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May 12, 2015 - 8:30am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, development, Vernon Avenue.

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Residents of Vernon Avenue are organizing opposition to a proposed new Arby's Restaurant on West Main Street, at the end of Vernon.

In a petition presented to City Council Monday night, residents say the proposed development -- which would replace three existing residential buildings -- would create more noise, result in 24-hour lighting, destroy trees, increase traffic congestion at the intersection and on Vernon, and decrease property values.

Residents David Steele and John McCauley spoke up during public comments at Monday's meeting and Steele presented the Council with a petition signed by almost every resident of Vernon Avenue (City Manager Jason Molino lives there but didn't sign it, Steele said, citing a conflict of interest).

"Many residents, especially those at the southern end of Vernon Avenue, have said if this development goes through as presented to the Planning and Development Committee, they will list their homes for sale," Steele said. If many residents do that, there will be a housing glut on that street with supply and demand decreasing property values."

McCauley (top photo) said he purchased his home about a year ago, moving here with his wife from Buffalo, expecting to live on a quiet street. If the Arby's is built, he said, then he'd likely move.

"We were sad to hear that (an Arby's was going in)," McCauley said. "If they were going to do something like that, it would probably force us to put our house up for sale."

The proposed development will be on Thursday's agenda for the County Planning Board and at a future meeting of the city's Planning and Development Committee. Steele said residents plan to be at both of those meetings.

The planning committee operates independently and the Council has no real input on what development gets approved or denied.

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May 11, 2015 - 1:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCEDC, business.

Press release:

The Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) and Genesee Gateway Local Development Corporation (GGLDC) approved projects at the May 7 board meetings.  

The GCEDC approved an application from the Depew, Lancaster & Western Railroad for the purchase of a specialized forklift and two track vehicles for servicing truck and rail service at the transload warehouse facility in the City of Batavia.

Depew, Lancaster & Western Railroad company also received approval for a sales tax exemption of $9,512. The anticipated capital investment will be approximately estimated $118,000. Further, for every $1 of public benefit, the company will invest $12.50 into the local economy.

The GCEDC Board also passed an amended insurance policy to allow for the approval of lower insurance limits specifically for small-scale sales-tax exemption projects on a case by case basis. The new policy will allow smaller projects to take advantage of GCEDC’s incentives without having to incur the increased costs of changing insurance coverage to receive the benefits.

The GGLDC, the real estate arm of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC), approved a purchase and sale agreement with Fancher Properties LLC for 2.6 acres of land in the Buffalo East Technology Park. 

Fancher Properties plans to build a 15,000-square-foot facility at the Technology Park to house an office, manufacturing and warehouse facility. The company, which manufactures and installs specialty signs and closets for housing developments and hotels, plans to invest $500,000 in the project and will work with the GCEDC to seek IDA benefits.

“While it’s great to see new businesses coming into the community, it’s also very important that our agency can assist existing companies with their expansion and growth needs,” said Steve Hyde, GCEDC president and CEO. 

Hyde also stated that “the change approved by the GCEDC Board in the insurance requirement policy will allow us more opportunities to help small businesses take advantage of IDA benifts for their projects."

May 10, 2015 - 9:23pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Alli's Cones and Dogs, Oakfield, business.

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While out in Oakfield today, I found Karl Dilcher running a Mother's Day chicken BBQ. This was the first day that Dilcher, owner of Alli's Cones & Dogs, offered chicken BBQ, something he says he plans to do every day, plus offer the service as catering for special events, including charities, graduations, weddings, etc. Pictured with Diltcher is Shorty Thomas, now working for Dilcher, who worked for years for Clor's.

May 8, 2015 - 1:30pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in darien lake theme park, darien lake, business, Darien.

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The first Darien Lake Theme Park customers got to climb aboard the newest thrill ride in Western New York today -- Rolling Thunder.

The rail-car loop propels riders back-and-forth and then around the loop forward and backward.  

The park opened to season ticket holders today and to all park-goers tomorrow for the season, which runs through Sept. 27.

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Chamber of Commerce President Tom Turnbull cut the ribbon for the new ride.

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General Manager Chris Thorpe shows off the next new ride for Darien Lake, Brain Drain. The ride will be completed in time for guests to take the plunge for the first time on Saturday. The water slide drops riders from platform 70-feet high at an 80-degree angle, propelling them through the looping slide at 38 feet per second.

Full press release from Darien Lake after the jump:

May 7, 2015 - 1:01pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, BEST Center.

Press release:

The City of Batavia was awarded a $200,000 grant to foster the development of new and expanding small businesses that will improve the community. Per Federal grantor requirements, the City has coordinated capacity-building training in order to make grants available to entrepreneur participants and those willing to promote employment opportunities for persons of low-moderate income families.

“Knowing we have market opportunities, this grant enables the City to coordinate instructional training to help people develop their business ideas and learn what it takes to be successful from veteran business owners,” said City Manager Jason Molino. “The classroom interactions will supplement the existing services already provided by the Chamber, Small Business Development Center and SCORE.”

To meet national program objectives, the City of Batavia partnered with the BEST Center at Genesee Community College and the Batavia Development Corporation (BDC) to offer a three-part “Owning Your Own Business” series designed to inspire creativity, fine-tune skills, and find where passion and work intersect. At the end, new and expanding businesses in the City having fewer than five employees may be eligible to access grants up to $15,000.

The initial program started April 22nd as a series of one-hour sessions where participants assessed their personal readiness to own and operate a new business and explored business opportunities. The final Part I session is next week, "The Sniff Test: assessing your business idea!" In the class setting, participants will pinpoint a target audience, evaluate the idea, navigate the competitive landscape and determine next steps.

The final Part I series is Wednesday, May 13, from noon -1 p.m. in the second floor community room at Batavia City Hall. Pre-register for $5 online at http://www.genesee.edu/best/ or pay $10 at the door. Light refreshments available.

Get Underway -- Small Business Ownership Part II begins Wednesday, May 27th . This weekly evening session goes beyond the basics to help participants fully develop a business concept and transition into becoming a business manager.

These five weekly Wednesday evening sessions are mandatory if participants want to access grant resources available through the City of Batavia Microenterprise Grant Program. The sessions run from 6 to 9 p.m. in Room T121 of the Conable Technology Building on GCC’s Batavia campus.

They include:

  • May 27
  • June 3
  • June 10
  • June 17
  • June 24

-- Trials, tribulations & skills of a successful business leader Marketing strategies to increase sales;

-- Using financial information to guide my business Learning to “manage” a business;

-- Business plan presentation and networking costs $125 and students will receive a certificate upon successful completion.

The five-week course registration is also available online at http://www.genesee.edu/best/.

The City has offered small business loans and grants for over a decade resulting in more than $5,000,000 public-private investments. The $200,000 grant and the Small Business Ownership series is funded by the New York State Office of Community Renewal Community Development Block Grant.

May 6, 2015 - 6:33pm

Press release:

The Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) will consider a project from Depew, Lancaster & Western Railroad at its May 7 board meeting.

Depew, Lancaster & Western Railroad is planning to purchase additional equipment to include one specialized forklift and two track vehicles for servicing truck and rail service at the transload warehouse facility in the City of Batavia. The projected capital investment is approximately $118,000. The company has applied to the GCEDC for a sales tax exemption of $9,512.

The GCEDC Board meeting will take place at 4 p.m. and is open to the public. Meetings are held at the Innovation Zone Conference Room at MedTech Centre -- 99 MedTech Drive, Batavia, on the first floor, across from Genesee Community College.

May 6, 2015 - 1:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in steve hawley, business.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) today commented on last night’s passage of legislation to increase the minimum wage. Hawley said the legislation is misguided and does not improve the already suffocating business climate that New York has perpetuated in past years. The 2015-16 State Budget provides no tax or regulatory relief for small businesses or the middle class.  

“As the owner of small businesses for over four decades, I know the struggles of operating in New York’s tax and fine environment,” Hawley said. “I voted against a minimum wage increase because when businesses are legally obligated to pay their employees more, they are therefore able to hire less employees and therefore create less jobs. A more viable option to help taxpayers would be a widespread middle class tax cut, something the Assembly Majority again failed to include in this year’s budget. My district is heavily agriculturally based and a minimum wage hike would jeopardize the ability of farming operations to hire additional employees, especially on an hourly basis. I will continue to support my district’s business interests and alternatives exist that would address the root problem of high taxes and regulations that is hindering our middle class and business community.   

“Furthermore, this bill raises the minimum wage to a much higher rate in New York, Westchester, Suffolk and Nassau counties than the rest of New York State. This is another piece of evidence highlighting the growing disparity between Upstate and Downstate and why we should allow the public to decide if they would support a division of New York into two separate states by passing my legislation, Assembly Bill 4167. New Yorkers deserve this choice now more than ever considering Downstate interests dominate our legislature while the social and economic concerns of millions of Upstate New Yorkers are ignored.”

Hawley is the owner of an insurance agency based in Batavia and the former owner/operator of Hawley Farms. He is a current member of the Farm Bureau’s Circle of Friends and has voted with pro-business groups such as the Business Council and Unshackle Upstate the vast majority of his time in the legislature.

May 5, 2015 - 12:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Fair, fair, business, agriculture.

The Genesee County Fair has gotten better each of the last two years and attendance figures bear that out, Norm Pimm told the County Legislature's Human Services Committee.

Last year, attendance was up 30 percent and fair organizers are taking aim at even more growth in 2015.

"Attendance is up double figures two years in a row," Pimm said. "That doesn't happen if you're not putting on a good product."

This year, there will be new local bands, bigger tractor pulls and a significantly expanded Midway.

The board is planning on nearly doubling the budget for rides, going up to $40,000 this year.

The midway isn't a big money maker for the fair, but a good midway is essential to overall fair attendance. Not everyone is interested in livestock and stock cars.

"When we looking for vendors, we said we had $25,000 to spend and we couldn't even get vendors to call us back," Pimm said. "The ones that did sort of laughed and said 'that's 20 years ago money.' So we realized we had to invest more money into the midway so we had something where people want to come and bring their kids."

The fair runs July 21 through 25.

The county will contribute $11,000 to the 4-H program.

Pimm said the fair's success can also be judged by the number of local businesses supporting the fair, either through donations, sponsorships or taking a booth as a vendor. In all three categories, the fair did better last year than previous years and will at least match that level of participation this year, based on indications so far, Pimm said.

"This is the most active board we've had in years, and it's making a difference," Pimm said.

Pimm is confident that people who haven't been to the fair in recent years, if they come this year, they will have a good time.

"It's just $5 a car load to attend," Pimm said. "Come on, spend your $5 and you won't be disappointed. If you are, come and find a member of the board of directors and we'll give you your $5 back."

May 4, 2015 - 1:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Advanced Imaging, business, Genesee Urgent Care, batavia.

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There was one bidder at a Sheriff's property seizure auction this morning, Melissa Marsocci, owner of Genesee Urgent Care (formerly Insource Urgent Care).

Three parcels were available in the auction, the result of a judgment against Advanced Imaging won by General Electric. Marsocci bid on two properties.

GE was owned nearly $1 million by Advanced Imaging, according to court records.

Marsocci paid $1 for each of the two properties she won at auction. The Sheriff's office gets a 5-percent fee of the auction, resulting in 10 cents for the county, with $1.80 going to GE.

Marsocci paid cash, but has 24 hours to change her mind.

She will be responsible for $54,000 in taxes owed to the City of Batavia in back taxes if she keeps the two parcels.

The big issue, and what probably kept other bidders away, Marsocci said, is a question of whether other creditors of Advanced Imaging can try to collect judgments against the new property owner.

Over the next day, Marsocci is going to try and determine the answer to that question, which will figure into her decision on whether to keep the property.

If she keeps it, she knows her current business location, 35 City Centre, will be protected from potential eviction if somebody else bought the property.

She will also be able to expand her business into the Advanced Imaging office. She intends to open office space for more medical specialists.

Advanced Imaging owner Mark Zdrojewski attended the auction (top photo, far side of the conference table), but did not register to bid. He refused to comment following the auction and left quickly.

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Deputy Ed Vlack accepts the $2 payment from Melissa Marsocci for two parcels of property in City Centre that were auctioned at the Sheriff's Office this morning.

Previously: Public documents reveal deep financial hole for local medical business

May 3, 2015 - 10:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Stafford, business, Adams Welding.

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Steve Foster, of Adams Welding, has a new side business -- turning metal left over from commercial jobs, and maybe mixing in some horseshoes they buy, to create lawn art and other household decorative items.

Foster and Tim Adams were in front of their shop on Main Road, Stafford, this afternoon selling the items, though they've also started attending various festivals in the area. They've done two so far.

It was a friend in the Chamber of Commerce who suggested the sideline, Foster said. 

"He said, you have all this extra metal, why don't you start making something out of it," Foster said. "It would go to the scrap yard otherwise."

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May 2, 2015 - 2:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, batavia public market.

Michelle Farina couldn't have been happier with the first day of the Batavia Public Market, a new venture she decided to undertake this summer at the home location of her bakery and catering service on West Saile Drive.

With a license from the Town of Batavia for 160 vendors, she was happy to have 80 on the first day. There was a steady stream of shoppers throughout the morning and into the afternoon. And the weather was perfect.

"I'm just so happy to see all these people here," Farina said. "Everyone has just given us great feedback about how happy they are to be here. To see these people happy makes me happy. It's a great turnout. It's good to see a gathering of people in the community to come out, sit down at picnic tables and get a bite of food from these food trucks and to listen to our local band. It's just great."

The market will run every Saturday through Oct. 31, and as fresh, locally grown produce comes into season, Farina said there will be vendors offering the bounty of our local ag community.

Plus she anticipates more vendors signing on throughout the summer.

There will be live music every week supplied by local musicians, plus she hopes to add more activities for children.

Today, the Rochester Mustang Club brought their cherry rides to display.

"I wanted to have a place where the community meets," Farina said. "A gathering place for good people, kind of bring us back to the good old days."

A brand-new locally owned business making its debut at the market was Wakefield Coffee Roasters, owned by Scott and Cassie Wakefield. Scott fell in love with coffee roasting while in the Coast Guard stationed in Hawaii when a friend roasted a few ounces of coffee for him. He took it up as a hobby and when Farina learned about his very successful hobby, she suggested he set up a booth at the market. Coffee is best when it's freshly roasted, he said. "It's better than the stale stuff you get at the supermarket."

For customers who come to the market, he'll provide a batch of coffee beans roasted the night before that should last them the week. He hopes to develop a steady base of customers that will continue to get coffee from him throughout the winter. He does deliver coffee beans. As for a retail location someday? That's a thought, but just a thought at this point, he said. For more information, visit the Wakefield Coffee Roasters Web site.

April 30, 2015 - 5:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown, BID.

The Batavia Improvement District held its annual luncheon this afternoon at the City Church Generations Center on Center Street.

Top photo: Steve Krna, vice president of Genesee Patrons, an insurance company, accepts a Spirit of Downtown Award.

David Boyce, CEO of Tompkins Insurance, receiving a Spirit of Downtown Award for Tompkins.

John Roche, Adam Miller Toy and Bicycle, was honored as a volunteer.

Mary Valle, Valle Jewelers, was also honored as a Volunteer of the Year.

The keynote speaker was Michael Schmand, executive director of Buffalo Place.

April 30, 2015 - 10:04am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Le Roy, Empire Access.

The City of Batavia is wired. Wired for high-speed broadband, that is. 

Empire Access can now deliver download speeds of 100 megabits to more than 95 percent of the properties in the city. There are only about 40 or 50 households that would be hard to reach, but once a couple of access hurdles are cleared, Empire will be able to service those customers as well.

"We're very pleased with the response we've received," said Jim Baase, president of Empire. "Even without video, we've sold a lot of internet-only packages. We're ahead of plan of where we thought we would be and video will only help with more penetration."

While broadband and telephone service is licensed through the state and requires no local approvals to provide service, federal law requires cable TV providers to sign franchise agreements with local municipalities.

Empire has been in negotiations with the City of Batavia for a franchise agreement for at least six months. Councilman John Deleo has raised the issue at two consecutive City Council meetings and City Manger Jason Molino hasn't wanted to comment further in public than "we're in negotiations."

Empire already has franchise agreements with 35 other municipalities in New York.

"Typically, it takes a couple of months to get through negotiations," Baase said. "It's taking a little longer with the City of Batavia. There are still a few outstanding issues that the city is requiring us to agree to. We haven't resolved those issues yet. We're hopeful in the next few weeks those issues will get resolved."

For residential customers wanting affordable, high-speed broadband now, the installation process typically takes about two weeks.

The photos with this story are of an Empire crew doing a line drop on a residential street in Batavia and at a Downtown location.

Once a customer signs up for the service, an outside crew drops a line to the location and tests it. An inside crew comes later, at an appointed time with the customer, to finish the install inside the residence.

The installation make take a little longer with apartment complexes serviced by underground utilities.

Empire is also working on expanding service beyond the City of Batavia. The company is working with Town of Batavia officials now to start stretching beyond the city's borders and engineers are drawing up plans for providing service in Le Roy.

The company hopes to start building the network in Le Roy by the fourth quarter of this year.

As for reaching more rural parts of the county, Baase said the company is looking for municipal partners in that process and is in fact talking with Town of Batavia officials along those lines.

With such partners, it might make it possible to tap into the $500 million in seed money Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed for expansion broadband in rural New York.

They're also looking for more partners like the Town of Big Flats, in Chemung County, where officials didn't want to wait around for grant money, so the town helped Empire secure a low-interest loan to build out the network.

"There are limited resources and we can't build everywhere at once," Baase said. "We're in the Town of Big Flats because they reached out to us. We're looking for more partnerships like that."

Photos: The work crew handling the outside installation work yesterday was Rick Burke, Kasey Wetmore, Don Todd, Joe Kirchner and Roy Faulkner. Pictured are Burke, in the cherry picker, and Wetmore, seen in the fourth photo splicing together a line from the outside of a house to the inside wire.

April 29, 2015 - 6:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, GCEDC, Le Roy, bergen.

Le Royans will often tell you, they live in a special place. Now they have some proof and a chance to demonstrate just how special it is, with the chance at a $3 million prize at the end of the rainbow.

Frontier Communications, drawing from 138 applications in 27 states, has picked Le Roy as one of the Top 50 communities in America.

The honor comes with a $50,000 prize to help fund writing a comprehensive plan aimed at spurring business growth with assistance from business leaders at IBM.

"For those of us who choose to live here, and those people who have chosen to move away and come back, there is a draw to la-roy, or lee-roy (pause for laughter), and we need to capitalize on that, and I think maybe that's why we were so strong with our application," said Lynn Belluscio, curator of the Le Roy Historical Society, who helped with the application process. "It is going to take all of us going in the same direction, which we know is sometimes difficult in this community, but I think we can do it."

The impetus to apply came from County Legislator Shelly Stein, who worked with the staff at GCEDC to get the ball rolling, but the application process and letters of support brought together not just Stein and the GCEDC, but Belluscio, Supervisor Steve Barbeau, the Rotary Club of Le Roy, the Chamber of Commerce, Superintendent of Schools Kim Cox, the Le Roy Business Council, County Planning Director Felipe Oltramari and the Village of Le Roy.

The Village and Town of Bergen also pitched in because Le Roy by itself didn't have a big enough population to qualify.

The business project that will be targeted for infrastructure improvement -- a bigger natural gas pipe and broadband -- is the park at Route 19 and West Bergen road.

Robert Smith, the Rochester area general manager for Frontier, said he though Le Roy and Bergen were a great choice.

"But the work doesn't end here," Smith said. "You have a lot more to do because there is a lot more that can come from this."

The comprehensive plan will be reviewed in November and after that the Le Roy group will find out if it moves onto the next stage.

The eventual payoff for the winner is a $3 million prize, but second plays will earn $2 million and third, $1 million.

Growing the local business base is critical, Barbeau said.

He noted that for every tax dollar generated by a commercial property, businesses consume about 60 to 70 cents and services. For agriculture, it's about 30 cents in services. But residential, he said, eats up about $1.30 in services.

"We feel like this is a perfect opportunity to expand our infrastructure and bring in more business," he said.

Steve Hyde, CEO of GCEDC, said this is an exciting opportunity for Le Roy and Bergen and fits right in with everything GCEDC is trying to do to attract more industry to Genesee County.

"When you try to grow an economy, you need to be able to talk about the quality of life and the factors that make it a place where people want to live, work and play," Hyde said. "This community has that."

Photo: Smith presenting a finalists' certificate with Rotary president Randy Vink and Stein in the background.

April 27, 2015 - 9:37am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Total Tan.

Total Tan, with a location in Batavia, is the target of a false advertising lawsuit filed by the office of Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.

The Williamsville-based company has 26 outlets, including 15 in Western New York.

Schneiderman's suit accuses Total Tan of making false advertising claims by denying or minimizing scientific evidence linking tanning to an increased cancer risk; promoting indoor tanning as a safe way to reap the benefits of vitamin D and other purported health benefits; and asserting the safety of indoor tanning compared to tanning outdoors. 

“Make no mistake about it: There is nothing safe about indoor tanning. The use of ultraviolet devices increases exposure to cancer-causing radiation and puts millions of Americans in serious danger – young adults, in particular,” Schneiderman said. “Irresponsible businesses that seek to rake in profits by misleading the public about the safety of their services will be held accountable by my office. Advertising and marketing cannot be used as a tool to confuse and endanger New York consumers.”

The Buffalo News obtained a statement from Total Tan owners Cynthia and Keith Leonard through their attorneys at Harris Beach.

“The Attorney General’s claim that Total Tan produced misleading advertising is not true,” the Leonards said. “We are a small, upstate, family-owned business that refuses to be intimidated by Mr. Schneiderman, who is trying to impose his own view of the world on our industry and the citizens of upstate New York."

The suit also names another group of tanning salons, Portofino Spas.

Of Total Tan, the AG's office says the company made the following allegedly false statements in market material, including social media:

  • A testimonial from “cancer survivor Kurt Hollis” where he asserted to have treated his kidney cancer by tanning at Total Tan.
  • “Tanning Fact! A Tanning unit can produce as much Vitamin D as drinking 100 glasses of milk! Wow!!!”
  • Claims that vitamin D from indoor tanning will assist in either treatment or prevention of an array of serious diseases including cancer, heart disease, asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, and blood clots.

Read the full press release here.

April 22, 2015 - 10:26am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, economy, jobs, employment.

Genesee County's unemployment rate dropped from 6.7 to 6.0 percent from last March to this March, according to the latest data from the NYS Department of Labor.

At the same time, the total number of local residents who are employed, and the total number of local residents who are unemployed, both declined.

There are now 27,500 people with jobs in the county, according to the data, compared to 27,700 in March 2014.

There are 1,800 people listed as unemployed, compared to 2,000 a year ago.

The total number of non-farm jobs in the county rose from 22,000 to 22,100. 

The number of non-farm jobs in March 2015 increased from the previous month by 200.

The total number of manufacturing jobs has remained steady during the time period at 3,000. Goods-producing jobs have held steady at 3,800.

The national unemployment rate is 5.6 percent and the state's is 5.8.

In the Rochester area, the rate is 5.5 percent, and in Buffalo, 5.9.

The rate in Orleans County, 7.2, Livingston, 5.5, and Wyoming, 7.4.

 

April 22, 2015 - 9:23am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, media, Bill Brown.

Press release:

The legacy of the late William F. Brown Jr., noted Batavia author, broadcaster and journalist, will live on through a scholarship established by The Jerome Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that distributes funds to benefit United Memorial Medical Center and other health-related purposes.

The William F. Brown Jr. Memorial Scholarship, an annual $1,000 grant, will be awarded to a deserving high school senior residing in and graduating from a school in Genesee County whose intention is to pursue at least a four-year degree in the fields of Journalism, Communications, or Public Relations (in print, radio, television or digital media).

Brown, who died on Nov. 29, 2014 at the age of 91, was the former owner and president of WBTA Radio, a longtime correspondent for The Buffalo News and a frequent contributor to The Batavia Daily News.

An expert on Genesee County history, he wrote numerous books and articles on notable people and events, including the unsolved Linden murders, Batavia Downs, Redfield Parkway and the Mancuso family.

He also was president of the board of directors of the former St. Jerome Hospital and a charter member and trustee emeritus of The Jerome Foundation.

“Bill Brown contributed greatly to the quality of life in Genesee County through his writing, and as a member of numerous community and civic organizations,” said Justin Calarco-Smith, board president of The Jerome Foundation. “He enriched our lives and we hope to be able to continue that spirit of giving with this scholarship that honors his memory.”

A committee of directors from the foundation will judge the scholarship applicants based upon academic merit, creative accomplishment, community service and leadership.

Applications are available at guidance offices at the nine Genesee County high schools or by contacting Martha Spinnegan, administrative assistant for The Jerome Foundation, at [email protected].

The completed application must be mailed to The Jerome Foundation, P.O. Box 249, Batavia, NY, 14020, and postmarked by May 8 to be considered.

April 21, 2015 - 9:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, UMMC, bergen, dan ireland.
Dan Ireland riding the shuttle from St. Jerome's to UMMC on a recent morning.
Jeremy Cosimeno and Dan Ireland share a cup of coffee and a laugh in the UMMC cafeteria before starting a recent workday.

From early in his career, there were people who saw something in Dan Ireland and encouraged him along his path from orderly to president of his hometown hospital.

While perhaps not a tale ripped from the pages of Horatio Alger, Ireland does stand out in an era when young people are indoctrinated to believe they must escape their smalltown roots to make something of themselves.

Ireland was born in Batavia, attended Batavia High School and started his collegiate career at Genesee Community College. While still in college, he landed a job at St. Jerome's Hospital, and outside of a brief stint with a hospital in Rochester, he has spent his entire career with St. Jerome's, Genesee Memorial or UMMC, rising from entry-level to top executive over the course of 26 years.

The climb to the pinnacle is something Dave Shaffer saw coming. He told Ireland where he was going, but Ireland didn't buy it.

Ireland said the two good friends laugh about it to this day.

"He said to me one day, 'You're going to run this hospital someday,' " Ireland said. "I said, 'No, I don't think that's ever going to happen.' He reminded me about it when I was appointed, but I never had that vision."

Ireland started out in college with the intention of going into information technology, but as a volunteer with Town of Batavia Fire Department, he was exposed to patient care. 

"Those were the days when paramedics were just coming into departments," Ireland said. "You got them in the ambulance and raced to the hospital as quickly as possible and we actually did very little out in the field for patients. As I saw more of that developing, it piqued my interest -- how do I care for patients?"

Ireland decided to become a nurse, switched majors at GCC and took a job at St. Jerome's, transferring a year later to Genesee Memorial.

Back when Batavia had a skating rink, Skate 98, Dan Ireland was a champion rollerskate performer.

"I think he's a lot like me," Shaffer said. "He's easy going. He treats people like he wants to be treated. I don't have a problem with people like that.

"I never had a doubt my prediction wouldn't come true," Shaffer added.

In those early days, Gloria Stevens also saw something in Ireland that set him apart.

She met him while working at St. Jerome's and he was working on an ambulance.

"He was always smiling, always friendly," Stevens recalled. "He always seemed to be in a good mood every time I'd see him and he just seemed like a really nice young man."

Her daughter, Amy, had also taken note of Ireland and mentioned him to her mother.

"I think she thought he was cute," Stevens said.

One evening Stevens asked Ireland if he was dating anybody.

He wasn't.

So Gloria took it upon herself to ask him on a date on behalf of her daughter, to a family wedding.

Amy and Dan have been married 22 years and have three children, Rebekah, 18, Brian, 15, and Kelly, 12.

Ireland's made a great son-in-law and father to her grandchildren, Stevens said.

"It's probably one of the best decisions I ever made," Stevens said.

Dan and Amy quickly became a team, pushing each other through their studies and making sure they got better at their jobs.

The hospital bosses noticed.

It wasn't long after Ireland became a nurse that he became a supervisor in the emergency room.

Ireland began to develop mentors who helped guide his career. Dr. Diane London was one who always made time for him, he said. She would answer any question and provide guidance on patient care.

"She was a fantastic person," Ireland said. "You could walk into ER any time and sit next to her and ask her question. That was learning clinically, that was building my knowledge -- 'What happened? What happened with this patient?' She would make time for you no matter what."

By 1997, computers were starting to work their way into patient care and suddenly Ireland's duel experience in IT and nursing opened a new opportunity for him.

The idea of using computers to help improve patient care captured Ireland's imagination and the hospital needed somebody with both a medical background and IT training.

"All of the sudden, this new idea of helping people with computers and, wow, we're going into this new era of documentation and clinical results and getting things to bedside quicker, and I sat back and realized, 'I can do the best of both worlds,' " Ireland said. " 'I can make this happen. I can teach nurses how to do it and still be a nurse and still use that clinical experience.' "

Not that bringing the nursing staff into the Digital Era was always a smooth transition.

Ireland recalled one nurse who was very upset with him.

"She was livid," he said. "She said, 'You've taken my time with patients from here to here and I'm spending all this time on the computer. It's a horrible thing.' "

About three months later, Ireland said, she was upset for a different reason. The system went off-line for maintenance.

"I got a phone call from her and she said, 'Why did you take my computer system away from me? It's been perfect,' " Ireland recalled.

He added, "It was a validation that the transition of technology really made a difference."

In 2001, Ireland took a position with the University of Rochester that he thought would advance his IT background, but within six months, Charlie Kenney, then CEO of the Batavia hospital, wanted him back.

The hospital needed somebody to do some high-level analytics, tracking population trends, and after a couple of meetings, Ireland realized this was a good job for him.

In 2003, he was promoted to director of Quality Management and created a case management program.

At this point, Karen Peters became one of his mentors.

When she passed in 2005, then CEO Mark Schoell appointed him to her former job, VP of Clinical Services.

Ireland lost two mentors, London and Peters, and gained a new one in Schoell.

"I was quite happy working for her (Peters) as director of Quality Management and suddenly she was gone," Ireland said. "She was a key part of my development. When you lose mentors, you miss them, but then you've got to find your own way."

Under Schoell, Ireland began to move up the executive ladder, taking on bigger titles and the greater responsibilities that went with them. He was VP of Support Services and then COO.  

He oversaw multiple departments and services, and supervised remodeling the Jerome Center and addition of the new surgical wing, including securing financing.

Schoell was a great mentor, Ireland said, giving him a job, even a big job, and letting him do it with minimal interference, but always there for guidence and to answer questions.

While Schoell may have been grooming an eventual successor, that wasn't necessarily Ireland's ambition.

"The ambition was doing a project and doing it successfully," Ireland said. "It was getting a project and saying 'How do I get it done? What do I need to know about that?' So that's where the ambition kicked in. I have this desire to do the right things and to get them done. Sometimes that's a lot of extra work you put in to make that happen. I think that's where the ambition was, but not for the position."

As Ireland moved into higher-profile roles, he became more interested in learning about leadership. He has his favorite books on leadership, his favorite speakers, he's attended seminars and workshops, and he's also found serving on community boards a great way to observe and learn about leaders.

The Bergen resident is on the Gillam-Grant Community Center Board and the Byron-Bergen Central School District Board of Education. He's also been through Leadership Genesee.

"Sitting on boards has helped educate myself," Ireland said. "Sitting on the school board, especially, you learn a lot about the different ways people lead. (Byron-Bergen schools Superintendent) Casey Kosiorek is a phenomenal leader. I've learned a lot just by watching him, how he interacts with his staff. I've transferred some that in how I do things."

From all appearances, Dan Ireland, the guy who rose through the ranks and was mentored by so many people in his home community, has been embraced as a leader by the UMMC staff. 

Ireland makes it a point to be accessible to as many of the hospitals more than 700 employees as possible. He often rides the shuttle from the St. Jerome's parking lot -- where employees are encouraged to park -- and frequently takes his meals in the cafeteria. He also regularly visits all of the departments of the hospital. It's impossible for him to know everybody's name, but Colleen Flynn, director of public relations for UMMC, offered during an interview in his office that to those who have worked with Ireland, his presidency seems like a natural fit. 

"I think we all saw leadership potential in him," Flynn said. "I don't think there is a single employee, manager, director in the organization who was surprised when Dan was named president. It was a natural progression."

Now that he's the leader, the mentor himself, and the guy from his own community leading one of the most important institutions in that community, Ireland takes seriously the responsibility to ensure UMMC delivers quality care.

He's also well aware that isn't the reputation UMMC necessarily enjoys locally.

Sitting in his president's office, when asked about the issue, he talked about it at length.

"We can't expect the people of Genesee County to just look at the hospital and say 'That's the hospital,' " Ireland said. "We have to work to earn the trust of every member of the community because that's what they expect. They expect us to continuously improve, so we have to continue to improve.

"There have been people who have had less than a desirable experience with the hospital. They've come here and sometimes it's been bad for people. You have to understand the human form. People don't forget easily and some people forgive and forget easier, and others don't. We will always run into people who say, 'I'll never go back to that hospital because this happened to me.' What I ask people is 'Are we different today than we were yesterday?' We have the ability to change. If we've done something wrong, and they tell us, we'll work to create change to make it better. We're in a human world, so we will not always do exactly what we want to do."

Yes, staff members have bad days, but personal bad days shouldn't translate into bad experiences for patients and their families, said Ireland, who reads every patient experience report and when he comes across a negative review, he doesn't see it as just a rant. 

"We don't see it as an angry or dissatisfied patient," Ireland said. "We see it as an opportunity for us to make a change and hopefully keep that from happening again and to make it better."

It's not just an issue of UMMC looking good or making more money. Quality customer care and a solid reputation with the local community are about providing advantageous health care.

"I don't just want to see the numbers get better," Ireland said. "When sombody sayd they don't want to go to United Memorial, that usually means they have to travel further for health care in a lot of cases and that's not good for them. That's not healthy, especially if they're ill. That's not a good experience. Either way, it's about their health. It's not necessarily about us having good scores up on the wall. It's about the fact that when patients have a good experience here, they're getting good health care and hopefully improving health."

The Ireland Family (photo submitted by Dan Ireland). Dan Ireland might be one of the only hospital presidents in the nation who rises early in the morning to feed the family's goats (22 of them, along with three sheep and a half dozen chickens and rabbits). The family farm started four or five years ago when his son said he wanted a horse. "I said, 'Horses are a lot of responsibility' and I said, 'Tell you what, I'll get you a goat. If you raise that goat all by yourself for a year, I'll get you a horse.' " The Irelands still don't have a horse, but their livestock has become a hobby for the whole family and led to involvement in 4-H.

April 20, 2015 - 1:43pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, p w minor, kathy hochul.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul made a pair of stops in Genesee County today, including a tour of p.w. minor led by owners Andrew Young and Peter Zeliff. 

The shoe manufacturing company recently received a boost from the governor's office to help move 100 jobs from China back to Batavia.

Hochul also spoke this morning at Genesee County Criminal Justice Day at Genesee Community College.

Photos submitted by p.w. minor.

April 17, 2015 - 12:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown.

The call center -- or as the folks at Tompkins Insurance call it, the "care center" -- that the Batavia-based financial company opened on the second floor of Main and Center streets now has 27 staff members.

That means in less than six months, Tompkins has hit its three-year projected employment goal for the remodeled office space.

Tompkins purchased the building for $550,000 and has invested nearly $1 million in interior and exterior improvements, from gutting and refitting the entire second floor, putting in a new heating and air conditioning system, painting the outside and hanging new signs.

Investing in Downtown Batavia made good sense said David Boyce, president and CEO of the insurance unit.

"Batavia has been and continues to be a great draw for getting great employees," Boyce said. "Batavia is nicely centered within various counties. When we have an opening we get a lot of attention from people who want to work at a good company."

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