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January 15, 2016 - 1:01pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, business, batavia.

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A portion of Park Road is being shut down this afternoon so work crews can remove a scaffold raised for the construction of the new hotel at Batavia Downs that was damaged in last week's windstorm, Town of Batavia Supervisor Greg Post said.

It's a matter of public safety, Post said, to close the road while the scaffolding is removed.

The project took some time to get to, Post said, after the damage, because the project needed to be carefully planned.

Batavia Downs will remain open, Post said, as well as the other businesses on Park Road.

There's no estimate on how long the project will take to complete.

January 15, 2016 - 11:09am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Downs, business, batavia.

Press release:

Batavia Downs Gaming has closed the books on another record year, making it 10 straight years in which the facility increased revenues from the previous one. In 2015 the 787+ video lottery terminals at the track’s gaming facility generated $52.6 million in net winnings, up 7.37 percent from 2014’s $48.9 million. This percentage increase in net growth was first among NYS facilities for the second year in a row.

“After the completion of our gaming floor expansion and the opening of our new lobby, patron visits have increased as have revenues,” said Michael D. Kane, CEO and president for Batavia Downs Gaming. “With the construction of a new 84-room hotel, opening in midsummer, we look forward to further serving our customers in the Western New York area while expanding our reach even further.

2015’s increase comes on the heels of 2014’s 5.37-percent net winnings increase over 2013. In 2014 Batavia Downs was one of only two NY state facilities to show an increase. This marks the third time in the last four years that Batavia Downs Gaming leads NYS facilities in terms of percentage growth.

“We’re happy to show continued growth,” said Ryan Hasenauer, director of Marketing for Batavia Downs Gaming. “We also had a record year of payouts, with $627 million in winnings paid out to our visitors. These increases also benefit the counties and cities that own us. As a public benefit corporation, all revenues net expenses are distributed to our member municipalities.”

Western OTB is a public benefit corporation owned and operated by 17 Western New York municipalities: Cattaraugus County, Cayuga County, Chautauqua County, Erie County, Genesee County, Livingston County, Monroe County, Niagara County, Orleans County, Oswego County, Schuyler County, Seneca County, Steuben County, Wayne County, Wyoming County as well as the cities of Rochester and Buffalo. Headquartered in Batavia, WROTB owns and operates 27 OTB branches, as well as Batavia Downs Gaming, a standard bred racetrack and gaming facility.

January 15, 2016 - 11:07am

Press release:

The Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) at its Jan. 14 board meeting authorized the transfer of a PILOT (Payment In Lieu of Taxes) agreement to Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) as a result of the sale of the former Muller Quaker Dairy plant in Batavia. The PILOT agreement will be in effect for the remainder of 2016.

A key provision of the PILOT that will be transferred to DFA is a $300,000 payment from DFA for water and waste water/sewer infrastructure sustainability to the town of Batavia and the assumption of fire district fees.

“We are extremely pleased that Dairy Farmers of America has agreed to purchase the manufacturing facility in the Genesee Agri-Business Park,” said Paul Battaglia, chairman of the Board of Directors of the GCEDC. “I think it shows that DFA is a company with a great deal of integrity as well as a commitment to our community.”

“This is another great example of how all of our public and private partners in the economic growth and sustainability model we embraced over the last 10 years continue to excel in making sure our taxpayers and water/sewer customers are well served and able to rely on stable rates in the face of unpredictable events,” said Gregory H. Post, supervisor of the Town of Batavia.

“The efforts made on behalf of the Town of Batavia and the region by Steve Hyde and the staff at GCEDC and the extraordinary investment in our Town by DFA during the transfer of PILOT agreement allow us to continue to offer and provide the infrastructure and support necessary to efficiently serve our community’s ever growing needs. We stand ready, willing and able to assist the new owners and offer thanks to all involved in this negotiation.”

It is expected that within the next few months that DFA will present its plans for operating the manufacturing facility and submit its own application for assistance at the appropriate time.

“We expect many, if not all of the jobs lost from the plant’s closure last month to be restored, but that is going to take some time as DFA prepares its plans,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO, GCEDC. “We remain committed to assisting the DFA in this transition to ensure the plant will continue operations as one of the region’s largest agricultural food production facilities, as well as serve as a major economic driver in the region.”

Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) is a national dairy marketing cooperative that serves and is owned by more than 14,000 members on more than 8,000 farms in 48 states. DFA is also one of the county’s most diversified manufacturers of dairy products, food components and ingredients and is a leader in formulating and packaging shelf-stable dairy products.

January 15, 2016 - 10:05am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, business.

Press release:

The Batavia Police Department has received multiple complaints of fraudulent posts on social media (Craigslist, Facebook, and other similar Web sites) claiming to be John Gerace, a realtor of RealityUSA with property “for rent.” The postings are requesting a $700 deposit in exchange for keys to the residence. The only contact information on the postings is for [email protected].

The Batavia Police Department with the assistance of John Gerace, would like to remind the community not to give money upfront for a rental apartment without first walking through the apartment and signing a lease agreement. This is a reoccurring issue. If you feel have been part of this scam please contact the Batavia Police Department at (585) 345-6350 to report the incident.

Previously: Real estate agent turns the tables on craigslist scammer

January 14, 2016 - 2:14pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee ARC, business, batavia.

Press release:

Genesee ARC is moving ahead with plans to close down one section of its recycling operation and work with individuals employed there to find new positions.

The change affects the sorting line at the recycling center where as many as 14 people work each week. In the restructuring, the individuals with disabilities employed at the transfer station, on the trash and recycling routes, redemption center and Genesee Data Management will maintain their jobs.

“We will still be picking up recyclables from our curbside trash customers and accepting them at our transfer station,” Executive Director Donna Saskowski said.

Cardboard will still be sorted and bundled at the plant but all other recyclable materials will be collected and shipped to larger facilities with automated sorting.

“The cost of operating the line has increased over time and the prices we were able to secure for the baled recyclables have decreased considerably over the past 18 months, resulting in an untenable financial situation,” the director said.

Key employment services staff will be working with the individuals to assist them with job placement through the NYS Office of People with Developmental Disabilities and Adult Career and Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation (ACCES-VR). A job at ARC’s Sheltered Work Center on Walnut Street is not an option due to State regulations, effective July 2014, prohibiting the acceptance of any new (or returning) work center placements.

Genesee ARC was the sole trash and recycling contractor for residents of the City of Batavia, from 1983 to 2013. The nonprofit began offering private trash collection and recycling services after a decision by city council to opt out of the trash business altogether, leaving residents to find their own local provider. This created its own set of challenges as Genesee ARC for the first time had to develop pricing, options and an entire new system to bill for the services. And, while a few new providers sprang up overnight, Genesee ARC has a majority of City of Batavia residents as its customer base for curbside trash and recycling. A large percentage of city residents also take advantage Genesee ARC’s transfer station services.

“This was a very tough decision for our leadership and Board of Directors,” Saskowski shared.  “We will do everything we can to help secure new job placements – this is a priority.”

January 13, 2016 - 2:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, bergen, business, america's best communities.

It's the end of the competition, but not the end of the line for Le Roy and Bergen, Legislator Shelly Stein said today after learning that the two communities will not be finalists in the America's Best Communities competition sponsored by Frontier Communications.

The joint effort by Le Roy and Bergen to enter the competition, which could have resulted in a $3 million prize to spend on economic development, did lead to a $50,000 grant to develop an economic development plan, and that will pay off for the northeastern corner of Genesee County for years to come, Stein said.

"We already won," Stein said. "We had the $50,000 that we were able to take from Frontier and match that up with a long-term revitalization and economic plan for both Le Roy and Bergen. It brought out communities together and we found some significant commonalities that we can work towards. Having that plan in hand is something both communities can work from going forward."

The contest has proven highly competitive, said Claudia Maroney, area general manager for Frontier. 

'It was a great plan," Maroney said. "They put a lot of effort into it. There were 50 communities that submitted great plans, and unfortunately, Le Roy did not make it to the finalist round."

The planning and cooperation process led to some great community events, some great meeting of the minds and the realization there were projects the communities could undertake outside of the ABC competition.

The grants applied for and received during the process include $420,000 for land acquisition at the Le Roy Tech Park, the Village of Le Roy is getting $100,000 for downtown sidewalks and $20,000 for a waterfront strategy plan; and the Village of Bergen is getting $20,000 for a revitalization plan and $30,000 to study upgrading the sewer system.

All of these activities gained support and are better guided by the revitalization and economic development plan developed for the contest, Stein said.

And through the process, the communities learned a little bit more about themselves, too.

"Everyone is just a little bit more aware of how our community has a great reputation," Stein said. "We have a great work ethic. We really didn't know that our workforce is so highly skilled and that got pointed out during the process. We walk a little taller. We have a smile on our faces a bit longer and there's a bounce in our step."

January 8, 2016 - 11:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business.

Funeral Services for Michael R. Houseknecht, a successful local businessman and devoted father, will be at 10 a.m., Tuesday, at St. Joseph’s Church, 303 E. Main St., Batavia.

The 38-year-old Houseknecht passed away unexpectedly early Thursday morning.

He leaves behind his wife of 15 years, Jennifer Anne Thornton Houseknecht, and the daughters he cherished, Meghan Elizabeth and Ella Grace.

Most recently, Houseknecht opened the House O' Laundry on West Main Street in Batavia. He also owned Statewide Machinery. He formerly owned Loose Ends Vending.

A 1995 graduate of Batavia High School, he earned a bachelor's degree in business from SUNY Brockport in 1999.

He is also survived by his mother Sheila Mitchell, of Batavia, and his father and stepmother Ralph (Buddy) Houseknecht Jr. and Katy Gorton Houseknecht, of Perry, as well as his paternal grandparents, Ralph and Agnes Houseknecht Sr., of Stafford.

Friends may call on Monday from 2 to 8 p.m. at the H.E. Turner & Co. Funeral Home, 403 E. Main St., Batavia.

For his full obituary, click here.

Photo: File photo from the opening in November of House O' Laundry. Micheal Houseknecht with daughter Ella.

January 6, 2016 - 1:59pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in STAMP, Alabama, business.

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After the questions, concerns, challenges and outright objections to 1366 Technologies coming to the Town of Alabama to build silicon wafers to capture the energy of the sun, resident Dave Dunn said, "I think we've all forgot one thing here tonight: Thank you for coming here."

That statement drew a round of applause from most of the 75 or so people who attended the public hearing Tuesday night on proposed tax incentives to help Bedford, Mass.-based 1366 Technologies build its $700 million facility on 105 acres of the planned high-tech park known as STAMP (Science & Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park).

There were only a handful of speakers during the hearing, and only a couple more who raised objections during a follow-up question and answer period, including one man who stormed out during an impassioned speech by Steve Hyde, CEO of the Genesee County Economic Development Center, on the need for economic development to help keep our children in Western New York.

The state is planning on spending more than $5 million on land acquisition and infrastructure to make STAMP possible, and 1366 could receive another $56 million in incentives from New York along with tax abatements of more than $35 million through GCEDC.

It is those local incentives that the GCEDC Board will be asked to approve in an upcoming vote and last night's public hearing was required in advance of it.

Mark Masse, VP of business development for GCEDC, opened the hearing with an overview of the financing and financial impact of the proposed 1366 project.

The venture is expected to lead to 1,000 jobs at the plant within a few years, with another 1,593 jobs generated by companies that will provide services and support to the new company, and some 2,600 jobs created by local economic growth.

That's more than 6,500 local jobs within 10 years, Masse said.

Entry-level jobs will start at $16 an hour, with production jobs going up to $24 an hour based on duties and experience.

The 1366 payroll is expected to reach nearly $40 million. The indirect payroll could exceed $60 million and induced jobs would add another $30.3 million in payroll, for an anticipated increase in local payroll of $130 million. (CORRECTION: In my notes, I left off some zeros. The payroll numbers have been updated to correct that mistake.)

To help finance the project, GCEDC is proposing a PILOT -- payment in lieu of taxes. That's a break on the property tax. There would be property tax due on the current assessed value of the 105-acre parcel, but there would be no new taxes on the increase in assessed value over the first two years of the project. The taxes would then gradually increase over the next eight years. 

There are also proposed tax abatements on the sales tax on construction materials as well as relief from the mortgage tax.

Masse then turned the floor over to Brian Eller, chief operations officer for 1366, who shared some of his company's plans and an overview of what 1366 will manufacture.

Eller explained that 1366, working with scientists at MIT, have developed a whole new manufacturing process for silicon wafers -- the main component of solar panels, that the company believes will be cheaper to manufacture and produce less waste than the process used by every other company in the world.

Silicon is the second most plentiful mineral on Earth and is usually extracted from sand. For solar wafers, manufacturers receive ingots of silicon that are typically cut and ground into square objects. 

That's an extremely wasteful production process, according to a video Eller played for the audience. Much of the silicon is wasted, as well as the blades and diamond-tipped twine used to cut the wafers.

The process developed at MIT involves melting the silicon and rolling out flat wafers, much like modern glass manufacturing.

The process is a third faster and a third cheaper than current techniques, and no silicon goes to waste, and it uses less energy.

The goal of 1366 is to use its technology to produce wafers that eventually make solar power as cheap to consume as coal energy.

What 1366 isn't doing is making entire solar panels. They are only making the wafers, and they aren't making solar panels.

Elon Musk's Solar City plant, going up in Buffalo, will make rooftop panels, but 1366 isn't producing wafers for rooftop panels, so there isn't currently an opportunity for the two companies to work together directly. The wafers produced by 1366 are intended for industrial solar energy farms, which currently makes up 70 percent of the worldwide solar energy market.

One speaker during the public hearing expressed concern that 1366 would get all of these tax breaks, build this big building, and then pull out like Pepsi did with the Quaker Muller Dairy plant.

There are, however, some significant differences between the Quaker Muller operation and 1366's plans. Pepsi and Muller entered a market that we now know was saturated in an industry that is so competitive that profit margins are always squeezed. There was no chance for Muller's imitation Greek yogurt to achieve a dominant market position.

In his best-selling business book, "Zero to One," venture capitalist Peter Thiel says new businesses should be built around innovations that are a 10-times improvement over anything currently in the market. Thiel also advises startups to aim for only a segment of a market and achieve dominance in that segment before growing. Pepsi and Muller appear to have violated both of those guidelines by entering a market that already had dominant manufacturers, such as Chobani, Dannon and Fage, and aiming for a share of the entire market, not just a segment where it might have a chance to dominate. 

Eller thinks that 1366's lower cost, less wasteful process is that 10-times improvement Thiel recommends (though he hadn't yet read Thiel's book when asked about it) and that 1366 is going after a segment of the market where it can achieve dominance.

Only a portion, less than $100 million, of $700 million required to build the 1366 Technologies plant to full capacity is coming from public investment. There is also a $150 million loan guarantee backed by the Department of Energy. When the project was announced at Genesee Community College in October, company CEO Frank van Mierlo indicated he was investing his own money in the project. The company has reportedly raised $70 million in venture capital from investors such as Hanwha Chemical, a major user of silicon wafers, as well as from Ventizz Capital Fund, North Bridge Venture Partners and Polaris Venture Partners. The company has not discussed any other efforts to raise additional capital or the timing of capital needs. They would not need the entire $700 million in the bank to start construction.

Construction is expected to start in May or June.

The first jobs should be filled in the fall or early winter of this year, with hiring continuing through the middle part of 2017 and then more jobs added as production capacity is increased.

Eller will move to here from Bedford to join the ranks of the locally employed, along with as many as five current 1366 managers and executives, though the company will remain headquartered in Bedford. That's also where the company will continue research and development operations.

There was a bit of discussion between Eller, Masse and meeting attendees about workforce development and who will get hired at the new plant. 

Lorna Klotzbach had several objections to the proposal, among them were questions about whether there were really sufficient potential employees in the region. She also shared with some other speakers a concern that STAMP was converting farmland and wildlife refuge into industrial land.

Al Files, who would later get up in a huff and storm out during Hyde's speech, said he thought it made a lot more sense to build where there's already big buildings and infrastructure.

"In my opinion, I think it's stupid," Files said. "We're wasting all of this property when it could be built in Rochester, Buffalo or Batavia."

Eller said 1366 was attracted to STAMP, out of 300 locations considered, for two primary reasons. First is cheap and clean hydroelectric power, and then there is the regional workforce. Eller said the company hired a consultant who studied a number of variables for several possible plant locations and STAMP scored the highest for workforce potential.

Creating local jobs and reversing two generations of economic decline is what STAMP is all about, Hyde said.

"At the end of the day, what drove us to work so hard to attract a company like 1366 to our community and our region is creating jobs for our kids so they can either stay here or come back home," Hyde said. "All the rest of these questions are good and relevant, but if we take a little look at the big picture, we’ve all been losing tax base and these guys are going to start that trend of turning that around. 

"We can’t guarantee that companies are going to be successful, but even with the situation in Batavia, where Muller Quaker was, we built that ag park, two companies came in and spent over $200 million there. The market didn’t work. They entered the market late. They ended up having to shut down and that’s a disappointment, but the beauty is, one of the best dairy companies in the nation is coming in because that ag park is there and they're filling it back up and probably hiring more people than Muller ever would have. The investment model that we’ve used over the last decade is working. It’s creating good jobs for our people and our community. It’s creating tax base.

"I just wanted to paint a little bit of the bigger picture," Hyde added a few sentences later. "We’re absolutely fortunate to have a company like 1366 be willing to come here and start to build that high-tech, entrepreneurial ecosystem. It will mean a lot of jobs for our kids. … I’ll tell you right now if we get a thousand jobs from this company over the next decade, and that turns around to be about four thousand jobs all over this area, you’re going to see an economic boom around here that we haven’t seen in 50 years."

At which point, Files interjected, "This is an agricultural area. This is not a manufacturing area."

Hyde said projects like 1366 will take the pressure off of ag to support the entire local economy, and that the land the plant will use is less than 3 percent of the available acreage in Genesee County, and it's the least productive land in the county.

"We looked at all of that," Hyde said.

But Files was no longer in the room to hear it.

1366hearingjan52016-2.jpg

I couldn't find online the video Eller showed, but in looking for it, I found this interesting video.

January 4, 2016 - 12:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Tompkins Insurance, batavia, business.

Press release:

Tompkins Financial Corporation has announced the acquisition of Shepard, Maxwell & Hale Insurance by Tompkins Insurance Agencies, Inc., an affiliate of the financial corporation. The acquisition was effective Jan. 1.

“We are happy to continue to grow our business in Batavia and serve our neighbors through this expansion,” said David S. Boyce, president and CEO of Tompkins Insurance. 

The change is a win-win for customers, Boyce said.

“In addition to continuing to receive personal attention from local insurance professionals who place a high value on customer service, customers will have 'one-stop shopping' access to the comprehensive array of financial solutions offered by our affiliation with Tompkins Bank of Castile and Tompkins Financial Advisors,” Boyce said.

According to Boyce, Daniel G. Hale and Stephen S. Maxwell, will remain with the agency. Most current employees will be retained in the merger and will continue to service accounts. The Batavia location of Shepard, Maxwell & Hale will close and move operations to the Tompkins Financial Center at 90 Main St. on or about Feb. 1. The Hamlin office will continue to operate at its current location for the time being.

Effective Feb. 1, clients of Shepard, Maxell & Hale may receive service at any of the 28 locations throughout New York and Pennsylvania, including the 16 locations in Western New York. 

Tompkins Insurance serves 30,000 personal insurance customers and 7,600 commercial insurance customers, making it the third largest commercial insurance firm in the Rochester area and the 82nd largest agency in the country. The acquisition will add the approximately 4,000 Shepard, Maxwell and Hale accounts to its customer base. 

Established in 1957, Shepard, Maxwell & Hale has a long history of serving western New York through its two offices in Batavia and Hamlin. The merger with Tompkins Insurance makes sense for customers, according to Hale.

“Along with continuing to receive top-notch service, our customers will see additional benefits like access to 24/7 claims service 365 days a year, and more price and product options offered through Tompkins’ relationship with 50+ leading insurance companies,“ Hale said. 

Tompkins Insurance Agencies, Inc., operates 16 offices in Western New York, six offices in Central New York and six offices in Southeast Pennsylvania. A part of Tompkins Financial Corporation, (trading as TMP on the NYSE - MKT), the agency is affiliated with Tompkins Bank of Castile, Tompkins Trust Company, Tompkins VIST Bank and Tompkins Financial Advisors. It is an independent insurance agency offering personal and business insurance and employee benefits services through more than 50 different companies. Further information is available at www.tompkinsins.com

December 29, 2015 - 5:07pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in STAMP, Alabama, business, GCEDC.

Here's a portion of a press release from Empire State Development about a series of grants recently approved.

Empire State Development today announced that its Board of Directors recently approved $101.1 million in economic development resources for 23 projects that are spurring growth and opportunity in every region of the state. The funding supports projects that are creating 634 new jobs and retaining 1,531 existing New York State jobs – many of which have already been created or retained. The approved assistance is leveraging more than $822 million in private investment and other public funding to support local businesses and projects that are strengthening local economies today, while building a strong foundation for future economic growth and job creation.

“The funding approved by the Board is supporting regionally significant projects that are fostering growth and creating new opportunities statewide,” said Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky. “Whether it’s by aiding business expansion and retention, supporting local revitalization projects, or bolstering regional tourism, the funding approved today will boost economic activity from New York City to the Finger Lakes.”

...

Finger Lakes Region 
Western New York Science, Technology and Advanced Manufacturing (Finger Lakes Region - Genesee County) – $5,000,000
The Genesee County Industrial Development Agency, doing business as Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC), will use a grant of up to $5,000,000 for the cost of land acquisition,  engineering, and soft costs related to infrastructure development for 1366 Technologies, Inc., the first tenant of the Western New York Science, Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Park (STAMP) in Alabama, NY. 1366 Technologies is a solar energy company with an innovative approach to manufacturing the silicon wafers that are the building block of solar cells. The company chose the STAMP site out of 300 possible locations due to the site’s positive momentum and commitment to growing manufacturing interests. This project will be completed in August 2016 and aligns with the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council’s plan in that it supports advanced technology and manufacturing and is identified as key to the region in the Industrial Development and Infrastructure category. 

December 26, 2015 - 9:24am
posted by Raymond Coniglio in Le Roy, Main Street Fitness, business.

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Michele Martinez, right, is the new owner of Main Street Fitness in Le Roy. She bought the business from Fred Merica, left, who will continue to operate Le Roy Karate at 66 Main St. Martinez is joined by her fiance, Dan Saeva, whom she met at the gym.

Being a competitive weightlifter meant Michele Martinez was very serious about her workouts at Le Roy’s Main Street Fitness.

It also meant lots of advice for the gym’s proprietor.

“The truth is, Michele used to break my chops a lot,” Merica joked earlier this week. “ ‘You’ve gotta clean, you’ve gotta buy this, you’ve gotta buy that.’

“Finally I said, ‘Why don’t you just buy the place and do whatever you want with it!' ”

Which is pretty much what finally happened.

Martinez, who lives in Le Roy, took ownership this week. She’ll be leasing space from Merica, who owns 66 Main St. and will continue to own and operate Le Roy Karate.

Martinez is looking forward to meeting the public and sharing her plans for Main Street Fitness during an open house from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Main Street Fitness grew out of the karate studio Merica, 54, established in 2005. He gradually added weightlifting equipment to diversify the business. Now, the gym also features a cross-training room; a cardio room equipped with treadmills, stair machine and Arc Trainer (sort of a cross between a treadmill and an elliptical machine); and, in the basement, a circuit-training room.

In short, something for every age, skill level and interest.

“Everyone thinks it’s just weights, and it’s not,” Merica said. “I think that’s what separates this gym from most gyms in the area.”

It’s also a 24-hour operation, with keyless entry available to members. Merica said he preferred to focus on karate, and needed to find someone who could give the gym the attention it demands.

He said Martinez is the ideal buyer. 

They met in 2012, when Martinez enrolled her daughter Skyler, now 11, in one of Merica’s karate classes. At the time, Martinez was in training — at different gym — for the Ms. Buffalo Bodybuilding Championships.

“We started talking, and he ended up letting me work out up front to supplement my training,” Martinez said.

She went on to win second place in the women’s heavyweight division in 2012. The following year, she claimed first place.

“That’s one of the reasons I thought Michele would be a perfect fit,” Merica said. “It adds another component to the gym, because she’s competed; she’s got that experience.”

But Martinez was reluctant to take on the responsibility. She already works full-time as a training manager for Sutherland Global Services in Rochester; is a part-time sign-language interpreter; and is also raising a second daughter, 9-year-old Kori.

Her outlook changed with her engagement earlier this year to Dan Saeva, whom she met at the gym. He’ll oversee day-to-day operations at Main Street Fitness, while Martinez focuses on the business side.

Martinez and Saeva, also of Le Roy, are planning an April 26 wedding in Puerto Rico.

Meanwhile, Martinez doesn’t expect major changes at Main Street Fitness. She will rearrange existing equipment in a way that makes better sense for bodybuilders, add more powerlifting equipment, and do some remodeling. Her contacts in the fitness field may mean expanded services, including nutrition supplements, fitness beverages and benching competitions.

She’ll also have special offers, including discounted rates on group memberships.

“I’m excited,” Martinez said. “I’m overwhelmed; I’m anxious. I think this next month will be the real test for us.”

For his part, Merica said he’s grateful to longtime members for their support as he bows out of the gym business. But he’s also thankful to have less on his plate.

“I’ll be getting more sleep,” Merica said.

And Martinez?

“I’ll be getting less,” she said.

For more information about Main Street Fitness, visit www.fitness-karate.com.

December 24, 2015 - 1:34pm
posted by Billie Owens in batavia, Chapin Manufacturing, business.

(Submitted photo and story from Chapin Manufacturing, Inc.)

We do not often these days hear about lifelong employment and people who spend their entire career at one company. But, that very thing has happened here in Batavia at Chapin Manufacturing. Batavia native Ron Odessa joined Chapin in September 1965 and just celebrated his 50th anniversary with the company.

Mr. Odessa’s anniversary celebration was capped off by a presentation of a solid gold “Chapin Chip” presented to him at the annual shareholders’ luncheon by Andris Chapin, chairman of the Board of Directors. He accepted the gift graciously, saying with a sly grin, “Things are going well here, I’m thinking about making a career of it.”

Upon close inspection, a visitor might notice the name Ronald Odessa on many of the patents hanging in the hallway at Chapin. These innovations were made possible by Ron’s imagination, creativity and pragmatism developed during a lifetime spent in Manufacturing, Engineering and Quality.   

In his spare time, Mr. Odessa, an eighth degree Black Belt, teaches martial arts at Borell’s Karate Academy in Batavia, and was once considered somewhat of a rock star having played in a well-known Batavia-based band in the 1950s.                  

Chapin International, Inc., is a manufacturer of compressed air sprayers and broadcast spreaders. Homeowners and commercial customers know the familiar red Chapin logo means quality, innovative engineering and quality.

December 24, 2015 - 1:23pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, Announcements.

Bergen-based Liberty Pumps, which is celebrating a half century in business this year, sent us this photo to share with you of their entire crew. They wish everyone "Happy Holidays!"

December 22, 2015 - 4:52pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in employment, jobs, business.

Genesee County's November unemployment percentage hit its lowest rate in nearly a decade, according to data released today by the Department of Labor.

The November rate was 4.6, which is better than the 5.1 rate a year ago, and better than the 8.5 rate at the height of the recession in 2009.

The rate in 2006 was 4.1 and it was 4.7 in 2007.

The October 2015 rate was 4.2. The November rate is traditionally higher than the October rate.

There are 200 more Genesee County residents employed in 2015 than a year ago, with 28,200 reportedly having jobs.

The GLOW region unemployment rate is 4.8 percent, compared to 5.6 percent a year ago.

There are 22,700 non-farm jobs in the county, compared to 22,900 a year ago and 23,200 in October.

December 21, 2015 - 8:43pm
posted by Raymond Coniglio in Le Roy, Orcon Industries, business.

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Employees of Orcon Industires paused to wish America's veterans a Merry Christmas during the company's annual holiday party Friday at Batavia Downs.

Workers at the Le Roy company recently decided to donate their year-end bonus to the Liberty Fund, a North Carolina-based organization that provides all-terrain wheelchairs to wounded veterans. Orcon management matched the donation, allowing for the purchase of two wheelchairs.

News of the donation reached Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly — a major supporter of the Independence Fund — who thanked the Orcon team for their donation during an "O'Reilly Factor" broadcast last week.

(Submitted photo.)

December 21, 2015 - 2:28pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, BID, charles men's shop.

Press release:

The Batavia Business Improvement District (BID) would like to announce the winner of the Downtown Batavia Holiday Window Decorating Contest. It is Charles Men’s Shop, located at 200 E. Main St.

As the winner of the contest, Charles Men’s Shop will receive $200 as the prize for the best window. Second and third place were Adam Miller Toy and Bicycle, and Art Ah La Carte, respectively.

The annual contest is a chance for downtown businesses to not only put their best foot forward in decorating their windows, it is also an opportunity for them to encourage people to come downtown and walk around, hence “More Feet Downtown.”

Ten judges, who are senior ladies, were driven by bus, which was provided through the Genesee County Office for the Aging. Anita Dziekan, of Batavia, coordinated the group and provided them with Santa hats and made the experience a very merry morning. The judges walked around the downtown and viewed 16 windows.

Even before the official judging today, Dec. 21, the judges also looked at the windows at night to see the displays lit up. The judges were impressed not only by the display, but also admitted that their window looks wonderful and inviting even at night.

The judges ranked the windows based on certain criteria, such as creativity, attracted a person to want to go inside, or if the content was related to their business, among other criteria. For example, the judges liked that Councilperson Rosemary Christian took the time to decorate one of the Carr’s vacant windows.

“Given the great weather, they were able to walk around a lot more and discuss the windows and what they saw downtown. It was very insightful to hear their comments,” said Laurie Oltramari, BID executive director.

“Walkability is my primary focus for the downtown. If people do not want to walk around, they will not stay or even come. It is a simple answer to a complex set of challenges.”

You can post on the Downtown Batavia Business Improvement District Facebook page or contact Laurie Oltramari at (585) 344-0900 or e-mail [email protected] to share pictures or to ask questions about the contest. Please contact David Howe at Charles Men’s Shop at (585) 343-2086 to coordinate a time to take a picture of their windows!

December 18, 2015 - 5:50pm
posted by Raymond Coniglio in Le Roy, Le Roy New York LLC, business.

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The investment group Le Roy New York, LLC, is hoping its plans to renovate 24 Main St. will move forward next year.

A group of Le Roy investors is hoping their efforts to renovate 24 Main St. kicks into high gear in the new year.

The Le Roy Board of Education in January will consider offering tax breaks for projects like the one proposed for 24 Main St. Plans call for its conversion to a mix of commercial and residential uses.

The school district is the last of four taxing entities being asked to offer the tax incentive.

Meanwhile, a revitalization group that has been pushing for the creation of a downtown historic district, hopes to win state approval by March. When that happens, properties within the district would be eligible for preservation tax incentives.

The investment group, Le Roy New York, LLC, was created in 2013 in an unsuccessful effort to save the former Wiss Hotel from the wrecking ball. The group turned its attention to 24 Main St. — the former Java’s coffee shop — last year, and announced plans to convert the property to ground-floor retail with three apartments on the top two floors.

The LLC is hoping to raise $250,000, and so far has $180,500 toward that goal, said Bob Fussell, a village attorney and LLC member. He said tax incentives are essential for attracting new investors.

“We’re not going to start the project until we find out whether the schools approve (the exemption) and until we find out whether we get into the historic district,” Fussell said.

“Once those things are done, it’s going to make sense to invest,” he added. “But until then we’re not giving the investors the full advantage.”

The Residential-Commercial Urban Exemption Program (Section 485-a of the state Real Property Tax Law) allows municipalities, counties and school districts to offer a declining, 12-year partial property tax exemption for non-residential property converted to a mix of residential and commercial uses.

Projects must cost at least $10,000 to be eligible. Properties are 100-percent exempt from taxes on assessed value attributed to the conversion project for the first eight years. The exemption then gradually falls to 20 percent in the final year.

Counties and school districts are allowed to approve the exemption program once the municipalities have done so.

The Le Roy Village Board approved the program on July 22. The Town Board followed suit on Aug. 27, although councilmen included a provision limiting its application to buildings within the planned historic district.

The Genesee County Legislature adopted the program after a public hearing on Nov. 23. The Le Roy Board of Education has scheduled its own public hearing for 7 p.m. Jan. 12.

Fussell said the program encourages local investment, without cutting local tax revenue.

“It’s not like we’re not going to be paying taxes on the property,” Fussell said. “We’re just going to be paying the same taxes we are now.”

Although an investor could claim the tax exemption for conversion of any property in Le Roy, its focus is effectively on the village’s commercial district.

“The whole object is to revitalize Main Street,” he added. “The idea is to take buildings that are degrading and falling apart, and make them vibrant and successful.”

A minimum investment in the project is $1,500. For more information, visit www.24mainleroy.org.

Tax incentives offered via inclusion in a registered historic district, may take longer to materialize.

The Preservation League of New York State awarded a $4,000 grant to Le Roy in October 2014. The grant was to hire Preservation Studios of Buffalo to complete a State and National Register of Historic Places nomination for a historic district in Downtown Le Roy.

The grant was secured by the Main Street Revitalization Committee, under the auspices of the Le Roy Business Council.

Jennifer Keys, who chairs the committee, said state approval has taken longer than expected.

“Apparently there was a combination of things,” Keys said. “The project was a little bit bigger than (Preservation Studios) thought it would be. At the same time, they had pretty massive growth as an agency and they were understaffed.”

The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation rejected the first draft of the nomination submitted this past summer. Preservation Studios was able to dedicate staff to the project, and a second nomination was submitted in late October, Keys said.

The hope is that Le Roy’s application will come up for review sometime in March, Keys said.

“It’s definitely taking a lot longer than we thought it would, but it is moving forward,” Keys said.

December 18, 2015 - 11:17am
posted by Raymond Coniglio in Le Roy, Frost Ridge Campground, business.

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The Le Roy Zoning Board of Appeals conducted a public hearing Thursday on Frost Ridge Campground. Pictured, is Board Member Thomas Spadaro and Chairperson Debbi Jackett. (Photos by Howard Owens.)

After months of legal wrangling, the argument over concerts at Frost Ridge Campground on Thursday returned to where it began.

With the Le Roy Zoning Board of Appeals, whose members listened to about 90 minutes of testimony and public comment on whether the concerts are an allowable, non-conforming use under town zoning law.

The board adjourned without voting. Debbi Jackett, chairperson, said the ZBA has 62 days in which to issue a decision.

About 60 people attended the hearing, which was held in Town Court. The hearing was conducted a day before a deadline set by a Supreme Court judge earlier this month.

The ZBA in 2013 ruled concerts allowable. Neighbors as well as the Town of Le Roy subsequently filed lawsuits aiming to reverse that decision.

On Thursday, the ZBA heard formal testimony from David Roach, attorney for Frost Ridge owners David and Greg Luetticke-Archbell; and from Mindy Zoghlin, an attorney representing families who are opposed to the concerts.

Roach maintained that the “campground and attendant recreational activities, including amplified music/concerts and limited food service” are all prior, non-conforming uses.

Citing case law, he said larger outdoor concerts may represent a change in degree, but do not alter the “essential character” of the facility and are still considered an allowable prior use.

Zoning law draws no distinction between concerts by small bands with lower amplification, and performances on a large stage using a professional sound system.

“What’s the difference? They both emit sound — that’s what we’re dealing with,” Roach said. “The primary difference is that one is louder than the other.

“What I suggest to you is that’s not a land-use issue, that is a noise ordinance (issue),” he added. “Anyone who has an issue with the decibel levels can seek relief through the noise ordinance, not through the land-use argument.”

Zoghlin urged the ZBA to reject the Frost Ridge application. Outdoor concerts of the type Frost Ridge has been hosting, are beyond what could be reasonably considered prior use.

“Even if music was played in the campground for skiers and campers in the past, Frost Ridge has illegally expanded that use,” she said.

“There’s a big difference between using an amplifier to play radio music, and hosting large commercial concerts on a specially constructed sound stage using professional audio equipment,” she said.

“Concerts with national acts, a professional stage and a sound system that attracts hundreds of people at a time were never held at this campground until 2010,” Zoghlin said. “Therefore they cannot be a prior non-conforming use as a matter of law.”

Reid Whiting, attorney for the Town of Le Roy, was offered the opportunity to give formal testimony but declined.

Thirteen residents also spoke, several of them in support of Frost Ridge.

Barbara Buchanan has lived on North Road near the campground since 1974.

“Frost Ridge has a history of providing music from different venues,” she said, including amplified music on the ski slopes.

“None of the music, over 40 years, has ever bothered us,” she said. “We consider the campground to be a very good neighbor — we don’t have a single complaint against them.”

Not so for Nancy Palmer, who has lived on Wilcox Road since 1997. She said summer concerts at Frost Ridge are too noisy.

“I find it very disturbing,” she said. “I can hear it through my house … I can hear the bass pounding through my walls and through my windows.”

Palmer said the concerts are loud enough to spook her horse.

“For those of us who are close, it is very loud and it is very disturbing,” she said.

Others speakers cited the positive impact Frost Ridge has on the community, such as fundraisers for the Le Roy Fire Department.

David Pullyblank, of Parmalee Road, said Frost Ridge campers support local businesses — including the farm market he owns on Lake Street Road (Route 19).

“Campers are people that want to come to our community and spend money,” he said. “I think it’s essential to have their business in our area.”

The Luetticke-Archbells have owned the Conlon Road campground since 2008, and have been hosting concerts in an outdoor amphitheatre since 2012. In 2013, the ZBA found the concerts permissible under zoning law.

Neighbors of the campsite and the Town of Le Roy both filed lawsuits challenging the ZBA’s ruling. Supreme Court Judge Robert Noonan invalidated the decision in April on technical grounds, and ordered the ZBA to conduct a new public hearing.

In November, the Town Board set a Dec. 10 public hearing on a local law to establish a new, town-only zoning board. Earlier this month Interim Supreme Court Judge Mark Grisanti ordered the town to cancel its hearing, and ordered the existing ZBA to conduct a hearing on Frost Ridge by Dec. 18.

Jackett set a number of ground rules at the beginning of Thursday’s hearing. Attorneys submitted written statements and evidence, but were given limited time to address the board directly. Residents who signed in, were allowed one minute to speak.

ZBA member Robert Scott, who ran unsuccessfully for town supervisor against incumbent Stephen Barbeau in November, recused himself from any involvement in the Frost Ridge application.

Jackett did not indicate when she expects the ZBA to issue a ruling. Comments on the matter will be accepted in writing by the Town Clerk until Dec. 27, she said.

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December 18, 2015 - 10:05am
posted by Howard B. Owens in 1366 Technologies, GCEDC, STAMP, Alabama, business.

Press release:

The Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) authorized a public hearing for 1366 Technologies, Inc., and approved a final resolution for an amendment to an original application for assistance from Manning Squires Hennig Co., Inc., at the agency’s Dec. 17 board meeting.

1366 Technologies, Inc., plans to build its first commercial Direct Wafer™ production plant at the Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park (STAMP) in the Town of Alabama.

The project includes the construction of a new 130,000-square-foot manufacturing facility that will grow to eventually create 1,000 full-time jobs and approximately another 5,000 construction and indirect and induced jobs. The total economic impact is preliminarily estimated to be in the range of $1.5 billion over the next 10 years.

1366 Technologies, Inc., is seeking approval for approximately $34.7 million in sales, mortgage and property tax exemptions. The planned capital investment will total approximately $700 million.

“As the largest economic development project in the history of Genesee County, 1366 Technologies will undoubtedly be a game changer in establishing our region as a major high-tech manufacturing hub,” said GCEDC Chairman Paul Battaglia. “This project also will create hundreds of manufacturing jobs and indirect supply chain jobs not to mention hundreds of jobs throughout the construction process.”

The GCEDC board also approved amended incentives for Manning Squires Hennig Co., Inc., a well-known general contractor in Finger Lakes and Western New York regions. The company will expand its corporate offices and maintenance facilities in the Town of Batavia by up to 5,000 square feet, as well as renovate its existing shop and office space.

The project was approved for sales tax, mortgage tax and property tax exemptions totaling $215,529 in incentives. The project’s capital investment is approximately $2.2 million.

“We are pleased to see continued investments being made to improve the facilities of existing companies like Manning Squires Hennig in the Town of Batavia,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO, GCEDC. “We remain committed to help existing businesses in the County expand their operations in our ongoing efforts to enhance the business climate throughout the region.”

In other agency business, the board approved a 2-percent salary increase for all GCEDC staff for 2016, as well as an increase for the GCEDC office manager.

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