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Friday, April 4, 2014 at 11:37 am

GCEDC board approves Koolatron and Premiere Credit projects

post by Howard Owens in batavia, business, GCEDC, Koolatron, Premiere Credit

Press release:

The Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) approved applications for two projects at its April 3 meeting.

Mega Properties, Inc., (Koolatron) will implement a 20,000-square-foot expansion to its current facility in Gateway I Corporate Park in Batavia. The company was approved for a sales tax exemption of approximately $39,200, a mortgage tax exemption of approximately $6,250 and a property tax abatement of $144,648 based on incremental increase in assessed value. The planned capital investment will total an estimated $775,000 and is projected to create 5.5 new full-time equivalent jobs in three years after a certificate of occupancy is issued.

Mega Properties, Inc., is a Canadian company headquartered in Brantford, Ontario, with locations in the United Kingdom and the United States. The company began business with its flagship product line of 12-volt portable thermoelectric coolers and has expanded to manufacture, market and distribute a wide range of items through dealer/distributor network and the Internet. 

Premiere Credit was approved for a sales exemption of $32,000 to expand is call center in the City of Batavia. The capital investment of the expansion project is $400,000 and the company has pledged 25 additional jobs, bringing the facility’s total employment up to 150 full-time equivalent employees.

In 2012, capital expenditure of Premiere Credit was $350,000 with 100 pledged jobs. In 2013, capital expenditure was $325,000 with 50 additional jobs pledged, resulting in the creation of 134 positions at the Batavia location.

“Companies in our county keep expanding operations at their facilities due to the increasing success they’ve experienced with the business climate here. The growth of these companies will continue to positively contribute to our job creation efforts,” said Wally Hinchey, GCEDC board chairman.

Friday, April 4, 2014 at 9:33 am

Darien Lake's new manager combined love of coasters and teaching young people into one career

When Rod Rankin -- the new general manager of Darien Lake Theme Park -- was a young man, he never thought he'd wind up running facilities with rollercoasters and waterslides.

"If you'd asked me I would have said you were crazy," Rankin said. "I was going to be a high school teacher."

He studied secondary education at the University of Southern California and was working as a production manager at Paramount Pictures when Paramount bought a chain of six entertainment parks. Paramount transferred him to the theme park division. He's been working in and running theme parks for 25 years now.

But it's worked out for the would-be high school teacher. Asked what his favorite part of his job is his first response is that it's working with the youngsters who take jobs in the parks each summer.

"It's the good and the bad of this industry," Rankin said. "You're training a new generation of children every year, because this is really kind of a first job. That's the good part." Then he laughs (Rankin, a big man, has a hearty laugh). "The bad part is you're training a new generation of kids every year."

Rankin replaces Bob Montgomery, who ran the park for two years, but decided over the winter that he wanted to return to his native Canada to pursue opportunities closer to home.

Under Montgomery's leadership, Darien Lake was working on developing more of a local flare, bringing in Anchor Bar to serve wings, serving Weber Mustard and Dippin' Dots. That's a trend that will continue, Rankin said.

Besides hiring Nik Wallenda to provide entertainment throughout the season, Three Brothers Winery has agreed to set up a wine-tasting area, a wine shop and will cross promote Darien Lake with tags on its bottles at retail locations.

Another change coming to Darien Lake is a redesigned menu for Beaver Brothers and Maria's Italian Kitchen. The new menu will focus on lighter fare for health conscious diners, Rankin said. Just this week he hired a new chef to oversee the creation of the new menu.

With Paramount, Rankin started out as a project manager and was involved in rollercoaster development.

He describes himself as a coaster junkie. A native of the Los Angeles area, Rankin had plenty of access to coasters at numerous theme parks growing up, notably, of course, Disney and Knotts Berry Farm (he spent a lot of time at Knotts, he said).

Does that mean there's a new coaster in the works for Darien Lake? He won't say. He did say, "It's really fun when you go into a facility to learn the new coasters and then hopefully, eventually, build a new coaster."

Rankin spent 22 years with Paramount and its successor company, before leaving in 2007 as the Western regional vice president. He's been with Herschend Family Entertainment for four years, most recently as general manager of the company's park in Denver (unrelated side note: Herschend recently acquired the Harlem Globetrotters).

A certified master gardener, Rankin is looking forward to putting down roots in Genesee County.  He was excited that he had no trouble selling his home in Denver. He's looking forward to visiting the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Batavia. His gardening interest drifts toward heirloom tomatoes and roses. In fact, he's started a rose garden at every theme park he's run and Darien Lake will be no different, he said.

Darien Lake Theme Park's opening day is May 10. The park is hiring now for seasonal positions.

Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 11:56 am

After 65 years in Batavia, Boyles Motors keeps on trucking

post by Howard Owens in batavia, Boyles Motors, business

Boyles Motors has survived for 65 years because of faith and family, says Eva Fanara.

Fanara, who turns 91 years old next week, still works four days a week as a receptionist in the family business at the corner of Oak Orchard Road and West Saile Drive, Batavia.

"Oh, I'm just baggage now," Fanara said. "I'm just here to make sure they behave."

Her grandson, Jimmy Fanara, said Eva is really the foundation of the trucking parts, service and sales business.

As you would imagine, a lot has changed for Boyles Motors over seven decades, and the times haven't always been easy, but the Fanaras have stayed together and kept the business humming like a well-tuned engine even when the road got rough.

"Our customers know who we are," Eva said. "We've worked hard and we just keep working at it."

Eva's late husband, Vincent, was a regional sales manager for International trucks when the recently married couple moved from Buffalo to Batavia in 1949.

Two successful muck farmers, Roy Rowcliff and Bill Stuart, wanted to buy Boyles Motors after one of the original owners had a nervous breakdown. They asked Vincent Fanara to run the business for them.

At the time, Boyles was located on West Main Street, about where McDonald's is now. The dealership mostly sold light trucks and the International Scout along with some heavy trucks.

After the deaths of Rowcliff and Stuart, Vincent Fanara, a World War II vet, acquired the business.

"We just kept the name, Boyles Motors," Eva said. "We were known as Boyles Motors from here to California, so why change it?"

As the business grew, so did the family. The Fanara's had three boys, James, Paul and John. As the boys grew older, Eva pursued her career in teaching.

In 1971, the dealership moved to its present location, with a bigger emphasis on bigger trucks, though light trucks and Scouts were still part of the sales mix.

Things changed for Boyles Motors in 1973. Paul, then 19 and a student at Genesee Community College, was killed in a car accident.

Paul's death was hard on Vincent, Eva said.

"Vincent Fanara was having a hard time pulling it together here," Eva said. "He wanted to close. He didn't want to stay, but we had two other boys."

Eva decided to give up teaching and enter the business to help keep it going.

"I came in to meet the public," Eva said. "I'm a people person. I was no more an office person than the janitor of the place. I didn't know anything about the business. I was just going to go into permanent teaching at the time."

When Vincent died in 1987, James Fanara took over day-to-day operations.

"He had no choice," Eva said. "He had to do it."

In 1990, the Fanaras opened a second location with the encouragement of International in Jamestown. John Fanara runs that location along with Jimmy's brother Vincent.

Jimmy is in charge of parts and service at the Batavia location. His wife, Brandi, works at the store part time along with their daughter, Jenna. One of John's children helps in Jamestown.

The business also employs about 20 people.

At one time, Boyles employed a lot more people, Jimmy said, but the business has changed.

In the 1980s, International stopped making light trucks and the Scout. Then in the late 1990s, the company was sold to Navistar.

Around 2000, Navistar decided to eliminate many of its dealers across the country, so now Boyles is an affiliate dealership. It facilitates new truck sales still, but the new truck dealer for the region is in Rochester.

Jimmy said Boyles survives on parts and service and used truck sales as well as sales and service for Oshkosh snowplows and military equipment (primarily in Jamestown).

The company continues to thrive because of decades of providing great customer service, Jimmy said.

He recalled two stories about how the company strived to take care of its customers.

"We have a longtime customer in Elba and he told me once he needed an engine but at the time, he didn't have the money to pay for it," Jimmy said. "My grandfather said, 'pay me as you go,' and the farmer told me if not for that, he never would have made it."

Then there was the Elba farmer who sent a big bouquet of flowers to Eva when she was in the hospital once.

"He said when they were nothing, before they became the big farm they are today, he needed some parts, but he didn't have any money," Jimmy said. "She said, 'don't work about it.'  He paid her off, but he said that meant a lot to him at a time he needed it."

The family are members of Ascension Parish and attend St. Joe's. The children have attended, or attend, St. Joe's and Notre Dame. Eva goes to church every day.

She seems to have boundless energy and Jimmy said customers are often amazed to learn she's 90.

"They think she can't be older than 65," Jimmy said.

"Faith, family and work are my mottoes," said Eva, who just retired from delivering for Meals on Wheels after 50 years.

But she expressed no desire to quit her work at Boyle Motors any time soon.

"When you're working, you meet the young people and you know what's going on," Eva said.

Top photo: Brandi, Eva and Jimmy in a 1913 International that the original owners of Boyle Motors had left in one of their barns. It once served as the chariot for the Elba Onion Queen.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at 6:48 pm

Closure of Five Star branch still doesn't sit well with many in Pavilion

post by Howard Owens in business, five star bank, Pavilion

For 85 years Pavilion has had a community bank, but since Five Star closed its branch on Cato Street in October, local residents and merchants have been feeling the pain and the pinch.

"Some merchants make cash deposits on pretty much a daily basis," said Town Supervisor Theron Howard. "Other people bank every week or two and can make other arrangements. If I had to make cash deposits every day, it would be a real inconvenience not to have a local branch."

Town Council Member Linda Thompson said she's heard a lot of complaints around town about the branch closing. She's been a sounding board because she retired as manager of the bank a year ago after working there for 31 years.

"People said, 'oh, you saw the writing on the wall.' Well, no I didn't," Thompson said.

But she does understand why it happened. More people bank online and use ATM machines. Lobby traffic had been declining for years.

"It's not just Pavilion," Thompson said. "All of the branches of banks have seen that. You shoot yourself in the foot because you want them to do online banking, but then they don't come to the branch."

Chuck Guarino, senior VP and director of marketing for Five Star, confirmed there has been "a significant drop in transaction volume over the years" and that's the reason for the closure.

"We have several offices in the surrounding area and all indications are that is where the traffic is heading," Guarino said. "We haven't changed our commitment to the community from a charitable or events or programs standpoint, but we felt it best for us to be able to close that office."

Steven Brooks said he's been banking at the branch from its years as Pavilion State Bank, then Wyoming County Bank and finally Five Star.

He said he's talked to a lot of his friends and neighbors in Pavilion and they're universally unhappy with the branch closure and several of them have switched their banking to the Bank of Castile as a result.

He and others, he said, don't like that banking has now become at least a 20 mile round-trip just to cash a check.

"The bigger impact is on the elderly," Brooks said. "The older folks who walk, they don't want to go to Le Roy, especially during the winter they don't want to go to Le Roy."

That's one of the concerns of Cathy Carlsen, owner Country Hill -- that older customers, who used to combine banking and shopping in one trip are no longer making that trip to Downtown Pavilion.

She said she's definitely seen an impact on her business since the branch closed.

"Often the elderly only go to one area, and if somebody is taking them around, and they only have an hour, they're going to do what they do in that one area," Carlsen said.

Melody Osterman, working with Carlsen, agreed she's seen less foot traffic in Pavilion in the past six months.

"People say 'I don't believe you don't have a bank here any more,' Osterman said. "Or they wanted to come here and do something, but they have to go to Le Roy or Warsaw because there's nothing here. We're missing out on business."

As for making deposits, Carlsen said she's learned to adjust. Her husband will make her deposit for her when he heads to Le Roy on a weekly basis. She does miss, though, having a bank nearby to make change if needed.

People do learn to adapt, said Jim Rudgers, owner of Pavilion's long-standing filling station and garage, Kemp and Rudgers on Route 63.

Some we talked to thought Rudgers would be particularly inconvenienced, but he said, no, not really.

"My wife makes the deposits," he said. "She's on the road anyway."

He's accepts that a bank branch closing is just part of modern life.

"It's a sign of the times," Rudgers said. "People are doing more banking online. There's no need for a lobby anymore. The town can't support a small town bank."

Carlsen would like to see Five Star put its branch building up for sale, so perhaps another bank could open there, but Rudgers said he doesn't think that will happen.

"If they put it for sale they know darn well Bank of Castile would buy it up and put a branch in," Rudgers said.

Five Star is holding onto the building for more practical business reasons, Guarino said. It's the bank's disaster recovery location for the company's computer network and it provides a location for an ATM machine for its Pavilion customers.

The bank has spoken with merchants and is considering options for enhancing the ATM service to better handle their business, but there's little hope of the branch ever reopening.

"The transaction volume isn't there to support a full-service bank," Guarino said.

The spokesman for Bank of Castile wasn't available for comment today.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at 9:32 am

County's unemployment rate drops year over year for February

post by Howard Owens in business, jobs, unemployment

While Genesee County's unemployment rate is lower than a year ago for February, it is slightly higher than January and remains higher than the 12-month low.

The Labor Department reports the county's rate for February was 7.5 percent. A year earlier it was 8.6 percent and a month earlier it was 7.3 percent. The 12-month low is  5.7 percent in August.

The state's rate is 7.7 percent, down from 8.6 percent a year ago.

The rate in Livingston County is 7.2 percent, 10.2 in Orleans and 9.1 in Wyoming.

Monday, March 31, 2014 at 3:38 pm

GCEDC board to consider two projects at Thursday meeting

post by Howard Owens in batavia, business, GCEDC

Press release:

The Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) will consider two projects at its April 3 board meeting.

Mega Properties, Inc., plans to make a 20,000-square-foot expansion to its current facility in Gateway I Corporate Park in Batavia. The projected capital investment is approximately $775,000 and would create 5.5 new full-time equivalent jobs in three years after a certificate of occupancy is issued.

Premiere Credit plans to expand its growing call center in the City of Batavia through an investment of approximately $400,000. The company pledges 25 additional jobs with this project, which will bring total employment commitment at the facility up to 150 full-time equivalent employees. At the end of 2013, Premiere reported employing 134 employees at the company’s Batavia location.

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, located at 99 MedTech Drive, Batavia, on the 2nd floor, across from Genesee Community College.

UPDATE: Here are project summaries released by GCEDC

Mega Properties, Inc. (Koolatron) - Town of Batavia (final resolution will be considered)
Mega Properties, Inc., (Koolatron) is a Canadian company with headquarters in Brantford, Ontario, international location in the United Kingdom, and U.S. locations in Florida and New York. They began with their flagship product line of 12-volt portable thermoelectric coolers and today they have expanded to manufacture, market and distribute a wide range of items via dealer-distributor network and the Internet. In 2000, they built a 25,000-square-foot facility in the Gateway I Corporate Park. The company is proposing a 20,000-square-foot expansion at their current facility. The total investment is estimated at $775,000 and the project is expected to create 5.5 new full-time equivalent jobs in three years after their certificate of occupancy is issued. The GCEDC Board approved an initial resolution to set a public hearing at the June 6, 2013 meeting. A public hearing was held on June 26, 2013, as the benefits exceeded $100,000, and there were no comments.

Premiere Credit - City of Batavia (final resolution will be considered)
Premiere Credit is expanding their call center in the city of Batavia. The company is investing $400,000 in equipment to support their growing call center. Premiere Credit is pledging 25 additional jobs and with this project that will bring total employment at the facility up to 150 full-time equivalent employees. In 2012, capital expenditure was $350,000 with 100 pledged jobs. In 2013, capital expenditure was $325,000 with 50 more jobs pledged. For 2013, the company reported that 134 positions had been created at their Batavia location.

Saturday, March 29, 2014 at 7:26 pm

Another big crowd turns out for Home Show at Falleti

post by Howard Owens in batavia, business, Home Show

More than 900 people turned out for the second day of the Genesee County Home Show.

The show continues tomorrow, Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Above, WBTA's Dan Fischer in the radio station's booth at the show.

Friday, March 28, 2014 at 11:03 pm

Photos: Big turnout on first night of renewed Home Show

post by Howard Owens in business, Home Show

Close to 400 people showed up for the first evening of the Genesee County Home Show at the Falleti Ice Arena.

We spoke to several of the 60 vendors on the floor and they were all thrilled with the turnout. Those who had long histories with the home show said the first night crowd was as big or bigger than some of the best turnouts in shows from years ago.

Guy Clark of Cedar Street Sales and Rentals summed it up best: "You can hear it. If you close your eyes, you can hear the buzz."

The home show continues Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday. The cost is $3 per adult.

Friday, March 28, 2014 at 9:44 am

Byron-Bergen students back bill to make yogurt the official snack of NYS

post by Howard Owens in bergen, business, byron, byron-bergen, education, schools

Press release:

Fourth-graders at Byron-Bergen Elementary School are on track to making a substantial economic impact on their state and their community. The class has created a well-researched rationale for designating yogurt as the Official New York State Snack, based on job creation and promoting healthy eating.

They sent handwritten letters – over 200 of them – to state legislators, farm owners, and yogurt companies. Their idea is now a bill sponsored by New York State Senators Mike Ranzenhofer, Kathleen Marchione, and James Seward and by Assemblymen William Magee and Steve Hawley. The bill is currently in committee.

The 17 members of the “Snack Pack,” led by fourth-grade teacher Craig Schroth, say yogurt deserves the title of Official New York State Snack. Student Madelyn Pimm says, “New York is now the biggest yogurt producing state in the U.S., with over 30 processing plants. Governor Cuomo refers to us as the ‘Yogurt Capital of the Country.’ We are the fifth largest milk producing state. We have three yogurt companies right here in our own community – Alpina, Müller-Quaker, and O-At-Ka. Many of us have family members who work there.”

“We want to support the yogurt industry and help create more jobs,” says student Alayna Streeter. “If this becomes law, there will be more opportunities for farmers who milk the cows, for drivers who deliver the milk, for people who make it into yogurt and other products, for distributors, and stores – jobs all down the supply chain.”

“Making yogurt the official snack will help New York promote healthy eating,” says student Caleb Calhoun. “Yogurt tastes great and is really good for you.”

These students are all highly knowledgeable and engaged in the legislative process they started. Letters of support from their representatives line the classroom wall. “Our whole class came up with the idea to promote yogurt,” says student Carly Bergeron. “We’re learning about government in action.” The class is hoping that they may be invited to Albany if their bill becomes law. Follow the progress of the bill at http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/bill/S6695-2013.

“We want to get the word out and build backing for our bill. It’s important for everyone to support the yogurt industry because they are also supporting our communities with jobs,” says Alayna.

One yogurt company is already grateful for the assistance being drummed up by the Byron-Bergen students. Chobani plans to send a representative to the school to thank the students in person later this spring.

Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 7:53 pm

Vendors will star in reinvigorated Genesee County Home Show

post by Howard Owens in batavia, business, chamber of commerce, Home Show

The revamped and reinvigorated Genesee County Home Show is just about ready for your visit this weekend.

More than 60 vendors will have their wares on display and Chamber of Commerce President Tom Turnbull said those local and regional business owners will be the stars of the show.

"We decided the businesses should be the celebrities," Turnbull said. "We want people to come in and see what they have and that will be their entertainment for the day. We'll have some other vendors, such as Darien Lake, Terry Hills, Batavia Downs and Adventure Calls, but for the most part, it's all about homes, fixing your home, or building a new home or adding on to your home."

The home show, which fell on some rough times in recent years, has moved back to the Falleti Ice Area (sans ice, of course) and the Chamber invested in new booth partitions and upgraded electric.

At least 1,500 and maybe as many as 2,500 people are expected to visit the home show this weekend.

After a long, cold winter, on a weekend when temps will be in the 40s and 50s, Turnbull thinks the home show comes at just the right time for people to get out and start looking forward to spring and summer and those special projects around their homes.

"It's going to be good weather for a home show," Turnbull said.

The home show came about, Turnbull said, because local business owners, most notably Eric Biscaro of Armour Building Supply, came forward and asked the Chamber to take on the event.

"They came to the chamber and said we need a home show in this town and you guys should be running it," Turnbull said. "It made perfect sense for the chamber to run it because that's what we do is promote business."

With all vendor spaces sold out for the weekend, the home show does seem like the place to be for homeowners and would-be homeowners this weekend.

Doors open at 5 p.m., Friday. It runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. The cost is $3 per adult. Children under 12 are admitted free. 

Alex's Place will have a food booth set up in the refreshment stand/skate rental room.

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