attract Millennials.

“I try to drive this point every time I speak,” Oltramari said. “This generation moves first and then finds a job. If you look, there are jobs here and available, but they want to be where their peers are.”

So how do we create an environment where Millennials want to live?

A key word: density.

According to research by Nielsen:

“Sixty-two percent indicate they prefer to live in the type of mixed-use communities found in urban centers, where they can be close to shops, restaurants and offices. They are currently living in these urban areas at a higher rate than any other generation, and 40 percent say they would like to live in an urban area in the future. As a result, for the first time since the 1920s growth in U.S. cities outpaces growth outside of them.”

Tim Tielman, a Buffalo preservationist and development consultant, observed at a Landmark Society talk in 2013 that Batavia is hampering its ability create the kind of economic core that attracts Millennials and like-minded residents with its over-abundance of downtown parking.

"One of the biggest issues every city faces is dead zones," Tielman said. "Batavia has dead zones up and down its streets. Dead zones are devoid of commercial activity. You chain too many dead zones together and you destroy your local community."

When you build your commercial district around the car, the district loses its appeal to pedestrians, and when people walk and interact, commercial activity soars, the feeling of community is pervasive, and social and civic capital grows.

"It isn't cars that make a place a commercial success," Tielman said. "It's a success (based) on how well the human animal can get about certain places. It's what appeals and what stimulates them to walk."

More and more, City Manager Jason Molino said, he’s hearing people talk about walkability. Increasingly, it’s what all communities are after, and something — along with the companion concept bikeability — that Batavia is lacking.

“People want quality-of-life amenities,” Molino said. “People will commute a little bit if you don’t have the jobs in this area if they have the amenities.”

Molino got an immersive experience in the kind of lifestyle amenities that help bring vitality to an urban area. On a vacation day, he and his family visited a couple of the shopping districts in Buffalo and then stopped for dinner at Larkin Square. It was Food Truck Tuesday (video).

Larkin Square, part of what is now known as Larkinville, an area once known as the Larkin District, which is considered Buffalo’s first commercial district, was a rundown industrial warehouse neighborhood. Spurred by a $2 million public-private investment in 2009, the Larkin Building and surrounding cityscape was redeveloped and revitalized. It’s become a hot spot in Buffalo for retail, food and entertainment activity. Tielman was a consultant on the project.

“Two things were obvious to me,” Molino said. “You had people coming to the square right after work, Millennials coming right after work, but you also had the senior population and families — people interested in this kind of quality-of-life amenity with vendors, live music, a pavilion and seating area, and a grass area, and 20 food trucks, all reasonably priced.”

There’s an interesting intersection these days between what Millennials want and Empty-nesters want, Molino noted. They want to get away from the demands of suburban home ownership and the lack of a closely knit community fabric and they seek out walkable neighborhoods with plenty of retail, dining and entertainment options.

That’s what he saw throughout his vacation day with his family in Buffalo.

Steve Hyde’s spent some time recently in Larkinville as well and came away with the same observations.

“It’s a fabulous, vibrant place,” said Hyde, who is the president and CEO of Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC).

Hyde has been spending more time recently working with the City of Batavia to help secure funding and support for the city’s Batavia Opportunity Area, also known at the Brownfield Opportunity Area, or BOA.

The BOA plan is focused specifically on redevelopment of properties that are stalled in the revitalization pipeline in the Downtown area, such as the Della Penna property on Ellicott Street. Moving these projects forward would help advance further Downtown revitalization.

A look around town at all the underused and often dilapidated space might make revitalization feel like a daunting task, and though time is short to attract Millennials, Julie Pacatte, the economic development coordinator for the Batavia Development Corp., isn't feeling any pressure, at least in the sense that revitalization needs to occur before Millennials age out of relocating.

"I think we're fortunate that by the time people reach 35, they tend to move back here with their families," Pacatte said. "They want that smaller-town environment, where they know who's who and they like that feeling of community. We're fortunate it in that way, so no, I don't feel the pressure. I do think we have an opportunity to attract younger people sooner into our community and we're excited about that opportunity. I don't feel the pressure of it, but I certainly want to see something happen in a shorter time frame, in the next five years, in terms of turning some of these sites around."

Since the trend in cities across the country is toward density and mixed use, with greater demand for apartments in downtown areas, Batavia has backed several initiatives to convert underused or unoccupied space in Downtown into apartments, and Pacatte has been right in the middle of it.

She said the new apartments Downtown have certainly proven attractive to Millennials.

Molino agreed.

“All of our marketing studies show there is a demand for this kind of housing in Batavia,” Molino said. “People want to come to our area. It’s a core, central area.”

Part of the plan for Downtown is also creating more office space. Businesses that are founded by Millennials or that hire Millennials need space to relocate and grow, Pacatte said.

"A priority for us is drawing more people Downtown to live, work and shop," Pacatte said. "Millennials are the right target market for our Downtown plan."

While Hyde’s job is to create jobs and stimulate economic growth in Genesee County, Molino’s focus is a little broader. He wants to see Batavia become a better place to live.

He believes Batavia is ideally suited to be a less-expensive alternative to Buffalo and Rochester for Millennials and Empty-nesters, even when they work in the larger neighboring counties.

“With mobility being what it is these days, if you draw a half-hour circle around Rochester and Buffalo, they’re going to intersect in Batavia,” Molino said. “If people at that half-hour distance as a reasonable community, where can they find those amenities? That’s going to be what sells communities to Millennials and Empty-nesters.”

Hyde said what has already been accomplished in Batavia is attracting Millennials. He knows because his daughter, who works in Rochester, and a roommate, who works in Buffalo, rented one of those Downtown apartments.

“They love it,” Hyde said. “Everything is in walking distance. There are restaurants and bars and things for them to do. We need more of that Downtown.”

A place for Millennials to land in Batavia will increase the impact of STAMP (Science, Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Park) if the GCEDC is successful in attracting the kind of high tech, nano tech, advanced materials, solar and bio-manufacturing the park is designed to accommodate. The companies that set up shop in STAMP are going to hire a lot of Millennials who will make good wages and want a lifestyle that is social and active.

Hyde believes Batavia needs to be ready for them, or miss the opportunity to secure future growth.

“We can be a bigger center of economic opportunity,” Hyde said. “We can create a hip, smaller center city with lots of lifestyle choices.”

The BOA is tuned to provide just that kind of boost.

"The opportunity is in front of us," Pacatte said. "We have to make our Downtown more attractive and through these BOA sites, we will really be able to transform the Downtown experience."

July 8, 2015 - 4:45pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in brownfield opportunity area, batavia, downtown, business.

Press release: 

Less than a century ago, Batavia’s downtown was bustling with industry, where innovators relocated from New York City to mass produce farm implements to World War II incendiary bombs. These factories employed thousands of workers and took advantage of easy transportation, the railroad and nearby markets. But, the bygone era left a wake of deteriorating buildings, vacant lots and ground contaminants within City limits, a.k.a brownfield sites. Today, City leadership proclaims robust performance-based tax incentives available for the taking to return these underutilized or abandoned locations into vibrant mixed-use places.

In April, the New York Department of State (DOS) officially designated Batavia’s central corridor a Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) listing five strategic redevelopment sites. On a parallel track, the City’s local development corporation encouraged Councilmembers to adopt real property tax exemptions and they chased other tax credits to motivate real estate investment. Bold incentives are now in place.

“We could stand by and let these properties continue to decay the neighborhood or do something about it,” City Manager Jason Molino said.

Do something about it, they have. The City has worked to increase its bond rating to A1, turned a multimillion dollar deficit into a balanced budget with capital reserves and secured more than $5,000,000 in grants to improve existing industrial areas, upgrade infrastructure and study the longtime stagnant community.

A Community Improvement Plan was released in 2012 emphasizing an upgrade in housing stock followed by local adoption of real property tax exemptions that offer 12-year tax-bill discounts for converting non-residential buildings into mixed-use spaces. Shortly after, a sizeable $265,000 New York State Department of State BOA grant enabled local activists to grease the skids even further.

“It took four years but, the grant allowed us to hire a consulting team and organize a local Steering Committee to define market opportunities, investigate the ground and write a plan to move our central business corridor into the 21st century,” Molino said. “We know our small city can offer the conveniences and experiences of a larger city, but at an affordable price.”

The challenge was to determine if the real estate community would invest in the area. Now, the market reports and community confidence suggest they will.

The expert-led and community-inspired BOA plan was formally adopted by City Council in June 2014 and handed off to the City’s local development corporation to implement. The Batavia Development Corporation (BDC) immediately retained Harris Beach PLLC, a known deal-maker in the State to guide the efforts.

“It’s funny how the BOA designation appears like a badge of honor,” said Julie Pacatte, BDC coordinator. "It reads like a proclamation from DOS. In truth, it’s bittersweet. Sad we have these blighted areas but happy it sanctions bonus tax credits rewarding investment.”

Gaining access to that tax credit program is a whole different process, according to Pacatte.

The BDC Board authorized cash reserves to extend environmental investigation and to hire Harris Beach and LaBella Associates to prepare the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP) application. DEC serves as the gatekeeper to request access to the State tax credit program.

“It is a 643-page document enumerating data with compelling narrative to justify access to the program,” Pacatte said. “The BDC Board is clearly determined to advance the BOA plan.”

Unfortunately, their ambitious goal to go to market last year was stalled by expanded data collection, typical land assembly delays and uncertainty with the BCP as it under-went reform during the State’s budget process. Nevertheless, advocates still believe Batavia remains milestones ahead of other communities.

“The BDC’s approach is aggressive and recommended,” said Bob Murray, partner, Harris Beach PLLC. “To enter the BCP prior to marketing the property assures a preferred developer significant refundable NYS tax credits potentially worth up to 64 percent of total costs incurred for remediation, site preparation and new capital expended on that parcel. Not many communities are as proactive and committed.”

The BDC has released its first request for proposals addressing “Ellicott Station” a four-acre downtown redevelopment area that has confirmed acceptance to the BCP. The proposals are due next month, by Aug. 12.

“It was a no-brainer to spend the time and money necessary to line up these credits,” said Ray Chaya, BDC Board president. “No longer do we need to stand by to wait for investors, we are bringing the ROI to them.” 

For more information, visit the BDC Web site.

July 7, 2015 - 3:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCEDC, GGLDC, business, GCC.

Press release:

The ECMC Foundation provided grants totaling $219,424 to area organizations that help advance the quality of workforce and educational programs and services in Genesee County and the GLOW region (Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties). ECMC Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles with a mission to provide investments aimed at facilitating improvements that affect educational outcomes, especially among underserved populations.

The recipients include Genesee Valley Educational Partnership, Western New York Tech Academy, Genesee Community College (GCC) and the Genesee Gateway Local Development Corporation (GGLDC). The Foundation pledged dollars to assist these organizations to help underprivileged residents in the GLOW region in obtaining better access to workforce development training and college programming.

“These grants will not only improve the quality of our region’s many educational programs and services, but also provide both high school students and adults with the critical tools and training they need to be successful in the workforce,” said  Tom Felton, president and chairman of the GGLDC. “We look forward to working with the ECMC Foundation in disbursing the funding to these very worthy organizations.”

The Genesee Valley Educational Partnership, which received $100,000 of the grant, will use the funds to improve training programs for high school and adult students pursuing careers in-demand manufacturing fields, as well as purchase new machinery for its training facilities. The Genesee Valley Educational Partnership is one of 38 cooperative school districts in New York State that provides shared educational programs and services to its component school districts, including the Batavia City School District.

“The Genesee Valley Educational Partnership is honored to be included as a recipient of the ECMC Foundation grant,” said Kevin MacDonald, district superintendent of the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership. “This grant aims to provide adult and high school students with new opportunities to gain employable skills.

"The scope of this grant is vast. This program will be open to high school students who attend any of the 22 component school districts served by the Partnership, as well as any student enrolled in the Partnership Adult Education Program. Our goal is to help highly skilled workers meet the emerging needs of industry within our region.”

Chuck DiPasquale, director of Programs, Genesee Valley Educational Partnership, said: “This grant will be utilized to make improvements to the machining and welding programs at both Genesee Valley Educational Partnership’s career and technical education centers. High school and adult students will have the opportunity to be trained on the latest and most up-to-date equipment and technology. Upon completion of the program, students will be highly qualified and ready to meet industry standards.

Western New York Tech Academy, an early college high school supporting grades 9-14, was awarded $61,710. The Academy will use the funds to enhance training programs for its at-risk students through the purchase of new workplace equipment and furniture for its classrooms.

“It’s our mission to create learning environments that support a cultural shift away from the traditional classroom and toward today’s workplace,” said Tom Schulte, principal, Western New York Tech Academy. “This can only happen if the physical space supports it, and it’s through the generosity of the ECMC Foundation that will allow us make this shift a reality.”

Genesee Community College (GCC), the recipient of a $44,390 grant, will purchase new equipment to support lab and "hands-on" learning activities in its food-processing educational programs.

"GCC's newest degree, Food Processing Technology AAS, gives residents in our rural community an opportunity to secure well-paying jobs -- such as production and quality control supervisors and safety and storage technicians," said Rafael Alicea-Maldonado, Ph.D., GCC's dean of Math, Science and Career Education.

"These are excellent careers in the burgeoning food-tech industry which are also 100-percent made in America. Funds from the ECMC Foundation will help us purchase the state-of-the-art equipment necessary for this new program including refractometers, salt, moisture and lacticheck analyzers and ebulliometers."

Lastly, the GGLDC will receive $13,324 to facilitate the coordination of the various activities of the grant recipients, including overseeing reporting requirements as stipulated in the agreement with the ECMC Foundation to monitor and track progress of each initiative.

July 3, 2015 - 5:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in New York Craft Malt, batavia, business, Beer, agriculture.

hawleygrainjuluy2015-2.jpg

The effort to bring back malting to Upstate New York is a multi-year process.

Working with Cornell University, Ted and Patty Hawley, owners of New York Craft Malt on Bank Street Road, Batavia, are in their third year of running trials of malting grain in Genesee County Farm fields.

There's a plot on Hawley-owned farmland off Bank Street Road and another on Porter Farms, plus the Hawleys have some grain growing on other local farms.

The trial involves 34 varieties of barley, plus wheat and oats.

"We've got to look at all aspects of it, and it's a hard go," Hawley said. "Cornell won't really give their recommendation for four or five years."

The challenges in Western New York have to do primarily with weather -- the year-to-year variances, but more importantly the overall amount of moisture in ground and air.

Malting grains are highly susceptible to fungal diseases, so what researchers want to find are those varieties that grow well in this climate and stay health without sprouting two quickly (once the grain head sprouts, it can no longer be malted).

"Our region is very finicky," Hawley said.

The process involves two key sets of analyses.

First, researchers want to determine how well a variety grows locally, or its agronomics for a farmer. It's important to determine the quality and quantity of the protein, how it germinates and its yield (more yield, more profit per acre).

Second, the grain needs to be malted. The test isn't about taste or any subjective measurement. Researchers are looking at protein, enzymes and how well it malts.

Brewers are looking for good, locally grown grains because the farm brewery law requires locally produced, craft beers to contain a certain percentage of local agriculture product.

But Hawley said local brewers and growers are also looking to produce an interest among consumers to seek out totally local beers. They are working together on a marketing plan that would provide bars with a "Local" tap that would only be attached to kegs of locally brewed beer that uses only locally grown ingredients.

"I think once the consumer wants it, brewers are going to have to give it to them and then I think it's going to grow," Hawley said.

hawleygrainjuluy2015.jpg

A two-row variety and a six-row variety.

hawleygrainjuluy2015-3.jpg

June 26, 2015 - 5:34pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCEDC, Batavia Downs, business, batavia.

Dealing just with hard numbers -- setting aside speculation on hoped-for new revenue and "the multiplier effect" of jobs created -- the tax abatement plan approved Thursday by the Genesee County Economic Development Center Board for a new hotel at Batavia Downs should be profitable for taxpayers, according to data obtained by The Batavian from a GCEDC staffer.

The abatements will save developers about 11.5 percent on their $5.49 million investment, and the new taxes the project generates will be about a 100-percent return to taxpayers, if you accept the notion that the project doesn't get built at all without the tax incentives. If not, it's at least 42-percent return.

By law, the developer must certify that the project requires a tax break to be feasible, according to Rachael J. Tabelski, marketing and communications director. That is a requirement for all projects considered by the GCEDC.

"We have to trust the applicant that when they say this project won't be a viable project without the tax incentives," Tabelski said.

ADK Hospitality, the hotel's developer, will save $638,000 in taxes over the next 10 years, but it won't be getting off totally free. The hotel's owners, over the next 10 years, will pay $1.1 million in various taxes.

Tabelski was quick to point out that the $638,000 in tax breaks is not money taken from taxpayers. It's just money that isn't paid to the government; money that doesn't exist if the project isn't built. Thus, the $1.1 million in taxes ADK will pay over the next decade is all new revenue for schools, the county and the state (but not the Town of Batavia, which doesn't have its own tax on property).

That figure doesn't include sales tax generated by the hotel, or any anticipated increase in sales tax generated by the hoped-for increase in business at Batavia Downs. It also doesn't include employment taxes generated by the anticipated $600,000 in payroll for 25 full-time equivalent new hires at the hotel. 

The developers told the GCEDC Board that the project would generate a total of $2.8 million in tax revenue between now and 2025, but there isn't a breakdown available on what categories of taxes comprise that total. It likely covers fire district, property, bed tax, sales tax and payroll tax.

The $1.1 million in hard numbers we have includes:

  • $56,000 paid to the Town of Batavia Fire District;
  • $550,000 paid in county bed taxes;
  • $500,000 paid in property taxes over the life of the PILOT.

A PILOT is a tax break given to developers of projects that industrial development agencies, such as GCEDC, believe will create or retain jobs. It is a reduction in taxes on the increase in assessed value of a property.

Let's say a property is valued at $100,000. A business ads a new wing to its building and increases the assessed value to $150,000. The business continues to pay all property taxes on the initial $100,000 in assessed value, but gets a reduction in taxes on that additional $50,000. PILOT agreements vary, but typically, there would be no taxes due the first two years of the increase, and then taxes would be incrementally increased every two years until the 10th year, when the property owner is paying the full tax bill on the increase in assessed value.

In the case of the hotel property, the developers are buying land from Western OTB, which is currently tax-exempt and has no assessed value. It will be assessed next year, and its assessed value will go from zero to whatever that assessed value is, and the PILOT will be calculated based on that increase, unless the project is not yet completed, in which case there will be only a partial assessment with a full assessment to come during the next annual assessment period after the project's completion.

The PILOT on this project is worth $300,000. The remaining abatements are for the mortgage tax on the purchase and on the sales taxes due on material purchased during construction.

As for the multiplier effect, that's a controversial notion to some, but the idea is that if you create a new job and pay that person money, they will spend some amount of that money locally, and the churn of that money will help pay other people's wages, lifting everyone's boats. That $600,000 in new payroll could be worth millions in economic growth locally.

These figures also don't include wages paid to construction workers and purchases made from local vendors -- if any -- during construction.

June 25, 2015 - 1:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in wbta, business.

Press release:

WBTA Radio will temporarily suspend AM and FM transmissions on Friday morning, June 26 in order to repair antenna damage caused by severe thunderstorms earlier.

The station expects the signals will be turned off at about 10:15 a.m. as engineers reposition the station's FM antenna that was rotated 90-degrees due to strong winds.

The AM signal on 1490 was unaffected by the storm but in order for someone to safely climb the 200-foot tower on Creek Road to reach the FM antenna both signals must be shut down, explained WBTA President Dan Fischer.

“We hope the outage will last no more than 90 minutes but we will not know the extent of damage until we can inspect it close up,” Fischer said.

While the stations are off the air, programming will continue to be heard online and via mobile devices at WBTAi.com.

June 23, 2015 - 7:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in jobs, economy, business.

The number of people with jobs in Genesee County has improved, according to statistics released today by the state Department of Labor.

The sunnier employment picture for local residents comes a couple of weeks after a labor department report revealed that the county fell flat on in-county job growth in May, but the same jobs report showed an increase in the workforce in Monroe and Erie counties.

There are 300 more local residents with jobs now than there were a year ago, according to today's report. The total has climbed from 28,900 in May 2014 to 29,200 this May.

That puts the Genesee County unemployment rate at 4.7 percent, compared to 5.0 in May 2014.

The 4.7-percent rate is low, but not the lowest figure of the past 12 months. The rate was 4.6 in October. In the past 12 months it's been as high as 6.8 percent, which was the figure in January.

The unemployment rate in Wyoming County is 5.2 percent, down form 5.8 percent a year ago. In Orleans it's dropped from 7.0 to 6.2 and in Livingston, from 5.7 to 5.1.

The state rate is 5.3 percent and the national rate is 5.3.

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