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RRH, supporting career mobility, announces workforce education program

By Press Release
Apr 5, 2023, 4:30pm

Press release:

Rochester Regional Health has launched a new strategic workforce education program for its more than 19,000 employees. The Advance U Education Program will support career mobility for Rochester Regional employees, with tuition paid upfront by the health system. This latest addition to Rochester Regional’s robust array of workforce development programs reflects the health system’s commitment to creating career-long advancement opportunities for its employees. In its vision to “lead the evolution of healthcare to enable every member of the communities we serve to enjoy a better, healthier life,” Rochester Regional understands that its most powerful asset is an educated, engaged workforce.

Starting April 4, Rochester Regional’s Advance U will be available to employees across the health system’s hundreds of New York locations. The program will support Registered Nurses (RNs) to obtain BSN degrees (bachelor’s of science in nursing), and will provide entry-level employees the opportunity to gain skills and earn certifications in in-demand career fields such as Medical Assisting or Medical Coding. In the future, Advance U will grow to include additional education opportunities to help Rochester Regional team members advance their careers with the organization.

Advance U is the newest addition to Rochester Regional’s continuing investments in workforce education and career development. The health system’s Isabella Graham Hart School of Practical Nursing since 1964 has prepared students to launch careers as Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs). The College of Health Careers Associates in Nursing Program opens an LPN-to-RN pathway. In addition, Rochester Regional continues its longstanding Clinical Laboratory Technology Program at Rochester General Hospital, and its Certified Nursing Assisting and Certified Home Health Aide Training programs.

For Rochester Regional team members, Advance U removes the financial burden of education for career advancement. The health system will cover 100% of tuition for degrees and certifications earned through Advance U. The cost of higher education can be a significant barrier to healthcare jobs, particularly for employees in entry-level roles with limited discretionary income to invest.

“The first step to any career is getting that first opportunity. At Rochester Regional Health, we want our employees to grow and advance with us, so that whatever role they start in can be a stepping stone to a lifelong career with our health system,” said Dr. Richard “Chip” Davis, Rochester Regional Health CEO.

Rochester Regional is the second largest employer in Rochester and provides essential care for communities across New York. For many of its entry-level employees, their job with Rochester Regional is their first; by offering upfront tuition coverage for skills and certification courses, the organization hopes that the first job marks the beginning of a long and robust career at Rochester Regional.

Advance U was designed in partnership with InStride, a global leader in strategic workforce education.

“In healthcare, unlike many other industries, a significant number of roles require professional certification,” said InStride co-founder and Chief Operating Officer, Jonathan Lau. “Rochester Regional Health is investing in their employees by providing the education they need to earn those certifications at no cost to them while they work. With the Advance U Education Program, Rochester Regional Health is not only filling the roles they need today, they are also building the workforce their system will need in the future.”

ILGR names Sally Waldron Open Doors Transition Specialist

By Press Release
Apr 3, 2023, 9:50pm

Press release:

Independent Living of the Genesee Region (ILGR) is pleased that Sally Waldron has joined their team in the role of Open Doors Transition Specialist.  In this position, she will assist individuals in their re-entry from institutional settings to the community by facilitating and coordinating comprehensive plans for them to function in society once more.

Ms. Waldron comes to ILGR with a breadth of experience, working as a Housing Services Specialist at PathStone, Inc in Batavia; over a decade as a Day Habilitation Manager and previously a Receptionist/Clerk Typist for the Genesee County ARC; and as a Social Welfare Examiner in the Genesee County Department of Social Services in Batavia.

Sally holds an Associate’s Degree in Community and Human Services from Empire State College (Class of 2011).

Among her responsibilities are: managing visits to institutions, providing potential participants with unbiased information regarding available home and community-based services, participating in discharge planning, and coordinating with other relevant social services agencies involved in the discharge and transition care of the consumer.  Ultimately, Ms. Waldron would develop and facilitate person-centered plans that would be effective for the 90-day transition period, secure qualified housing, coordinate home and community-based services during the transition period, and subsequently ensure the continuation of services after the 90-day transition period is completed.

ILGR is delighted that Sally Waldron is bringing her considerable experience to serve the GOW region in her new position.

Submitted photo.


GCEDC board approves assistance for Byron solar project

By Press Release
Mar 31, 2023, 7:17pm

Press release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) board of directors accepted GSPP Route 262, LLC’s initial resolution to construct a 5 MW (AC) community solar project in the town of Byron at its board meeting on Thursday, March 30, 2023.

GSPP Route 262, LLC would generate $4,000 per MW with a 2% annual escalator of PILOT revenues for Genesee County, the Town of Byron, and Byron-Bergen Central School District. 

The project also includes a proposed 15-year host agreement for the town of Byron at $2,000 per MW with a 2% annual increase which would generate approximately $172,934 to the town over the life of the agreement.

In total, GSPP Route 262, LLC is estimated to generate a $627,303 increase in property-tax type revenues to host municipalities resulting in $5.14 in revenue for every $1 generated from the property’s current use.

GSPP Route 262, LLC has requested a sales tax exemption of $1.056 million, a mortgage tax exemption of $70,993 and a property tax exemption of $778,344.

A public hearing on the proposed project will be scheduled in the town of Byron.

Pavilion and Piffard farmers honored by National Corn Growers Association

By Press Release
Mar 29, 2023, 10:49am

Press release:

Pavilion farmer Ryan Swede and Piffard farmer Matthew Swede earned first-place state awards in the 2022 National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) National Corn Yield Contest, making them among the top corn yield producers in the nation with DEKALB corn.

Ryan yielded 282.1 bushels per acre with DEKALB DKC63-91RIB brand blend corn in the E:Strip-Till, Minimum-Till, Mulch-Till, Ridge-Till Non-Irrigated Class. Matthew achieved a yield of 284 bushels per acre with DKC58-64RIB brand blend corn in the A:Conventional Non-Irrigated Class.

“Year after year, it’s amazing to see the high yields reached with hard work, research and innovation,” said Jamie Horton, DEKALB Brand Manager. “In such a challenging industry, we are proud to be the chosen partner to provide a portfolio of products with exclusive genetics for consistent, superior performance potential farmers trust to help them meet their goals.”

Farmers who planted DEKALB corn captured the most national placement awards (17 of 27), as well as 179 state level awards, 56 of which yielded 300 bushels per acre or higher. DEKALB products provide the latest exclusive genetics from Bayer’s robust global breeding engine and product testing network to help drive consistent performance potential.

The 58th NCGA contest continues to challenge farmers to achieve record-setting yields and improve agricultural management practices for a more sustainable future.

For a complete list of winners and to learn more about maximizing yield and profit potential with DEKALB exclusive genetics, visit or contact your local DEKALB Asgrow dealer.

Submitted photos:  Top photo, DEKALB Asgrow Brand Lead Dipal Chaudhari with Matthew Swede; second photo, Chaudhari with Ryan Swede.

HCR recognized as top workplace for sixth straight year

By Press Release
Mar 29, 2023, 10:40am

Press release:

HCR Home Care has been recognized as a top workplace for the sixth straight year.

The company was awarded a 2023 Top Workplaces honor in the large employer category by the Democrat and Chronicle, according to an independent survey of HCR employees. HCR also was honored with the Diversity Award for prioritizing a welcoming and inclusive culture and with the Leadership Award for inspiring confidence in employees and the company's direction.

“For the sixth straight year, HCR employees have praised our company as a great place to work, and we are delighted to be further recognized for our commitment to diversity and inclusion,” said Suzanne Turchetti, president of HCR Home Care. “This latest recognition is a testament to our leadership for creating an inviting and inclusive culture.”

The awards are based on employee feedback gathered through a third-party survey administered by Energage, LLC, a leading provider of technology-based employee engagement tools. The anonymous survey measures several aspects of workplace culture, including alignment, execution and connection.

GCEDC announces annual meeting at Batavia Downs on April 28

By Press Release
Mar 20, 2023, 6:15am

Press release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) is inviting community partners to join them for the GCEDC’s annual meeting on Friday, April 28 at Batavia Downs.

The theme of the annual meeting is #GrowingGenesee, highlighting the ripple effects of the past 20 years of economic growth and significant milestones with projects at STAMP, expanding workforce development, and economic growth across Genesee County.

“This event really provides us the opportunity to share our accomplishments over the last year and to express our thanks to all of our public and private sector partners,” said Peter Zeliff, Chairman of the GCEDC Board of Directors.

Registration for the event is available here.

The annual meeting’s keynote speaker, and the GCEDC’s partner of the year, will be announced in the coming weeks.

Past partners of the year include National Grid, Genesee Community College, Genesee County, City & Town of Batavia and the Batavia Development Corporation, National Fuel Corporation, the Town of Alabama, Genesee Valley Educational Partnership, and HP Hood.

“With projects like Plug Power and Edwards growing at STAMP, expansions by our manufacturers and a wave of downtown projects and new investment, there’s no better time to reflect on the previous year and the opportunities for future growth,” said GCEDC President and CEO Steve Hyde. “We are excited to share how Genesee County is growing and connect with our partners at the annual meeting.”

GCC grad joins staff of Independent Living

By Press Release
Mar 14, 2023, 4:08pm

Press release:

Independent Living of the Genesee Region (ILGR) is pleased that April Fearby has joined their team in the role of program specialist under the Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs (CYSHCN) Grant. 

Ms. Fearby brings with her a wealth of experience beyond the two decades she worked in the office of her family’s business.  She held various office positions in the administrations in the Villages of Orleans and Albion, New York; was a Family Support Specialist with Pinnacle Community Services in Niagara Falls, New York; a COVID-19 Screener with Mizkan America, Inc. in Lyndonville; a Clerk at the Orleans County Department of Social Services in Albion; a Licensed Insurance Agent/Customer Service Representative with GEICO (Government Employees Insurance Company) in Getzville; a Direct Support Professional (DSP) and a Community Living Assistant with ARC of Orleans County in Albion; a Family Case Worker in the Early Head Start Child Care Partnership at Community Action Organization of Erie County, Inc.. in Buffalo, a Family Assistant at Niagara County Head Start, Inc. in Niagara Falls, NY; a School Age Child Care Site Supervisor with GLOW (Genesee Livingston, Orleans, Wyoming) YMCA in Albion, NY; and a Home Care Aide with Hilton East Assisted Living in Hilton, NY. 

April’s education includes her working toward a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from the State University of New York at Buffalo (present); an Associate’s Degree in Science (AS) in General Studies, education, human resources, and human services from Genesee Community College in Batavia (Class of 2014); and an Advanced Regents Diploma in Business and Agriculture from Medina High School in Medina (Class of 2007).

In this new position, working with the Public Health Departments in Genesee and Orleans Counties, Ms. Fearby will connect children, from birth to twenty-one (21) years old, and their families to established support programs, critical pathways providers to help facilitate access to needed home and community- based supports and streamline access to services that empower families.

ILGR is delighted that April Fearby is bringing her vast experience to serve the GOW region in her new position.

Independent Living of the Genesee Region is a member of the Western New York Independent Living, Inc. family of agencies that offer an expanding array of services to aid individuals with disabilities to take control of their own lives.

Second annual food processing boot camp offers area students glimpse of job opportunities

By Press Release
Mar 14, 2023, 6:25am

Press release:

Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) hosted its second annual free food processing boot camp for 30 graduating Genesee County high school students, setting them up for high-wage-in-demand careers.

The three-day program featured industry experts educating students about the many job opportunities in the food processing industry. Participants received a “Cornell Food Processing Certificate,” which will give them an advantage when applying for jobs.

The food processing industry is Genesee County’s number-one employment field. Participating organizations included H.P. Hood, O-AT-KA Milk Products, Upstate Niagara, Yancey’s Fancy, and Nortera. After the success of the inaugural program last year, Genesee County has set a great example of what workforce development programs can do for a community.

“Genesee County offers hundreds of immediate job opportunities to well-trained, hard-working individuals, making it a blueprint for future educational programs,” said Dairy Foods Extension Program Director Kimberly Bukowski. “Thanks to the success of this initiative and funding provided by Governor Hochul’s new Office of Strategic Workforce Development, we intend to expand our workforce development program throughout the state.”

This is one of many successful programs Genesee County has hosted to prepare the next generation of workforce candidates for fulfilling careers in advanced manufacturing, agriculture, skilled trades, and more.

GCEDC VP of Business and Workforce Development Chris Suozzi said, “Genesee County has seen its workforce readiness investment pay off for years, as many businesses have relocated here because of our qualified candidates.” He added, “Leaders from local institutions such as the Workforce Development Institute, GCEDC, and Genesee Valley BOCES have been catalysts in preparing graduating seniors with the skills needed for industries in their backyard.”

Chamber of Commerce Award: Business of the Year, Max Pies Furniture

By Joanne Beck
Mar 9, 2023, 8:05am

Squirrels, a dead-end street across from an elementary school, and the four seasons.

Those have been some of the challenges being situated in a fairly remote — and animal-friendly — section of the city in Western New York for Phil and Steve Pies over the years, Steve says.

Yet despite that and the typical ups and downs of retail business, Max Pies Furniture has endured 118 years since its settling into that comfy spot at the end of Jackson Street in 1905. Founder Max Pies and family built not only a small business but also their home, and the place was handed down to now Steve, the fourth generation of the Pies family.

No wonder they have earned the Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year Award. And there’s no other place they would have continued the tradition that began for furniture and flooring sales.

“As far as this structure and this business from this location, it’s the same location. Obviously, they added on to the store since 1905. But the original location and their house were in the parking lot you pulled into,” Steve Pies said. “They went all over the board from Rochester to Buffalo, and I think even close to Syracuse at one point in the 80s. Rochester Linoleum bought out all of the flooring aspects. But the furniture, even though we do flooring here as well, the original furniture store Max Pies name started right here.”

And they both must have just naturally fallen right in line with the business, yes?

"Well, not really,” Phil said. “I went to college, then I was in the Air Force. And then my uncle was here at the time, and my dad.”

Phil was married with two children, Steve and Natalie, and living in Sacramento, Calif. at the time. After his Uncle Jake died, he ended up returning to Batavia and worked alongside his dad, Sam. Business must have been good for longevity: his grandfather worked until he died at 93, and the same for his father until he was 83. Phil has been the friendly face of Max Pies for the last 53 years.

It was a similar crooked path for Steve, who didn’t immediately return from college to join the family business. He went off to pursue a business degree at Plattsburgh State College, and something drew his attention to working on a cruise ship — he had visions of “Love Boat” — and went aboard to work as a Blackjack dealer and then worked around Nevada in casinos building a career as a card dealer.

He eventually returned and decided to help his dad, who turns 80 in May. They thought back to what has changed over the years, and certainly, costs have been a big one.

“Freight rates have changed, insurance, overhead,” Phil said. “And styles, we sold a lot of colonial, and now we sell a lot more modern styles.”

Steve added that retro comes and goes, but a shift that has added time, labor and unexpected expenses has been how furniture arrives now versus years ago.

“It used to be all assembled,” Steve said. “Now it’s called KD, for knockdown. It's, take them off the truck, unpack them out of the box, set them up with screws and a drill and dispose of the garbage. It's a lot more tedious.”

While costs have shot up on their end, the waste management business is booming. The Pies have a 40-yard roll-off Dumpster that costs $800, and sometimes it gets filled three times a month with styrofoam and boxes, Steve said. For the most part, they depend on sales reps for advice and guidance on what’s trending, what’s hot, and what to buy throughout the year, Steve said.

“My dad has a good relationship with a lot of our reps. The reps know what’s out there,” he said. “But we try to have a variety as well because, you know, you’ve got 20-year-old couples, and you’ve got 70-year-old people and you’ve got in between, and there's such a different dynamic.”

A walk through the downstairs showroom features a painter’s pallet of gray hues — from charcoal and slate to lighter silvers. Grays are definitely in right now, the father-son team agreed, and other hot items include power recliners, sleeper sofas and sectionals. They will cater to people’s tastes, but with a focus on this locale, Steve said.

For example, unlike more eclectic geographical areas such as New York City, this region has a mixed appetite that includes a lot of rural country.

“We have hunters, they want the classic. They want a camouflage recliner, they want a rocking chair, and a certain bedroom set that looks like a plank cabin look,” Steve said, adding that there was a camouflage recliner in stock that day just waiting for an avid hunter.

For the approximately $2.5 million of sales volume they accomplish, the staff is small, Steve said: seven people, including Jimmy, Peggy, Eddie, Reggie and Hunter, plus subcontractors. Hours have been reduced over the years, especially when COVID hit, from a crazy 9 to 9 schedule to 9 to 7 and then 9 to 5 work day, Steve said.

“The biggest challenge for a store like ours in a town like this in a state like this is we deliver furniture winter, spring, summer and fall. We've gone through roofs, we've gone through windows, we take off doors, we go up and down. We unload trucks in blizzards. And we have a building that has, you know, leaky roofs. We have squirrels … so I would say, having an old building and four seasons,” he said. “And I would also say that if you look at our location, you could arguably say this is the worst location on planet Earth for a retail furniture store, dead-end residential neighborhood across from an elementary school. That's my long-winded answer to the challenges.

“ (Turning to his dad) But you’ve been here 53 years. So yeah, there was a time where my dad said, the accountants used to say, ‘you made too much money this year, you got to do something with it.’ And there's been other times where we can't pay our bills,” Steve said. “So it's a very cyclical business in the notion of, you just gotta keep grinding and keep going. It is what it is. So there still are heydays, and there still are lows, and there still are in between.”

Given it is a “cyclical business” that definitely still experiences those good times of Batavia’s yesteryear, what’s the secret? Max Pies motto, Steve said, giving a nod to his dad.

“Where customers send their friends,” he said.

The nomination committee selected Max Pies, partly due to Steve’s “tremendous” contributions for bringing the business “into the 2000s” via online ordering and a website, excellent customer service and marketing the business in many unique ways.

Photo of Steve and Phil Pies at Max Pies Furniture store at 400 S. Jackson St., Batavia. Photo by Howard Owens.

Chamber of Commerce Award: Special Service Recognition, GO ART!

By Joanne Beck
Mar 8, 2023, 8:10am

Sitting in the Batavia GO ART! building next to a white baby grand piano with walls of artwork and embracing a definite quiet, creative vibe, Gregory Hallock shares his journey since arriving seven years ago.

It really couldn’t have gotten much worse.

“Yes, we were in a 'save the organization mode.' We were doing really bad. We were in the red. So we were trying to get ourselves out of it. And I made the decision, with the support of my board, to spend money that we didn't have so that we could be seen in the community and start to do stuff so people would know what we do because people don't like to support a bleeding organization. We needed to show that we were doing more than just bleeding,” said Hallock, who was promoted to executive director two years later. “So we started doing classes and activities and a whole bunch of stuff so that people would start talking about us. And I started applying for a ton of grants. And we received a lot, but not a ton. Like 20 percent of the grants.”

Some of the new initiatives were children’s creative arts camp weekends, a Ramble Explore Art tent, regularly opening the kitchen and bar, and obtaining a liquor license at Tavern 2.0.1, which has worked handily for drawing more customers in and selling more art — nearly two dozen pieces for a record at a recent exhibit, Hallock said.

The nonprofit has also substantially increased grants it disperses to the community — going from $47,000 to $210,000 for artistic endeavors.

“I tell people that honestly, if you go to something artistic in Genesee or Orleans County, there's a really strong chance that we sponsored it, that we gave it funding to happen. We've been really working at letting people know they think of GO ART! as go ART!, as a cheer. And trying to show the GO stands for Genesee Orleans,” he said. “So we don't just do stuff in support. We now create stuff ourselves. Every single one of my employees is an artist, as well. We all have that background and want to be able to enjoy what we do at the same time. You know, we're good at the admin stuff. But we also love art. So we bring that in.”

GO ART!, the oft-used acronym for Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council, captures the two-county organization. However, Batavia has a bustling site with galleries, exhibits and receptions, a kitchen, bar, comedy shows, kids’ activities, bartender competition fundraisers, music, and other special events on a regular basis.

In the earlier days, upon Hallock’s arrival, there was one gallery and office space, he said. Now, in addition to those offerings above, there are seven galleries, a film studio, a podcast studio, library, stage, makeup studio, a culinary program, classes and demonstrations, and there’s no point in stopping now.

“We’re whole-heartedly looking at adding additional space here in Batavia and in Medina. We're currently working on these two spaces so that we can expand and offer a lot more programming. Because we're also looking into mental health. Where the community, the world, is in a big space for needing mental health stuff. So we're talking like we'd love to have music therapists, art therapists, and are trying to get it, so we have a lot more available,” Hallock said. “A bigger gallery, like on the level of competing with major galleries in Rochester and Buffalo, you know? We're trying to do a bigger coffee shop, artists and shop, little boutique clothing place. I mean, there are so many things that we want to add to it so that it's an immersive experience. And then if you're coming for one thing specific, hopefully, you'll see that there's so many other things happening. We really want to be arts -- we want to be a community arts and cultural center, not just an arts and cultural center. So that's where we're going.”

Except he wouldn’t disclose exactly where they’d be going.

“Everybody keeps saying, ‘well, we're halfway between Rochester and Buffalo.’ So I want this to be the reason that people come from Rochester and Buffalo to Batavia because we do amazing arts and cultural activities,” he said.

GO ART! supports the arts, cultural and wide-ranging diversity programs, he said, such as religious, LGBTQ, Black Lives, Just Kings, and various support group organizations.

“We will work with anybody,” he said. “What we do is for anyone, as long as they will work with anyone.”

He referred to a mural on the building’s backside, dotted with faces representing various ethnicities and cultures. Yet to be completed, he said, it is something he wanted as a way to let the public know “all are welcomed here.”

The organization more recently produced a printed calendar of GO ART! events and is mulling the idea of including additional arts organization events as well for a quarterly edition. The site has gaining speed through word of mouth, Hallock said, as he’s been getting phone calls and emails from folks who have heard about GO ART! and want to visit. The list of members has grown from about 150 to 200, as just the beginning.

“We’re hoping to get a marketing director in March,” he said, adding that one doesn’t need to be a member to participate in events, but it provides discounts on the myriad of year-round activities. New happenings have included a Peruvian dinner fundraiser, an RIT animation program, a murder mystery event with a charcuterie board and desserts.

Established in 1962 and quite active in the last few decades, Hallock finds it difficult to hear people say they’ve never heard of GO ART! Thankfully, many other organizations have stepped up to help out with cleaning the 7,000-square-foot site, including Arc GLOW, BOCES, and the Senior Center’s RSVP program.

“I had a lady just call today asking, ‘how can I help, what can I do?’” he said. “When I started, it was just me and a volunteer at 30 hours a week. We didn’t have funding to pay anyone else. Now we have four full-time staff and two part-time staff, and a full-time marketing director to be hired, and a GLOW folklorist.”

The nomination committee selected GO ART! for the dramatic change in perception and recognition of the organization in the past six years, a nomination form states.

“It has become an active, vital member of the community. For years it was a marginal part of the community, city. The acquisition of the old Batavia Club was a drain on the resources of the council,” it states. “The building has been transformed from an occasional glance by people to a place that is well known. With the organization's dream and vision, the building has grown from only using 30 percent of the space to now utilizing the entire building. While keeping the integrity of the historic structure, each room is now a space for the arts - visual, performing, media and culinary. Every time one visits, there is something new that excites. GO ART! is deserving of recognition for the tireless and "out of the box" vision of the arts and culture in our community.” 

Top Photo: GO ART! Executive Director Gregory Hallock takes a seat in the foyer of the nonprofit at 201 East Main St., Batavia, and the talented staff gathers for a pose from left, Angie Dickson, Gregory Hallock, Jodi Fisher and Mary Jo Whitman. Photos by Howard Owens.

Chamber of Commerce Award: Innovation Enterprise of the Year, Empire Hemp

By Joanne Beck
Mar 7, 2023, 8:00am

Sinus steamers, muscle mousse and scrubby bars may not seem to be your typical hemp and cannabis company products, but they’re exactly a reason why Empire Hemp Co. has become so popular in its field.

“We create a lot of unique products you wouldn’t find in other stores,” Chief Operating Officer Shelly Wolanske said. “In order to keep current, we’re constantly coming up with new ideas for products.”

The company, based on the first floor of 34 Swan St. and expanding into 23,000 square feet that includes the second floor for production and storage, with a retail store at 204 East Main St. in downtown Batavia, has been selected for the Chamber of Commerce Innovative Enterprise of the Year Award. While Chief Executive Officer Chris Van Dusen and Wolanske were surprised, they agree the type of business is all about being innovative.

“We’re the first cannabis business in Genesee County,” he said. “As far as what we’ve come from and where we’ve gone to, we ordered a lot of equipment and brought on a lot of investors to fund that expansion. We are so we have our whole line of adult-use cannabis products or THC products, and those include pre-rolled ‘cones,’ gummies and vape cartridges and flour. We needed the new equipment to do those products and locked down the gummy recipe. We just took our first orders for gummies to dispensaries in New York.

“As we’ve grown the business, we’ve had to learn each aspect of the business, start off with CBD, and we have to learn not only the regulations and the state compliances, but we also have to learn how does the machinery work? What's the most efficient way for them to work, train employees, and, there's all these different nuances around it, that's part of growing a business,” Van Dusen said.

There has been no blueprint to follow, Shelly added, no trailblazer ahead of them to follow. They’ve been the trailblazers, forging their way through the state regulations, certifications, inspections and protocols to ensure they’re doing things the right way.

“It’s been trial and error; we’ve figured this out; regulations and testing’s been a challenge,” Van Dusen said.

They’ve had to find out through trial and error how to do things as efficiently as possible, when it was time to recruit and hire more staff, and what products were hot or not. Making gummies, for example, might seem like an easy task, and yet it took one and a half years to perfect the recipe, Wolanske said. They worked with different preservatives and flavorings, and it came out either too mushy or too stiff and took a lot of adjustments to get it to the chewy, gummy consistency they wanted.

There have been other challenges, including a lawsuit right now in New York State that’s holding up deliveries from dispensaries.

“That’s a whole other challenge we’re working on,” Van Dusen said. “We’re constantly solving problems. It’s exciting but challenging at the same time.”

They raised “a substantial” amount of money to buy equipment for their production needs and hired five people in the last three months to work at the store. One goal is to educate people about their products while the field has dwindled in certain arenas, Wolanske said.

“It takes a certain attitude. There’s an ebb and flow,” she said. “There’s very few of us left from the CBD days.”

Despite all of the hurdles, Van Dusen sees that “the opportunity in front of us is really incredible.”

“We’re really excited about where we are going with the expansion. We're quadrupling our footprint. That's our next phase of focus, how we're going to build that out. And then we have to get it okayed by the state, and then we have to get it Good Manufacturing Practices certified before we can start production out there,” Van Dusen said. “So we have to clean it, we have to paint it. And we have to then have a consultant come in and make sure we have everything ready for our audits for both the state and from the third party auditor to make sure that we're in compliance.”

The plan is to fill up that upstairs space with an indoor growth facility and keep rolling together as a cohesive group.

“Any little step is a huge step for us,” Wolanske said. “Everybody we’ve hired so far is part of the team. They’re in.”

And so, too — obviously — have Van Dusen and Wolanske been in since the beginning, which began long before they founded Empire Hemp and planted their first site on Swan Street in 2019 and then opened the store in April 2020 downtown.

Their award nominations included articles about the early days of Wolanske, whose path to the hemp industry brought her by way of being a policy-maker in the alcohol and substance abuse and prevention field, and Van Dusen as an entrepreneur, furniture maker, contractor, bicycle mechanic, tour guide, and father of three, whose history with cannabis dated back to the nineties during his battle with cancer. It was the intense effects of chemotherapy, in particular, that pushed him to explore alternative methods of recovery from the side effects of Hodgkin's Lymphoma treatment. 

"During that time, California had just legalized medical marijuana for cancer and AIDS patients, and I was having a tough time with chemotherapy," he said. "It relieved nausea and the terrible feeling I had from the chemicals being pushed through my veins and allowed me to have a level of normalcy in my life. It was like night and day, and I could go back to work. I knew at that point there was something about this plant that had some serious healing. It was life-changing." 

Fast forward to 2020, when COVID hit, and the couple learned another form of survival during pandemic shutdowns. Nomination forms included yet other articles about the tenacity of Van Dusen and Wolanske to operate a walk-up window, followed by the opening of their store, which was a success. While some places have merely posted a sign, it’s not as easy — or legal — as that, Van Dusen has said, wanting to clarify and educate the truth for consumers to know in further articles, all used as part of the nomination process.

Top Photo: Chris Van Dusen, founder and Co-founder Shelly Wolanske at their Empire Hemp shop on East Main Street, Batavia, and several of their self-created products. Photos by Howard Owens.

Cedar Street Sales and Rentals remains family run as it enters its fourth decade

By Howard B. Owens
Mar 4, 2023, 6:31pm

It takes a lot of hard work and perseverance to make it in business for 30 years, Guy Clark said Friday, following a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Cedar Street Sales and Rentals in Batavia.

"A lot of it is also being a big part of the community," Clark said.

The celebration also makes another significant transition for Clark, who is taking on the role of being semi-retired, reducing his work hours to Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with his sons Adam and Connor taking on more responsibility for the business.

"They have been over the last few years (taking on a bigger role)," Clark said. "They both went to college and came aboard afterward. They got business degrees. We didn't plan on it. It just happened to work out like that. They're so smart and innovative, and you really have to be these days. You can't wing it like I did forever. You have to be very methodical."

He said he has a lot of confidence in his sons, and all three men work together well.

"It's awesome to have someone to throw things around with, to bounce things off," Clark said. "Now we have a quick little powwow -- what do you think about this -- and we just did that with the Home Show. Will we be in the Home Show this year? We talked about not being in it because it's in the middle of April, kind of late for us.  Just as we stood there, said, What do you think? Well, I'll work, and I'll work. Let's go. Let's do it. So it's fun to have those kinds of decisions instantly."

Photo by Howard Owens.

$142 million distribution center complex in Pembroke comes before GCEDC board

By Press Release
Mar 1, 2023, 7:30am

Press release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center Board of Directors (GCEDC) will consider a final resolution for a $142 million investment proposed in the town of Pembroke at a board meeting on March 2, 2023.

Horizon Acres Associates, LLC, based in Rockland County, is partnering with Geis Companies, based in Streetsboro, OH, to build six flex commercial/industrial facilities totaling 1.5 million square feet. The project would be located on 115 acres immediately off the 48-A interchange on the New York State Thruway, giving access to transportation networks throughout the region.

“In addition to the direct impact this project will have in Pembroke, these facilities are going to be an integral addition to the recruitment of potential tenants at the Science & Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park (STAMP) and other nearby locations,” said GCEDC President and CEO Steve Hyde. “At full build-out, the campus is estimated to create up to 400 new jobs, we have the workforce candidates and programs to support this ambitious number.”

The company plans to start construction in 2023 with the goal of having one to two buildings totaling 560,000 square feet, being operational in late 2024. The facilities will be suitable for a large single tenant, multiple smaller tenants, or suppliers for advanced manufacturing projects.

Horizon Acres Associates, LLC is requesting a sales tax exemption estimated at $6.2 million, a property tax abatement estimated at $11.9 million, and a mortgage tax exemption estimated at $1.1 million. The project is projected to generate $7.9 million in PILOT revenues to municipalities during the proposed 10-year project agreement, which is estimated at 39.5 times the municipal revenue that would be generated under the property’s current use.

The GCEDC’s economic analysis of the project estimates a $227 million impact, including $218 million in payroll and $9.1 million in revenues to the Town of Pembroke, the Pembroke Central School District and Genesee County.  For every $1 of public benefit requested, the project is projected to generate $16 into the local economy.

A public hearing was held on the proposed project agreements on Jan. 30 in the Town of Pembroke.

Previously: Developers say Pembroke location ideally suited for planned $142 million distribution center

Mama D'eez grows again, into its very own place on the south side

By Joanne Beck
Feb 21, 2023, 1:18pm

It worked exactly as it was supposed to, and maybe even quicker than expected.

Dannielle Lumpkin began as a small catering company out of her home, and also sold her soul and Caribbean fare at festivals and special events.

Then she seized an opportunity in October 2022 and moved into the incubator space at Eli Fish on Main Street, Batavia, and set up shop as Mama Dee’z Kitchen. It was a family-run operation, and her food was a hot commodity.

Eli Fish owners Matt Gray and Jon Mager, and staff members guided Lumpkin along the way with business, marketing, and restaurant advice. The premise of an incubator is to allow a small business to learn the ropes and then move out on its own to expand and grow.

Lumpkin lasted four months. No, Mama D’eez didn’t fail — it did so well, Lumpkin signed a lease for two years at the former Fishtales Hideaway at 107 Evans St.

“It’s kind of surreal. I’m going to miss the people at Matty’s. Some of them are family now. I’m thankful for those connections,” she said Sunday. “We will start hiring soon. I want to balance it out, the traffic flow, and see how many I want to hire.”

Her restaurant will expand to a full menu, which she couldn’t do at the smaller space inside Eli Fish, she said. There’s “a lot more space and prep room,” Lumpkin said.

“We’re working on changes now. A lot is going to change,” she said. “The hours, we’ll be open later in the evening, to 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday."

She is also planning to have a liquor license eventually.

Mama Dee'z will have a ribbon-cutting in mid-March, and Lumpkin will publicize more details soon, she said.

File photo: the former Fishtales will soon house Mama Dee'z Kitchen at 107 Evans St., Batavia. Photo by Howard Owens.

Eli celebrates five years of success and future expansions

By Joanne Beck
Feb 21, 2023, 11:14am

While most businesses make big splashes out of those hefty decades-old anniversaries, Eli Fish owners and staff are plenty happy with turning five this year, brewmaster Adam Burnett says.

And the brewery and restaurant that’s already become a staple of downtown’s Main Street will be celebrating on March 3 and 4.

“It’s to celebrate the successes I don’t think any of us saw coming,” Burnett said.

It was in March 2018 when owners Matt Gray and Jon Mager opened Eli Fish Brewing Company in the deceptively large building that stretched from Main Street back to Jackson Square. That included an on-site brewery, a kitchen for Eli and one for an incubator to temporarily house a start-up restaurant for training and experience before ideally moving on to a larger space of its own.

There was also plenty of seating and room for cornhole tournaments, special event bookings and trivia nights and occasional live musical groups.

The place has closed every March since opening to upgrade the brewery — with a minimum 20 percent growth each year, Burnett said — for production capacity that “more than doubled from when I got here four years ago,” he said.

The brewery has a distribution spanning across Western New York and just signed a contract with a major name that can’t be disclosed just yet, plus Eli Fish was invited to participate in a Rochester brew expo, which is newer territory for the more western-based brew, he said.

During its shutdown next month, the property will be filled with activity to build a banquet hall for parties up to 100, continue work on the outdoor deck next to Jackson Square, refine an elevated food menu, and expand Matty’s Pizza into the former Mama Dee’z Kitchen area. (See related story.)

As for the outdoor deck? “I would love to see it functioning before the first concert in Jackson Square,” Burnett said.

How’s the food? “We still do more food sales than beer sales,” he said. “It’s all about the full experience. With Matty’s expansion, that can take a load off of our kitchen. People come now expecting new things with an international flair.”

The anniversary celebration will feature “throwback” food specials from the last five years that include shrimp and grits, bahn mi sandwich, potstickers and more. Craft brews should bring on some nostalgia, he said, with the Brewer’s Wife, a blonde ale, Madam Edna, a nod to the infamous Edna Gruber of Batavia’s pre-urban renewal days, and Church Shoes.

Funny thing is, the Edna was created without anyone knowing that she was Burnett’s great-great-grandmother — a madam, for sure, she ran a brothel on Jackson Street and was reportedly rather philanthropic with her proceeds, donating money to those in need.

The celebration is just that, Burnett said: it's a way to acknowledge that Eli Fish has not just survived.

“But we’ve been thriving,” he said.

Eli Fish Brewing Company Chef Sam Hilburger and Master Brewer Adam Burnett prepare for the five-year celebration March 3 and 4 at 109 Main St., Batavia with food specials and nostalgic craft brews from the first year of operation. Photo by Howard Owens.


Longtime Kutter's cheese store closing its doors in Corfu

By Joanne Beck
Feb 20, 2023, 8:10am

After more than seven decades of selling their popular dairy products, owners Brian and Heather Bailey made the sad announcement Sunday that it was coming to an end for Kutter's Cheese Factory retail store.

“It’s with a heavy heart that we have to announce that Kutter's  Cheese Factory Retail Store, after 75 years in business, is closing its doors,” the couple posted on its online site. “Conditions (outrageous shipping costs, discontinued cheeses, rising costs on everything, and labor shortages) have made it impractical to continue.

“It’s so difficult to say goodbye to our wonderful, selfless and hard-working employees, and to you, our customers,” they said.  “We’ve had the privilege to meet so many wonderful people and exchange smiles and our love of cheese.  Someday we may find our way back to business somewhere, but in the meantime, we’ll just say so long for now.”

The shop opened in 1947, and during the next 70 years, it continued to expand at 857 Main Road, Corfu, catering to the tastes of cheese lovers near and far.  The Kutter's store was the recipient of an Agricultural Business of the Year Award in 2009.

The owners also wanted to clarify that it is the retail store that’s closing, and not the manufacturing business of Yancey’s Fancy, which is under separate ownership.

“I hope you will have fond memories of our store and we will most certainly have fond memories of you,” they continued.  “God bless you all. Love and Respect, Heather and Brian Bailey, Owners.”

Obviously, the feelings are mutual, with several comments from folks expressing sadness and memories about having shopped at the store or family members going there for favorite items (cheese curd was apparently a popular one), even traveling from out of state -- including North Carolina -- to do so.

The owners announced a sale that will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

File Photos of top, Kutter's Cheese Factory on Main Road in Corfu, the Hot Stuff Yancey's Fancy buffalo mascot during a Kutters' customer appreciation day, and above, an assortment of cheeses at the shop, by Howard Owens.

UPDATE: There was a long line outside of Kutter's this morning. Photo courtesy WBTA.

HCR Home Care hires new VP of growth and business

By Press Release
Feb 19, 2023, 10:21pm

Press release:

HCR Home Care has hired Rory Burrill as vice president of growth strategy and business development.

Burrill brings to this role more than 20 years of leadership experience in strategy, sales and business development. Most recently, he served as the head of Health Systems at, where he built and executed the sales strategy for the company’s entry into the U.S. health system and provider market. He also served as vice president of sales and business development at VisualDx, a leading A.I.-enabled decision support technology for dermatology.

Rory Burrill graduated magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University with a bachelor’s degree in Economics and earned his MBA from The Simon Business School at the University of Rochester. He resides in Pittsford, N.Y. 

Details released on GLOW With Your Hands healthcare event

By Press Release
Feb 10, 2023, 1:02pm

Press release:

The success of GLOW with Your Hands in workforce recruitment in the manufacturing sector and the urgent workforce need for healthcare providers has once again brought businesses, educational organizations, and economic development agencies from across the region to collaborate to provide an incredible opportunity for GLOW region students to learn about the careers in their own backyard in the healthcare sector.

Approximately 600 students in grades 8-12 from 28 schools will gather at Genesee Community College on March 24 to connect with various healthcare businesses and organizations to learn about the multitude of gratifying jobs in healthcare and science-related fields throughout the GLOW region.

“Our collaboration once again focuses on supplying GLOW region employers with the resources that will facilitate the ongoing development of our future healthcare workforce,” said Karyn Winters, director of the Genesee County Business Education Alliance Director and Co-Chair of GLOW With Your Hands: Healthcare. “We are very excited to provide another hands-on career exploration experience for students across the GLOW region.”

Healthcare is an essential component of the regional economy as evidenced by various developments and expansions across the GLOW area. GLOW With Your Hands: Healthcare will provide the healthcare sector with the opportunity to meet and recruit its future workforce as these projects are completed and start operations.

“The GLOW region gives United Memorial Medical Center access to an educated, well-trained workforce because of our partners in the private sector, which is why we continue to make significant investments in the area,” said Dan Ireland, President of United Memorial Medical Center. “These investments will create hundreds of new jobs, and we need the next generation of workforce candidates to fill them.”

“We are all aware of the current challenges in the healthcare sector, especially in rural areas such as the GLOW region,” said Angela Grouse, Education to Employment Director at the Livingston County Area Chamber and Co-Chair of GLOW With Your Hands: Healthcare.  “Our goal is to showcase local healthcare organizations and businesses to our students as they plan to start their careers so they can be a part of the workforce solution.”

“We are always trying to find new strategies and services that prepare our students to enter the workforce upon graduation,” said Justin Dueppengiesser, Executive Director, of Wyoming County Business Education Council.  “The GLOW region is special because we have so many organizations working together that passionately want to find job and career opportunities for our youth to keep them here.”

Students will also have the opportunity to interact with colleges, universities, and secondary and post-secondary training programs to learn about the career pathways offered through these academic institutions.

“It means so much to our GCC community, as not only do students get to interact with local healthcare organizations to learn about different careers, but this also gives us a chance to expose GLOW region students to affordable options available at our college that can lead to good-paying careers in the healthcare sector,” said Maureen Welch, Director of Respiratory Care at Genesee Community College.

Various healthcare businesses and organizations have demonstrated their appreciation of the value of this event with generous support including: ESL Federal Credit Union, Livingston County Area Chamber Of Commerce: Education to Employment, Wyoming County Community Health Services Skilled Nursing Facility, Rochester Regional Health, M & T Bank, UR Medicine | Noyes Health, Workforce Development Institute, Lifetime Assistance, Blossom Modern Home Care Solutions, Batavia Downs, Episcopal Senior Life Communities, VNA of WNY, and the Iroquois Job Corps.

There are still sponsorship opportunities for the March 24th event at the Platinum ($5,000), Gold ($2,500), Silver ($1,000) and Bronze ($500) levels.

For more information about GLOW With Your Hands: Healthcare visit or contact Chris Suozzi at [email protected].

Submitted photo.

GCEDC board approves financial agreements with Edwards Vacuum at STAMP

By Press Release
Feb 3, 2023, 3:50pm

Press release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) Board approved financial agreements to support Edwards Vacuum, part of the Atlas Copco Group, for the first phase of the company’s $209 million semiconductor dry pump manufacturing facility at the Science Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Park (STAMP) in the town of Alabama, NY at its February 2, 2023 meeting. 

Edwards Vacuum’s “factory of the future” will serve the semiconductor industry and advanced manufacturing sectors and create approximately 343 new high-paying jobs. The facility is projected to generate more than $13.4 million in future revenues to the Town of Alabama, Genesee County, Oakfield-Alabama School District, and the Alabama Fire Department over 20 years.

Atlas Copco USA Holdings Inc. & Subsidiaries (Edwards Vacuum) has requested sales tax exemptions of approximately $4.34 million and a 20-year property tax abatement of approximately $12.85 million. The project is estimated to generate $644 million in payroll and projected future municipal revenues, and a $39 benefit to the local economy for every $1 of public investment.

Tenney backs bill aimed at providing assistance to small manufacturers

By Press Release
Feb 1, 2023, 4:50pm

Press release:

Congresswoman Claudia Tenney (NY-24), a member of the Ways and Means Committee, reintroduced the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act, which would work to provide financial assistance to investment companies that finance small manufacturing businesses.

This bicameral legislation has been introduced in the United States Senate by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).

The AIM Act works to provide additional capital to Small Business Investment Companies (SBICs) to leverage private capital to provide more patient and flexible financing to smaller and mid-sized manufacturers.

“By incentivizing and creating manufacturing jobs not only in Upstate and Western New York but across the country, we can work to rebuild and grow our nation’s economy,” said Congresswoman Tenney. “Many Americans rely on the essential goods and services from our smaller manufacturers, and the AIM Act will work to stimulate economic growth and opportunities for these businesses. I am honored to lead this bicameral legislation alongside Senator Rubio. Boosting support for our small manufacturing businesses remains a top priority for House Republicans.”

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