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March 3, 2015 - 7:33pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, GCEDC, darien lake, Darien.

Press release:

The Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) will consider a project from Darien Lake Theme Park Resort at its Thursday, March 5, board meeting.

Darien Lake Theme Park Resort is planning to add several new attractions, including a 75-foot “super loop” thrill ride and dual waterslide complex speed ride for this operating season. The projected capital investment is approximately $2.5 million.

The company is seeking a sales-tax exemption of $180,000, which would require a public hearing should the board approve the application.

The GCEDC Board meeting will take place at 4 p.m. and is open to the public. Meetings are held at the Dr. Bruce A. Holm Upstate Med & Tech Park - 99 MedTech Drive, Batavia, on the first floor across from Genesee Community College.

March 2, 2015 - 3:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, GCEDC.

Press release:

For the 11th consecutive year Site Selection Magazine has recognized Batavia/Genesee County as one of the Top Micropolitans in the United States. Among the criteria for receiving the recognition includes capital investment and job creation. Through the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC), approximately $58.07 million in new capital investments were made in the county creating more than 140 new jobs in 2014.

“Throughout 2014, we continued to see tremendous growth in Genesee County as a result of our strategic business attraction and expansion efforts to generate capital investment and create more job opportunities,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO of the GCEDC. “Further development of the Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park (STAMP), among several other shovel-ready sites, will remain a top priority on our agenda as we move forward into 2015.”

In 2014 the GCEDC achieved 20 project “wins,” and celebrated the $20 million expansion of Yancey’s Fancy, one of Western New York’s most prominent food manufacturing companies. Yancey’s investment will result in a new 112,000-square-foot building at the Buffalo East Technology Park in Pembroke and will create 50 new jobs in the region. Other significant projects the GCEDC assisted with were the expansion of Liberty Pumps in Bergen and US Gypsum in Oakfield.

The ranking of Top Micropolitans is based on cities of 10,000 to 50,000 people which cover at least one county. To make the rankings, the projects must be at least $1 million in value, employ at least 50 people, or involve construction of at least 20,000 square feet. There are approximately 576 micropolitans in the United States according to Site Selection Magazine. Batavia was tied for fourth place in the national rankings.

The Genesee County Economic Development Center will unveil its 2014 annual report highlighting its project “wins” at the organization’s annual meeting on Friday, March 6th, at noon at Batavia Downs.

March 2, 2015 - 2:52pm
posted by Billie Owens in business.

Press release:

“Financing Your Business Venture” will be the subject of a small business workshop to be hosted the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce on March 11.

This is the second in a series of business workshops for 2015 held in conjunction with the United States Small Business Administration and the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce. The workshops are open to all Chamber and non-Chamber businesses and their employees and will offer expert advice from experienced business professionals designed to help small businesses succeed and grow.

“One challenge for most entrepreneurs when starting and growing a small business is acquiring the appropriate financing,” said Tom Turnbull, Chamber president. “In this workshop, participants will understand the process of borrowing money, the 5 C’s of credit, the importance of managing your credit score and the financing alternatives available to small business owners.”

All workshops will be held at the Chamber of Commerce office, 210 E. Main St., Batavia. The sessions will run from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. Businesses may attend any one or all of the workshops.  Cost for non-Chamber members is $10 for each attendee. Chamber members may attend all sessions free of charge but must make reservations to insure space for their employees.

To reserve a seat in any workshop or for more information, contact Kelly Bermingham at 585-343-7440 or by e-mail at [email protected].

March 1, 2015 - 8:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, thebatavian, Sponsored Post, advertisement.

Six years ago, there were critics who gave us six months.

I heard it in Batavia and read it from pundits online.

When Billie and I assumed ownership of The Batavian, the site had three sponsors and hadn't yet cracked 2,400 visitors in a day. There were naysayers who thought we were foolish to sell our home in Pittsford and rent a tiny duplex on Maple Street and pretend we could be local online news publishers in Batavia.

That was March 1, 2009.

Today, thanks to the support of our readers, we have more than 140 sponsors and employ three people (including our editor for the Wyoming County Free Press).

Last week, we had 12,000 visitors to The Batavian every day. That's normal now, and on big news days we're well over 15,000 visitors and sometimes as high as 20,000.

In a county with a population of only 57,000 people, we get 120,000 visitors to the site per month, who visit the site 550,000 times per month. (Source for these numbers is our Google Analytics account, which tells us nearly 60 percent of that traffic comes from within Genesee County, with the bulk of the rest coming from the rest of Western New York (likely local residents checking us out while at work.)

Those might seem like staggering numbers, or perhaps not. There are sites online where those traffic numbers would be considered abysmal, so some context is needed.

We get context by comparing our traffic with the local news organization we consider our competitor, the Batavia Daily News.

The chart above comes from a site called Quantcast, which measures the traffic of both TheBatavian.com and TheDailyNewsOnline.com.

The top line is The Batavian, which covers only one county, and the bottom line is the Batavia Daily News, which counts as its market area three counties (Genesee, Wyoming and Orleans).

Billie and I are really proud of how people in Genesee County have embraced The Batavian as the go-to local news source. The spikes in the chart above especially illustrated how important we are to local readers when there is breaking news.

Quantcast says in the past 30 days, The Batavian has had 127,000 unique visitors (kind of like counting individual computers that visit the site) compared to 99,000 for the Batavia Daily News. We've had 663,081 visits (counts people visiting multiple times) compared to 422,000 for the Batavia Daily News.

Marketers use a term called Defined Market Area to measure audience for media companies, and Genesee County is divided between Buffalo and Rochester. Our traffic in the Buffalo DMA was 64,566 people and for Rochester, 23,785. For the Batavia Daily News, the numbers are 37,694 and 18,702.

While it's gratifying to compare ourselves to our competition and see we're on top, that's not the real point here. As I go around town, I get asked all the time, "How's The Batavian doing?" This is how we're doing.

More than our raw traffic numbers, those comparisons speak volumes about how The Batavian has been accepted and embraced by Genesee County residents.

It also puts our success in context on a larger stage. There are, at best, only a handful of online-only news sites in the United States that have achieved our level of success in readership and local business support. I don't even know of a newspaper in a comparable market that matches The Batavian's online success with its Web site.

Publications that cover media are full of pundits who pontificate on the failure of local news media and are self-assured that the Internet destroys the audience for local news. The numbers for The Batavian demonstrate, I think, how wrong those proclamations are. People do want local news, and if they get it in a style and format they like, they will flock to it.

Billie and I are grateful for your support. We're transplants from Southern California who have come to love Western New York and enjoy our life in Batavia. We're excited about our community's future and prospects for growth and intend to do all we can to be a supporter of an ever more vibrant and successful community.

Of course, we wouldn't be in business without the support of our sponsors, but there again, we need to thank our readers. You all have been most generous in supporting our sponsors. We continually get rave reviews from sponsors who are pleased with the results they get from their ads on The Batavian. Please continue to support the local and regional businesses who so graciously support The Batavian.

On the sponsorship front, we've promoted Lucie Ann Griffis to an expanded sales territory to include Genesee County, so if you have a local business and are ready to experience a great way to market your business, call Lucie at our office, (585) 250-4118.

March 1, 2015 - 2:10pm

The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce held a gala at the Clarion Hotel last evening to honor its 2014 award winners.

(Pictured above L to R) 2nd row -- "Business of the Year" Applied Business Systems, Lisa Ormsbee, Connie DiSalvo, Jim DiSalvo, Jason DiSalvo, Steve Samis;  "Geneseean of the Year" Margaret "Peggy" Lamb; "Industry of the Year" Muller Quaker Dairy, Karen Banker, Kevin Williams. "Geneseean of the Year" William "Bill" Schutt.

(Pictured above L to R) 1st row -- "Innovative Community Contribution of the Year" Merrill Lynch, Steve Tufts, Joshua Dent, John Riter; "Agricultural Business of the Year" Corcoran Custom Services, Stacy Corcoran, Bill Corcoran. "Special Service Recognition of the Year" Genesee Cancer Assistance, Inc., Dr. Kevin Mudd.

To purchase and view pictures contact: https://www.facebook.com/SteveOgnibenePhotography

Steve Samis - Applied Busniess Systems

Kevin Williams - Muller Quaker Dairy

Bill & Stacy Corcoran - Corcoran Custom Services

Steve Tufts, John Riter, Joshua Dent - Merrill Lynch

Joe Gerace, Carol Grasso, Toni Funke, Paul Figlow, Dr. Kevin Mudd, Ellen Bachorski together pictured for Genesee Cancer Assistance

Jay Gsell with Margaret "Peggy" Lamb - Geneseean of the Year

William "Bill" Schutt - Geneseean of the Year

More pictures on Steve Ognibene Photography's Facebook page.

February 27, 2015 - 12:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Downs, business.

The city is ready, willing and able to help get construction started quickly on a new, five-story, 80- to 100-room hotel at Batavia Downs, said City Manager Jason Molino.

While developers and Western OTB officials have yet to agree on the precise location of the hotel, COO Mike Nolan said this morning the most likely spot is overlooking the southwest turn of the track, adjacent the grandstands, near the Tops Plaza.

That location is within the boundaries of the City of Batavia, meaning it will be the city's zoning and planning boards that will be called on for plan, design and environmental reviews.

"Being able to get this project reviewed and in front of all the proper boards is something we're committed to," Molino said. "We will make every effort, including holding special meetings, to move this along as swiftly and as smoothly as we can to meet the goals of the developers. I don't think this is a concern for us. We've worked with these size projects before and we can get it through smoothly."

Nolan said the developers, a Buffalo-based group that will purchase the property for the hotel from Western OTB, would like to break ground in 60 days and have the hotel open within nine months.

"The best part of this story is that back in 1998, when Western OTB bought Batavia Downs, it took $3 million (in assessed value) off the tax rolls," Nolan said. "Now, in 2015, $7 million plus is going back on the tax rolls for a facility that was closed and drawing nothing but cobwebs."

The increase in tax revenue won't hit local governments all at once, since the developers are likely to seek tax abatements from Genesee County Economic Development Center, but the exact structure of tax relief won't be clear until applications are made and abatements are approved.

Typically, tax abatements from GCEDC include relief on sales tax for construction material and furnishing, mortgage tax and a PILOT, which graduates the amount of property tax paid over a 10-year time frame, until the property owner is paying 100 percent of the taxes on the fully assessed value.

State law prohibits industrial development agencies from providing tax assistance to retail projects, unless they qualify as tourist destinations or are intended to attract visitors from outside the area.

Projects that are with economically distressed areas, or adjacent to such areas, are also exempt from the law.

Julie Pacatte, coordinator for the Batavia Development Corp., said one advantage Batavia Downs can realize by building the hotel on property within city limits (Batavia Downs straddles the City/Town line) is the census track is adjacent to a census track that includes Downtown Batavia, which qualifies as an economically distressed area.

"We're thrilled at the idea of having a distinctive hotel within the city," Pacatte said. "What they're planning, where you arrive in a very Vegas-style, shared lobby area, where you can check into the hotel and stay within the facility throughout your weekend, and being on the track, overlooking the last turn from a balcony, is pretty exciting."

Because the hotel won't offer other amenities, but is geared entirely toward the visitor looking for casino and harness racing entertainment, the folks at Western OTB don't believe it will compete with existing hotels, Nolan said.

"With this becoming a more competitive casino market in Upstate New York, we felt we needed to step up," Nolan said. "There's a casino coming to Seneca County, and the Seneca's already have casinos at their Niagara and Salamanca properties. In this new and up and coming casino market the way it is, we needed to offer some hospitality for our casino customers."

The other advantage the city offers a water-hungry facility like a hotel is lower water rates. Rates in the city are $3.14 per thousand gallons of water compared to $5.46 in the town.

The developers are negotiating with a couple of different hotel chains, so it's possible the new hotel will be operated under the banner of a Hilton Garden Inn or a Courtyard Marriott, or some other banner.

Batavia Downs is just wrapping up a $28 million remodeling and expansion effort and th hotel will complement that growth, Nolan said.

"We have a tremendous opportunity for convention-type of events and banquet-type of events that require lodging," Nolan said.

The hotel, Molino said, will certainly be a boost to the local economy, bringing in more visitors, creating jobs and spurring other types of economic growth. 

"This is a great opportunity and a great project," Molino said. "Everybody in my office, with the BDC and in planning are excited to work with the developers. We're going to do everything in our power to make sure it moves as quickly as it can and move as promptly as possible. That would be a win-win for everybody involved."

February 26, 2015 - 5:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, education, steve hawley.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) today encouraged college students to participate in New York’s annual business plan competition. Hawley praised the competition for allowing bright students across the state to present new ideas consistent with New York’s focus on nanotechnology, entrepreneurship and advanced technology. More than 600 students are expected to participate and compete for a top cash prize of $100,000.  

“As the owner and operator of a small business, I know the hard work and ingenuity it takes to succeed as a business owner in New York,” Hawley said. “This competition highlights principles that make our state great – determined and visionary entrepreneurs and businesspeople. I am thrilled that we are allowing the next generation of business- and technology-minded students to fulfill their passions right here in New York State and generate ideas that will allow our economy to grow and thrive. I encourage all college students interested in this competition to participate.”

The competition’s regional semifinals, held at St. John Fisher College in Rochester for students from Hawley’s district, will be held in March and early April with the finals being held on April 24 at SUNY Polytechnic Institute. Since the first competition in 2010, more than 1,130 students have competed with cash prizes being awarded in excess of $1,300,000. More information about the competition can be found at http://www.sunycnse.com/NewYorkBusinessPlanCompetition/2015Program.aspx.

February 25, 2015 - 2:05pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, agriculture.

Press release:

The 2015 NYS Dry Bean Growers Meeting will be held Wednesday, March 18, from 9 a.m to 3 p.m., at the Le Roy Country Club, one mile east of Le Roy on Route 5 / East Main Road. The agenda includes discussion of varieties, insects, disease and weed pests. There will also be bean dish sampling. Join us for important dry bean production and market updates! DEC and CCA credits will be available.

Lunch will include tasty, healthy NYS dry bean dishes from the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food.

Preregister by March 10 to save $5! Sponsored by New York Bean, LLC, and Empire Tractor, Waterloo.

Sclerotinia white mold caused significant losses in 2014 due to the wet season. New Cornell plant pathologist Sarah Pethybridge will explain white mold development, cultural practices and fungicide choices/timing to reduce risk, and new research ideas. Progress on breeding for white mold resistant dry beans, and improved yields will be reported. Results of Cornell variety trials comparing yield, maturity, canning quality, etc. will be presented. Western bean cutworm (WBC) feeding damage on beans has now been detected in several locations.

The 2014 WBC moth survey will be summarized, and recommendations for bean damage control will be provided. Final results of a reduced tillage dry bean weed control trial, and trials of potential new herbicides, will be presented. The effects of long-term reduced tillage, rotation and cover crops on dry bean yield and root rot will be described. There is increased cost-sharing available for such good soil management.

There will be a report from the U.S. Dry Bean Council, and a summary of the Feb. 9 Organic Dry Bean Discussion. The NYS Dry Bean Industry Committee will meet at 2:30 p.m., and decisions on funding 2015 dry bean research will be made.

Cost if preregistered by March 10: $20 for Cornell Vegetable Program enrollees; $30 for all others. Cost is $5 more at the door. To preregister, go to cvp.cce.cornell.edu or send a check, payable to Cornell Vegetable Program, to CCE Cornell Vegetable Program, Attn: Angela Parr, 480 N. Main St., Canandaigua, NY 14424.

For sponsor opportunities, contact Angela Parr at [email protected] or 585-394-3977, ext. 426. Questions or special needs, contact Carol MacNeil at [email protected] or 585-394-3977, ext. 406. In case of bad weather, call 585-394-3977, ext. 406, for a message.

February 25, 2015 - 11:45am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, agriculture, elba, NY Farm Bureau.

Heading into the 2015 legislative session, the top priority for the New York Farm Bureau is immigration reform, said Dean Norton, bureau president, during a media conference call this morning.

The Elba resident is in Washington, D.C., this week meeting with members of New York's congressional delegation to represent farmers' interests.

"We need a stable, legal, reliable workforce," Norton said. "What we have now is broken. A stable workforce on our farms means a stable rural economy."

The Farm Bureau is calling on Washington to create a visa program or temporary worker program that will make it easier for farmers to hire and retain farm workers and not worry about all of their workers being taken away by immigration officials without notice.

"Everybody (in Washington) understands there's a problem, but neither side trusts and has faith in the other side to deal fairly," Norton said. "Both sides want to hold immigration as a political football."

The Farm Bureau is also looking for clarification from the FDA on food safety rules and there's been some progress on that front, Norton said.

Until recently, a small dairy farm with gross revenue of $500,000 that also grows a few strawberries for a fruit stand would face reams of regulations for the strawberry operation, but the FDA will start to apply those rules to $500,000 per crop, so the strawberry operation would not be covered in that circumstance.

Still a top priority for the Farm Bureau is the EPA's proposed rule change on what constitutes navigable waters. Farmers remain concerned that rule changes would bring into regulation small --- even very small -- bodies of water on farms.

"We continue to push the EPA for a clarification on the rules," Norton said. "Of the comments sent in by individuals, 58 percent of the comments ask the EPA to start over and become better partners with agriculture and come up with rules that are better for everybody."

Also on today's conferance call was Elisabeth Walters, director of national affairs, who said the Farm Bureau is paying close attention to the implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill, and is pushing for trade reform and reforms in tax structure to encourage more farmers to donate crops to local food pantries.

Norton said farmers want greater access to foreign markets, which means trade agreements, and the president should have greater authority to reach trade deals. 

Rep. Chris Collins has publicly opposed the idea, and Norton said he would be meeting with Collins today to discuss the issue with him.

"The reason we're in favor of it is that our trading partners want to deal with one person, not negotiate with 365," Norton said.

February 24, 2015 - 12:42pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, city centre, mall merchants association.

So far, attorneys have been paid a combined $207,000 for the City of Batavia and the Mall Merchants Association to battle in court over who is responsible for what in the rapidly deteriorating structure.

There's a chance now the case may go to mediation, the City Council was informed Monday night.

After losing a motion for a summary judgement, City Manager Jason Molino said the MMA is willing to submit to mediation. 

A final agreement on mediation has not be completed.

The city and MMA have locked horns over responsibility for concourse maintenance, major repairs, ownership and governance.

In 2009, the MMA filed suit against the city.

Since then, the city has spent $104,199 on legal fees, while the suit has cost the mall merchants $103,317, according to Molino's memo.

"A thriving and healthy City Centre is critical to the City's downtown revitalization, and the City is very interested in an overall resolution that will best support long-term and prosperous solutions for all parties involved," Molino wrote.

February 24, 2015 - 12:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business.

A $200,000 federal grant could help create from five to 10 new businesses in Batavia, the City Council was told Monday night.

The "micro-enterprise" grant program is designed to help fund businesses with fewer than five employees either through a start-up or growth phase.

The minimum federal requirement for the program is that five business owners receive benefits and five new jobs are created.

Recipients would be required to attend classes at GCC's Best Center covering the fundamentals of owning and operating a business, including planning, legal issues, accounting and financing. 

The program would be supervised by the Batavia Development Corp. with the assistance of a grant administrator.

In total, $150,000 would be available for grants to small business owners, with $31,300 for program delivery, $10,000 for grant administration, and $8,700 for classroom instruction.

The money given out would be in the form of grants, not loans.

City Manager Jason Molino told council members that it's his understanding the federal government would require some sort of claw back for businesses that fail or move out of the city within the first three years after receiving the grant.

The City Council will vote on a resolution to accept the federal money at its March 9 meeting.

February 20, 2015 - 2:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Wiard Plow, Wiard Fire.

Old industrial buildings off of Swan Street that weren't destroyed by arson in 2010 are being felled by code enforcement in 2015.

Tom Mancuso, current owner of what was once the Wiard Plow Factory, appeared in City Court today to update Judge Michael Del Plato on his progress toward bringing the property into code compliance after citations were issued by the City of Batavia.

The case was continued to April 17, giving Mancuso time to complete demolition of the half-dozen brick structures on the property.

The only thing that will be left of what was once one of Batavia's landmark companies will be the former office building, which is owned by Smart Design and undergoing renovation.

Two of the old factory buildings were destroyed in a fire in 2010 that was deliberately set by a 14-year-old resident of the city. (For The Batavian's complete and comprehensive coverage of the fire and its aftermath, click here.)

For decades after Wiard Plow closed up shop, the buildings were used to house several small businesses. The Mancuso family invested money to help bring in business and support those businesses, but the buildings were all vacant by the time of the fire.

Tom Mancuso still had plans for the wood and brick industrial buildings, but the fire was a big set back.

"The arson fire destroyed everything we had invested," Mancuso said. "The insurance proceeds did not cover the loss, so we came out of pocket on the fire and now we're going to be out of pocket again on the demolition."

It took some time to get the necessary demolition permits from the state, but Mancuso is through that process and a contractor is on site, preparing the property to be ripped apart beam-by-beam, brick-by-brick.

Asked how much the demolition is costing his company, Mancuso said, "Too much. More than we have."

Still, Mancuso is looking at the bright side.

"It will make the street better," Mancuso said. "It's a good thing for the community. You hope something good will come of it. For years, we've tried to find somebody to build something or do something there so we can redevelop it. We'll hope this allows something good to happen sooner."

February 19, 2015 - 3:51pm
posted by Billie Owens in business.

The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce is offering a tour of China, as well as a tour of Thailand and Hong Kong.

This will be the Chamber’s 11th trip to China with more 1,000 travelers having taken advantage of this unique opportunity to see first-hand how business is done in China while experiencing many of the most famous sightseeing destinations such as the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City. This year’s trip will visit new locations never offered before on previous Chamber China tours.

The China tour will depart on Oct. 14 and return on Oct. 22.

The Thailand and Hong Kong tour is a new offering from the Chamber this year. It is through the same company as the China trip, Citslinc International, and offers the same exceptional value and experience. Travelers will experience the culture, famous landmarks and architectural details that Thailand and Hong Kong have to offer.

The Thailand and Hong Kong tour will depart on Oct. 31 and return Nov. 8.

Both trips include air fare, four and five-star hotel stays, three meals each day, deluxe bus tours, English-speaking tour guides, admission tickets to all tourist spots and airport taxes.

For more information visit the Chamber’s Web site www.geneseeny.com or contact the Chamber at 585-343-7440.

February 19, 2015 - 2:25pm
posted by Billie Owens in business.

The annual meeting and luncheon of the Genesee County Economic Development Center will take place from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Friday, March 6, at Batavia Downs. To register, please contact Rachael Tabelski, GCEDC marketing and communications director, at  [email protected] or phone her ar 343-4866.

2014 was certainly an exciting year from an economic development standpoint as unemployment was at a historic low of 4.8 percent in August, per capita income grew 6.16 percent, and businesses invested more than $50 million in our community. The food industry across the region, and especially in Genesee County, continues to flourish while investment and developments at the WNY STAMP project occur on a daily basis.  

The GCEDC Annual Meeting is an opportunity for you to find out what has been achieved in Genesee County over the last year and to get a exclusive preview of what the economic landscape will look like for 2015. The Annual Meeting is also an excellent opportunity to network with economic and elected leaders from around the region. At the event the GCEDC will also unveil the "2015 Economic Development Partner of the Year Award."

February 19, 2015 - 12:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, preservation, D.A. Tufts Construction.

There are few examples of Mid-century Modern architecture in Batavia, especially among commercial buildings, and one that has been neglected for a long time has found a savior.

D.A. Tufts Construction has purchased 438 East Main Street, which is at the corner of Main and Harvester and is perhaps most often thought of as the former WBTA building.

Dave Tufts said he's admired the building since he was a little kid and is a big fan of Mid-century Modern, so he want to be sure to preserve the era's clean lines and Jetson-style modernism of the structure.

"It's one of my favorite periods, so we're excited about it, to be honest with you," Tufts said. 

Tufts plans to convert the 2,900-square-foot first floor to office space, suitable for business or medical use, and the second floor will become two large apartments (1,300 square feet each) with open floor plans (appropriate for the era) and high-end amenities.

In a statement about their plans, the Tufts said, "The repurposing of the building goes along with the current trend of people returning to urban areas to enjoy downtown living."

They will also construct two more apartments on the property and all four apartments will have private garages.

The exterior will be upgraded with a new entry way and balconies for the apartments, but preserve the stamped brick facade common to the Mid-century Era and simple lines that dominate the look and feel of the current building.

The last tenant of the building, T-Shirts Etc., moved downtown four years ago, and the building has been vacant since. It's sort of gone to seed over all those winters and summers of emptiness.

Renovation work has begun inside, but there's a lot of work ahead for his crews, Tufts said, to bring out the best the building has to offer.

Tufts said Julie Pacatte, economic development coordinator for the city, has helped them throughout the planning process.

Pacatte said she helped the Tufts by developing a marking list for potential office space tenants and also helped them with an application for a grant from National Grid for main street revitalization projects, which she expects will be approved.

"We're thrilled about the project," Pacatte said, because it hits on so many of the city's economic development goals -- from providing mix-use buildings; bringing more viable commercial space and residential space to the central city corridor; and providing higher-end housing (apartments with garages) that doesn't currently exist in the market.

"We love that they're honoring the architectural style of the property," Pacatte said.

Lucine Kauffman, president of the Genesee County Landmark Society, said the Tufts' plans sound like good news.

"I think it's great to start raising awareness to start saving Mid-century buildings," Kauffman said. "When we think about preservation, we usually think of buildings from the 1800s, especially in this area, but there are a lot from the first half of the last century that are certainly worth preserving."

Converting a former commercial building into a mix-use structure (apartments and commercial) fits right in with the trend nationally toward what planners call "new urbanism," Kauffman said, which has so many benefits for local communities, such as economic growth and reduced crime, and it's good for the environment, by reducing the need for commutes and not filling landfills with demolished buildings.

"It's especially true in a city like Batavia, where there has been so much urban renewal and so much devastation," Kauffman said. "I think it's important to move forward and make the best of what we have now. When you see the plans for the Save-A-Lot building, what was done with the Williams building (Alberty Drugs), and what Tompkins has done with their building where WBTA is now, where they're kind of dressing it up, that's the best we can hope for, where people make the best of it."

Kauffman is aware Mid-century Modern may not be to everyone's liking, but that doesn't mean Mid-century Modern shouldn't be preserved.

"Buildings don't have to be grand," Kauffman said. "They don't have to be fancy. They don't have to be anything. They don't have to be esthetically pleasing to everyone. So long as a building represents a specific era or a specific architectural style, it's worth saving."

February 18, 2015 - 4:02pm
posted by Billie Owens in business.

Press release:

David Steel, the celebrated expert in marketing and social media is coming to Genesee Community College, Batavia Campus, at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 25, to share his presentation "Be Heard: Influence Marketing -- Locating, Engaging & Motivating Customers Online."

The event is FREE and open to the public and will take place inside the Conable Technology Department / T102 Lecture Hall. (The program will be (video/audio) streamed to all six of GCC's Campus Centers in Albion, Arcade, Dansville, Lima, Medina and Warsaw.)

Steel is the chief viral officer of Sneeze.it, a digital marketing agency, a division of The Steel Method. He is the author of "The Care and Feeding of Highly Aggressive Sales People" and also the soon-to-be-released, "Sneeze.it." A renowned keynote speaker, author, motivator and marketing strategist, Steel is widely recognized for his ability to help organizations monetize their social networks. At Sneeze.it, he teaches company executives the fundamentals of utilizing social media channels to attract prospects, build a lead pipeline and convert those leads into paying customers. He has a proven track record of turning business owners from social media novices into savvy social media marketers.

Steel has captivated audiences from New York to Nairobi with interactive speaking engagements that teach guests how to create targeted landing pages, use LinkedIn InMails and Facebook ads/tabs to successfully market their products and services. His presentation illustrates how to think and act like a consumer, and how to establish trust within a brand. Participants will learn the many ways companies get their message and brand out to the masses using a variety of social media and marketing tricks and tips.

Steel's visit to GCC is being sponsored by the College's CEO (Collegiate Entrepreneur's Organization) Club, Business Forum Club and DECA (Distributive Education Club of America) Club. Following the presentation, Steel will have copies of his book available for autographs.

February 14, 2015 - 2:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, p.w. minor.

When Pete Zeliff and Andrew Young first walked onto the factory floor of the p.w. minor building on Treadeasy Avenue, they knew nothing about the shoe industry.

"We could tie our own shoes," Young said with a wry smile Friday morning following a tour of the production line with Assemblyman Steve Hawley.

In the six months since Zeliff and Young rescued the 150-year-old shoe factory from closure, the two local businessmen have not only proven quick studies of the shoe business, they've pulled the firm from the brink of an abyss and placed it on the precipice of success.

After his walking tour, Hawley was impressed with what he saw and heard.

"With Pete and Andrew's investment here, and their hard work, the possibility of success in their eyes, their demeanor, and the people I've seen here working today with their smiles, you can see it," Hawley said. "It's great for the local economy, it's great for Western New York, to see people take a chance and that's what these two gentlemen have done. The State of New York ought to use them and p.w. minor as an example of how to be successful."

As neophytes in the shoe business, when Zeliff and Young first sat in their new offices, they wondered, why do shoes that feel good on your feet need to look dowdy and unimaginative?

The p.w. minor speciality are shoes designed and constructed for people with orthopedic needs, but why should orthopedic shoes be frumpy?

"We've been able to, with some stitching and some designs and some beautiful leathers that we're using, to upgrade those shoes," Young said. "The same lasts (forms used to make shoes), same fit, same feel, but it looks way more 'today,' I guess would be the word."

p.w. minor has long had some great-looking shoes in its line -- one shoe was bought as a prop for the former HBO series "Boardwalk Empire," after all -- and there are high-end brands that turn to p.w. minor to shod voguish-minded Wall Street bankers and urban hipsters.

But the persistent image of p.w. minor is for shoes that favor comfort over fad, In recent years, much of the shoe line had the look of something a doctor might prescribe to dowagers or retired postmen.

"When we got here, we were wondering why people who had to wear shoes that they needed for their feet, but they couldn't also look good," Young said.

One of the first of their new hires was a shoe designer out of Michigan who had experience with shoe company turnarounds.

Every shoe the company sells is getting a makeover. The first samples of the new line will make their industry debut at a trade show in Las Vegas.

"This is a company that designed about three shoes in the previous decade and we're going to a show next week where we're going to introduce three dozen shoes," Young said.

Of course, nobody is going to buy shoes if there are no feet on the street selling the revamped shoe lines to retailers and distributors.

The old p.w. minor got rid of the last of its sales staff years ago, Young said. He and Zeliff have hired five new sales reps so far and plan to hire as many as five more.

"That's already paying dividends," Young said. "We need to get our name out there. I think most of the marketplace thought we were basically dead, and there was good reason for that because we sort of were. I think they're starting to see, and they will really see it at this show next week, that we're definitely back."

The total new hires for Zeliff and Young is 16 so far, and Young says there's more to come. Part of the reason to let the media tag along on Friday's tour was to get the word out locally that p.w. minor is truly a new company. It's a place people should want to work, Young said, and Young wants to attract the best local employees.

p.w. minor was also a company that needed to do a better job of meeting the needs of existing customers. To that end, back orders have been cut tremendously. The company has gone from making 80 pair of shoes a day to 160. It used to take 25 to 26 days for a pair of shoes to wind through the production line. On Wednesday, the crew completed a line of shoes in 4.8 days.

That's a lot of change not just for the marketplace to absorb, but it's even been an adjustment for p.w. minor's employees.

There have certainly been some bumps along the way, Young indicated.

"I always say if I had a nickel for every time somebody says that's not the way we used to do things, I wouldn't need to sell any shoes," Young said. "This company was on a trajectory down, steeply down, and we want it to be on a trajectory steeply up. The change is sometimes hard for us to get through and hard to understand and accept. We're making great progress in that regard, but I like to say it's a big ship to turn. It's turning, but it takes some time."

Top photo: From a fit and feel perspective, the two shoes are essentially the same. They're made with the same fasts, but the one of the left uses more attractive leather and an updated design.

Hawley, Zeliff and Young in the leather room at p.w. minor.

Hawley holds another example of a p.w. minor shoe transformed by design and the material used to make it.

A pair of newly designed fashion boots near the end of production.

Soles waiting to become shoes.

A worker making a shoe.

Hawley with Young and Zeliff.

Glue on shoes.

Cork spread on the bottom of a shoe before the sole is attached. The cork helps ensure the comfort of the shoe's wearer.

This all-weather sole is on a shoe made for another company that sells it under its own brand name. Young said he and Zeliff love the sole, but it's only made in England, and p.w. minor's own shoes will be 100-percent made-in-America.

Nearly finished boots on the factory floor.

Zeliff, Hawley and Young with an employee near the end of the production line.

The slide show below is of pictures sent over by Young of some of the shoes that will be making their industry debut in Las Vegas next week.

February 12, 2015 - 2:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, tourism, Darien, darien lake theme park.

Darien Lake Theme Park draws thousands upon thousands of visitors from all over Western New York each summer, but General Manager Chris Thorpe says Genesee County residents are going to be especially pleased with what they find at the park this season.

Two new massive rides are going to add a lot more value for season-pass holders, he said, and local season-pass holders are an important customer base.

"We are excited to present these two new attractions this year," Thorpe said. "We think it cements us as the best entertainment value in Western New York, particularly from a local perspective. For Batavia residents, local Genesee County residents, our season pass will offer so much more this year. We're excited to give them the opportunity to come out and visit the park frequently, over and over, to see what a great value we are."

The new rides are called Brain Drain and Rolling Thunder.

Brain Drain is a massive, seven-story waterslide that offers twin free-fall drops through tubes that loop and cross, with riders zooming through at 38 feet per second until they're blasted into a pool of water at the base.

Riders start in an enclosed launch capsule, with both riders dropping into the tube simultaneously when the floor beneath them gives way.

Roling Thunder is a compact steel loop that stands 73 feet at its apex and propels 24 riders at time through a closed loop on a high-speed train. The ride hangs passengers upside down and rockets back and forth through the loop.

Construction will begin soon and the rides are expected to be ready for opening day, May 9.

The expansion gives the park 47 rides for visitors to choose from, with enough variety to please all guests, Thorpe said.

"There's so much to do, but what's even better, is there's something for everybody in the family here," said Thorpe, who is originally from Buffalo and first started working at Darien Lake in 1995, rising to the level of general manager, transferring to other theme parks for the past couple of years and now returns home.

Noting how important Darien Lake is to the local economy in the jobs it creates and the tourism dollars it attracts, Chamber President Tom Turnbull said it was great to see the theme park adding rides.

"One of the things I've learned from our friends at Darien Lake -- they've kind of schooled me on the amusement park business -- is how important attractions are in driving attendance," Turnbull said. "To have not just one new attraction, but two new attractions means, I think, we can expect a banner year at Darien Lake."

Adding rides is a departure from last year's strategy to draw visitors to the park, using entertainment, such as the Harlem Globetrotters, a Latin music festival, and, of course, Nik Wallenda to draw in crowds.

To be sure, Wallenda brought guests to the park, but he's moving on to other venues this season and Thrope said the new rides are a good fit for what the park already offers.

"We'll still have our traditional entertainment in place, the magic shows and things like that, but last year's focus was Nik Wallenda, which was a very strong attraction," Thorpe said. "This year, we're going more with a hardware focus and looking at attractions that will peak people's interest."

The park will still work to maintain its identity as a destination with strong Western New York roots, Thorpe said, a branding effort begun by park management two seasons ago.

"It's important for us to be woven into the cultural fabric of Western New York and those things like the Anchor Bar and Tim Horton's and all the local vendors we work with are critically important to our success," Thorpe said.

Chris Thorpe explaining Rolling Thunder.

Tom Turnbull

February 10, 2015 - 9:12am
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, pembroke, National Grid, Yancey's Fancy.

Press release: 

National Grid has awarded grants of up to $350,000 to support improvements in Yancey’s Fancy current manufacturing operations, and the construction of a new, 112,000-square-foot cheese manufacturing, packaging, warehousing and distribution facility. The new site will be built on 12 acres in the Buffalo East Technology Park in Pembroke.

The new facility has a capital investment of $20.6 million, will create approximately 50 new jobs, and retain 100 existing jobs. It is expected to officially open next month. National Grid will provide up to $250,000 toward electric infrastructure costs.

A second grant of up to $100,000 is available to assist with the design of advanced technology to manage the whey by-product that is generated through the cheese-making process. That will be part of a 3,500-square-foot expansion of its current operations at 857 Main Road in Corfu. The new system will allow for more efficient processing of the whey, which is used as a common food additive and for animal feed production. The project requires an upgrade of the current electric service to meet new demand. The $2.64 million project will create 17 new jobs and retain 30 jobs.

“Yancey’s Fancy is a thriving local company that is creating jobs and a strong brand here in Western New York and across the country,” said Dennis Elsenbeck, regional executive for National Grid in Western New York. “Genesee County continues to be a model for economic development through its collaborative approach to creating a positive climate for businesses to grow and expand, like Yancey’s Fancy.”

“National Grid has been a great partner through the years in our economic development efforts,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC). “In this instance, National Grid is providing critically important grants to sustain and grow the operations of one the largest employers in our region. It’s another example of the public and private sector collaboration that is resulting in the creation of new jobs and investment.”

The grants to Yancey’s Fancy are from National Grid’s Electric Capital Investment Incentive Program, which assists growing customers with costs of upgrading utility infrastructure to accommodate a business expansion or new construction that creates and retains jobs.

Information about National Grid’s suite of economic programs is available at www.shovelready.com.

February 9, 2015 - 6:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, UMMC.

A proposed new cancer center at UMMC will help the hospital treat more patients in Genesee County and provide those patients with a comprehensive, one-stop location, according to spokeswoman Colleen Flynn.

New new $6.5 million addition to the hospital will be fitted in the triangle area on the west side of the hospital known as the Summit Street entrance.

The wing will handle chemotherapy, radiology, infusion and include a linear accelerator. The staff will include a board-certified oncologist and a radiation oncologist.

"This has been in planning for a long time," Flynn said. "It will help save some patients that 45-minute drive each way to Rochester. One of our goals was to keep care in Genesee County for those who are our most vulnerable."

The proposed expansion will be reviewed this week by the Genesee County Planning Board and the City of Batavia Planning Board.

The new building will be 9,850 square feet and while it is currently planned as a one-story addition, the construction engineering will allow for a second floor to be added if needed, Flynn said.

UMMC, already expanded to 800 employees since the affiliation with Rochester General, will add more employees as a result of the addition, Flynn said.

Plans for the cancer center were started many months ago, before the affiliation with Rochester General was finalized, but the affiliation is helping the process along.

A license is required for a linear accelerator and Rochester General happened to have obtained a license it had no immediate plans to use. The NYS Department of Health has approved the transfer of the license to the UMMC location.

Among the issues planners will consider with the addition is the loss of parking outside the Summit Street entrance.

There are currently 15 spaces. The expansion will require 20 spaces, creating a deficit of 35 spaces. 

Officials plan to draw on the 71 spaces in the existing parking lot on the west side of Summit Street, which is shared with 207 Summit St. and 215 Summit St.

Employees will park at St. Jerome's on Bank Street, which currently has 50 to 60 extra spaces available and is already served by a shuttle for hospital employees.

The shared parking lot will have signs and markings to ensure the spaces closest to the cancer center are reserved for cancer center patients.

Officials hope to break ground on the new facility in the Spring with completion and opening for patient treatment in January.

The County Planning Board meets at 7:30 p.m., Thursday.

Also on the agenda is a plan by Darien Lake Theme Park to add a new ride called the Turbo Twister. The slide, which covers an area that is 191 feet by 76 feet, features an 80-degree drop angle to start, an inclosed tube, and it propels people at an average speed of 35 feet per second.

Plus, the agenda includes plans by East Pembroke Fire District for a new, voter-approved fire hall.

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