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Wednesday, March 18, 2015 at 11:31 am

Farmers say increase in minimum wage will hurt agriculture in New York

post by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, business

Farmers are facing ever escalating expenses, lower prices and now Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to raise the minimum wage on them.

That's just more than many New York farmers are going to be able to bear, said Dean Norton, a farmer in Elba and president of the New York State Farm Bureau.

"New York is already a tough state to do business in and a minimum wage increase is going to continue to make us disadvantageous," Norton said during a conference call this morning with media from throughout the state.

Joining Norton on the call were Sandi Prokop and Brian Reeves, owners of multi-generation farms in Middleburgh and Baldwinsville.

Each said a minimum wage increase would add significant costs to their operations, $44,000 annually for Prokop and $50,000 for Reeves.

And that doesn't include the pressure a minimum age increase would put on suppliers and service companies to raise their rates, driving operational costs up even further.

The average farm worker in New York earns $12.50 an hour already, Norton said. Even though the proposed increase from Cuomo is less than that -- to $10.50 an hour -- a minimum wage increase tends to drive up wages across the board.

When trainees and entry-level workers get more money, the people above them want to keep pace with the higher pay, so they demand higher wages.

Farmers who don't meet those demands, Norton said, risk losing skilled and experienced workers to other farmers willing to pay those wages, or the workers will look for work in other states where conditions are more favorable.

Workers who are dissatisfied with their current conditions will also change careers, going into related industries, Reeves said.

The upward pressure on wages just encourages farmers to abandon labor-intensive crops or move to greater mechanization, such as robotics at dairy farmers, which means fewer workers churning economic buying power in their local communities.

Both Prokop and Reeves noted that in their segments of agriculture -- dairy and vegetables -- they're not price makers, they're price takers."

The food processors and supermarket chains who purchase their crops set the prices, based on supply and demand and in competition with other states.

"We're already one of the higher cost states," Reeves said. "When I sell a box of zucchini, I'll have a buyer tell me he can get it cheaper in another state. He'll say, 'I can buy all I want for $11 a box, why do you want $13 or $14 a box?' "

Dairy prices have been falling for months, Prokop said, and haven't hit bottom yet. In February, she said, she received $24,000 less for milk than the month before, and her revenue was down $13,000 the month before that.

"It's only going to get worse this month," she said. "The price is now below the cost of production."

It would help, Reeves said, if Congress would step in and set a higher minimum wage across the board, because at least then farmers in all states would be paying the same price for labor.

"We need to be able to compete," he said, "with Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan."

Monday, March 16, 2015 at 4:12 pm

Feeling of community drew new owners to Woody's Deli in Le Roy

post by Howard B. Owens in business, Le Roy, Woody's Deli

It's a bit of a challenge, even for an experienced cook, admits Brian Canalie, to take over somebody else's menu and make it your own.

But just as he and his partners Shane Burger and his wife Melissa decided to keep the name Woody's Deli when they took over the corner market in Le Roy, there was too much good in the menu to just toss it out.

"Right out of the gate, we're concentrating on the food and service, because we have a different approach," Burger said. "The previous owners (Lisa and Justin and Hayward) did a fantastic job, but we want to be here forever. Given our backgrounds in food, we have a little different philosophy on how some things can and should be done. I think that's probably the most important thing. We've added some new things, like homemade cannolis, our chicken tenders are battered here, not frozen, and we've expanded the Mexican menu. We didn't want to do too much too fast because we already have an established clientele in a successful business."

Burger has been a food services manager for the Creekside Inn, Holiday Inn and Batavia Downs, and most recently was manager at Smokin' Eagle BBQ & Brew.

He and Canalie have been friends for 15 years. Burger said he's the only person he could think of that he would want as a partner in business. They've worked together before, with Canalie also coming over from the Smokin' Eagle, where he was a cook.

"I like that this is right around the corner (from his home)," Canalie said. "I've been a cook almost my entire life, but I've always wanted to own my own place, to be my own boss. It's a chance to show off my chops and what I've learned along the ways."

Already, patrons are getting a different flavor from the new owners. The pizza is now entirely handmade, with a homemade flavor. There's nothing pre-made or frozen. Everything is fresh and made to order.

To move beyond the basics of a deli, the new owners took over the back apartment attached to the building so the kitchen could be expanded, not just the physical space, but the culinary options.

Canalie actually has a place to cook and create now.

"It's been some work, but a good time to do it this time of year," Burger said. "With the winter we've had, most places have been struggling, but our business has been steadily increasing. Our sales increase in February was significantly over the previous year, and the feedback has been fantastic. We're offering homemade soup every day and specials every day and they've been well received."

Growing up in Le Roy, Burger was also attracted to the corner market concept. He said the same business in even a town as close as Pembroke wouldn't have been as attractive as a place as deeply rooted in his hometown as Woody's (the location has operated under various other names for decades).

"I'm used to very large facilities," Burger said. "Outside of the Eagle, it's all been a more corporate setting. This is kind of the last ma-and-pop store in Le Roy. Kind of? It is. There used to be Rabino's and Malone's and lots of little stores like this in the village. They're not here anymore, so being part of the community is probably the biggest draw for me."

Nothing says community more than the parade of kids into the market.

"One of the things I really love about it is the kids that come in," Burger said. "It's very kid friendly ... kids ride their bikes down, get ice cream, candy. It's not always about how much money you're making off each transaction. It's rewarding in that respect, at least for me."

One of the holdovers from Woody's old menu -- the Big Foot, which features every meat in the deli case and weighs in at three pounds.

Woody's is located at 47 North St., Le Roy. Find them on Facebook by clicking here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 at 4:30 pm

Two local students participate in 'Taste of NY' lobby day in Albany

post by Howard B. Owens in 4-H, agriculture, business, Oakfield, Pavilion

Press release:

Two students from the Batavia Career and Technical Education (CTE) Center, Morgan Good, a senior and an Agri-Business Academy student from Pavilion Central Schools, and Emily Borkholder, a senior and an Animal Science student from Oakfield-Alabama Central Schools, recently attended the New York State Farm Bureau Taste of New York Lobby Day and Reception in Albany. Holly Partridge, Batavia CTE Animal Science instructor; Kerry Richardson, Batavia CTE Agri-Business Academy instructor; Catherine Bennett, Batavia CTE assistant principal, escorted the students.

During this event, members of the New York State Assembly and Senate met with businesses, farms and educational institutions that rely on New York state agriculture to run their business.

“We learned how much agriculture drives our economy in New York state. One of the most interesting experiences was when we attended two legislative meetings with Senator Michael Razenhofer and Assemblyman Michael DenDekker. We discussed what needs to be changed in our state to help farmers become more productive,” Emily said.

“We also spoke with other senators and assemblymen from throughout New York state and helped them to understand and increase awareness of the needs of farmers from our area,” Morgan added.

Throughout the conference exhibit time, the group showcased duck eggs versus chicken eggs in baking, the important collaboration between the Batavia CTE Animal Science and Culinary Arts programs and how the farm-to-table concept is incorporated into the curriculum of these two programs.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 at 3:57 pm

Darien Lake ready to hire 2K seasonal workers

post by Howard B. Owens in business, Darien, darien lake, darien lake theme park

Press release:

The region’s largest seasonal employer is looking to fill 2,000 open positions across its operations, including amusement park, water park, lodging, entertainment, food, and retail departments.

Darien Lake has already begun accepting applications for the upcoming season with some positions starting as early as April. The park will open for the 2015 season on May 9 with full, daily operations beginning June 15.

“With two thrilling new rides being added to the park this season, we’re in need of more energetic, and fun-loving employees than ever before,” said Darien Lake General Manager Chris Thorpe. “Darien Lake is a great career-starting opportunity for all Western New Yorkers as our team members routinely develop experience in guest service, operational processes and small business entrepreneurship."

Immediate opportunities are available in food service, park services, ride operations, retail, accommodations and campground housekeeping. Other opportunities are available in games, gift shop sales, aquatic operations, skilled trades and park maintenance, entertainment, guest services, security, and safety. Darien Lake is seeking energetic, friendly applicants of all backgrounds who are interested in helping us create memorable experiences for our guests.

Interested applicants can apply online at www.DarienLake.com/jobs or call the Darien Lake Job Line at 585-599-5108.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015 at 2:51 pm

Big Ditch Brewing Co. and Sanzo Beverage team up to sell and distribute craft beers

post by Billie Owens in big ditch brewing co., business

Press release:

Big Ditch Brewing Company has appointed Sanzo Beverage as its partner in Western New York.  Sanzo Beverage will be responsible for sales and distribution throughout Cattaraugus, Allegany, Wyoming, Genesee and Orleans counties starting this month. Both parties are extremely excited to get product to market.

Big Ditch Brewing Company was formed by WNY residents Matt Kahn, Corey Catalano, Wes Froebel, and Paul B. Iskalo. The name of the brewery pays homage to the Erie Canal, which was nicknamed “The Big Ditch” during construction in the early 1800s. As the Erie Canal grew from an idea to a reality, it served as a catalyst for the city of Buffalo’s rapid growth into one of the largest cities in North America. The founders of Big Ditch Brewing hope that the return of local brewing will contribute to the region’s renaissance as well as its proud brewing tradition.

Big Ditch brass released this statement about the partnership: “We are excited to partner with Sanzo Beverage to distribute our line of high-quality craft beers. Both Sanzo Beverage and Big Ditch Brewing are deeply rooted in Western New York and dedicated to making western New York a top notch region for craft beer. We appreciate Sanzo Beverage’s commitment to quality, service and community."

Sanzo Beverage, led by the Sanzo family, has supported all that is local since its inception in 1933. Now, 82 years of history and tradition will align with Big Ditch Brewing Company to bring more locally produced beer to Western New York.

The Sanzo Family and all Sanzo Beverage stakeholders are very excited and proud to represent Big Ditch and all their fine brews. We pride ourselves in supporting local business and “buying local” initiatives. The partnership represents a collective commitment to provide customers and local consumers with high quality, great tasting, locally produced beer.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015 at 12:32 pm

Council backs growth initiatives for Batavia over opposition from Deleo and Briggs

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, bdc, business, Vibrant Batavia

John Deleo and Kathy Briggs had one word for those who think the City of Batavia should invest in its future: No.

On a pair of resolutions aimed at improving the quality of life and business climate in Batavia, Deleo and Briggs steadfast stalwarts in opposition, decried the expenditure of public money on the projects.

Each resolution passed by votes of 7-2.

The resolutions passed by the council extend the economic development services agreement for two years with Batavia Development Corp. and provide Vibrant Batavia with two years to become self-sustaining.

There was one growth-related measure that garnered yes votes from Deleo and Briggs. Deleo made a motion, seconded by Briggs, to eliminate the assistant city manager position.

The motion failed 2-7.

Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian, outspoken as always, extolled the virtues of economic development and the work of Vibrant Batavia.

"We need all the development we can get," Christian said. "We need all the revenue, we need the sales base, we need everything we can get. We need everything working this year at this time because if we don't go forward, we're going to go backwards. We're going to be in a hole and we're never going to get out."

Prior to the meeting, council members received a memo from City Manager Jason Molino called "Budget Sustainability," which made the case for the city investing in economic development and neighborhoods.

For the past several weeks, budget discussions have been dominated by voices advocating for slashing in the three areas of city spending intended to help the city grow: The assistant city manager position, the BDC and Vibrant Batavia.

Molino's memo argued that without investment in growth, Batavia will be doomed to decline.

"Public revenue needs an employed community, so the right question is not necessarily where should we be trimming the City workforce budget, but rather, the right question is: Are City resources optimally structured to reposition Batavia as a great place to raise a family, start and operate a profitable business, and in general, appeal to families," wrote Molino.

Pierluigi Cipollone, a small businessman, argued in favor of investment over retrenchment. 

"We've got to make an investment," Cipollone said. "Mr. Molino sent out a memo talking to the revenue side of the profit and loss of the balance sheet. We need to invest to get what we want for Batavia. In the old days, we had civic groups that did a lot of what we want, but those civic groups have gone away for the most part. We need to get some of that back. When the pride returns, businesses will return."

Deleo said that he was both being responsive to his constituents and standing by the cost-cutting promises of his campaign by opposing the growth initiatives. 

It's not the job of government, he said, to invest in economic development.

"We're going to be leaner," Deleo said. "We're not going to reach into the pockets of our poor senior residents."

Briggs said she attended last week's annual luncheon for Genesee County Economic Development Center and came away impressed by the economic development efforts of the local agency.

"They're bringing business into the county, and Batavia is part of Genesee County," Briggs said. "I'm like, OK, GCEDC seems to be on track. That's what I gathered from that meeting. We do have somebody who is going to do the job of economic development, GCEDC."

Other council members pointed out that the focus of GCEDC is something that is completely different from the BDC. The BDC is focused on the city, which includes mostly brownfield development demands. GCEDC handles the entire county and most of its developments are greenfields outside of city limits.

Briggs also mentioned that the city is served by the Business Improvement District, but Councilman John Canale pointed out that BID works strictly Downtown, whereas the BDC serves the entire city.

The funding approved for Vibrant Batavia -- $45,000 for one year and a smaller amount in year two -- also comes from a different pot of money than originally proposed. Rather than being drawn from reserve funding, a portion of the city's revenue share from Batavia Downs will be used to back the nascent community booster group.

The group will also be asked to pay for a new $10,000 slide in Austin Park by donating $5,000 back to the city and raising the remaining $5,000.

While the resolutions for the BDC and Vibrant Batavia assume two-year commitments for the city, Molino, upon questioning by council members, said the council will have the option to reduce or eliminate funding next year by passing another resolution.

Monday, March 9, 2015 at 5:36 pm

Alpina introduces new yogurt with NBA tie-in

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Alpina Foods, business

Press release:

Alpina NBA All-Stars Yogurt is just 120 calories, four grams of protein and 10 percent of an adult's recommended daily allowance of calcium per serving. The perfectly proportioned toppings add a little "dunking" fun while appealing to basketball fans of all ages — men and women, alike. It's a yogurt that can help anyone power through the day. 

"Alpina Foods is committed to bringing innovation to the dairy aisle," said Gustavo Badino, Alpina Foods' general manager. "We saw a need for a product that catered to the American male — youth or adult — in the yogurt section, and we decided to take the challenge and introduce this NBA All-Stars product."

Alpina NBA All-Stars Yogurt is sold in select regional and independent retailers including A&P, Pathmark, Waldbaum's, Super Fresh, The Food Emporium, ShopRite, Shaw's, and Lowe's Markets.

Alpina Foods manufactures a variety of dairy products available in retailers throughout the United States, including Shaw's, Wegmans Food Markets, ShopRite, Duane Reade, Western Beef, and other national, regional, and independent food retailers. For a full list of retailers, visit www.alpinaus.com.

UPDATE: In response to our question, a spokeswoman for Alpina says the new product will be manufactured at the Batavia plant, and, there's another new product announcement coming later this month.

Saturday, March 7, 2015 at 9:36 am

State's top economic development leader says Batavia can lead the way in high tech

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, GCEDC

Howard Zemsky was the keynote speaker Friday at the Genesee County Economic Development Center's annual meeting, which was held at Batavia Downs this year. He is acting president, CEO and commissioner of Empire State Development, New York’s economic development agency.

Some 300 people attended, including business and economic development leaders from Erie and Monroe counties.

Zemsky's primary message was that Gov. Andrew Cuomo fully supports economic development in Upstate, in Genesee County and is particularly bullish on the STAMP project.

"We're all in," Zemsky said. "We love what you're doing. It's extremely impressive. I couldn't be more proud of what you have accomplished, and your vision and your commitment and your collaboration on your strategic approach. The governor is all in on what you're doing and is very excited about it."

He noted that Brooklyn is undergoing a renaissance, driven by people like his 22-year-old son who now think urban areas such as Brooklyn are the place to be. If Brooklyn can experience a turnaround, so can Batavia, he said.

"I'll tell you this, if Brooklyn can become cool, Batavia can become the center of the next generation of chip fabrication. Period. End of discussion," Zemsky said. "Because compared to Brooklyn being cool, Batavia being center of a high-tech world is a relative layup."

GCEDC Steve Hyde also provided his annual update on the progress of the GCEDC over the past year and the projects it continues to work on, such as STAMP and the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

Thursday, March 5, 2015 at 7:42 pm

Hawley supports bill to assist small business owners

post by Howard B. Owens in business, steve hawley

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) today renewed his support for New York’s small businesses as the Legislature begins budget negotiations. Hawley cited his own small business ownership and urged the Legislature to make cutting regulations and taxes for small businesses a priority in this year’s budget negotiations.  

“As the owner and operator of a small business for many years, I know the amount of hard work and determination it takes to succeed in New York’s economic climate,” Hawley said. “Small businesses are the backbone of this nation and the driving force behind employment and economic growth, and are oftentimes family owned for generations. It is unfortunate that Gov. Cuomo and the Assembly leadership have, year after year, neglected to enact sweeping deregulation and tax cuts for small businesses to help them hire more employees and compete with larger corporations. My district is home to many small businesses and I will be sure to make their voices heard during this year’s budget negotiations.”

Hawley has received 100-percent ratings from the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) and Unshackle Upstate for his legislative votes during the 2013-14 year. Hawley also urged other legislators to sponsor and support the Small Business Full Employment Act.

“This legislation provides a comprehensive overhaul of how we regulate and tax small businesses,” Hawley said. “The bill focuses on cornerstones of economic growth such as tax cuts for businesses with fewer than 100 employees, repeal of the 18-A utility tax and tax credits for creating new jobs. I urge my Assembly colleagues to support this bill and help our businesses thrive in a less than ideal economic climate.”

Hawley’s comments came on Small Business Day in Albany, hosted by the NFIB. Hawley has been a staunch supporter of the organization’s efforts during his years in the Assembly.

Thursday, March 5, 2015 at 6:36 pm

First company for STAMP project could be named within weeks, Legislature told

post by Howard B. Owens in business, GCEDC, STAMP

From The Batavian's news partner, WBTA:

An announcement of a company to occupy Genesee County’s long anticipated STAMP project in the Town of Alabama could be just weeks away.

The Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park has been in the works for years and holds the prospect of hundreds, if not thousands, of high-paying jobs.

Steve Hyde is the president of the county’s Economic Development Center:

“We are weeks away on the final decision on the one we have been working on, less than weeks away. This has been over 12 months we have been working the sales process on this one project. It has been long with multiple versions and very competitive. We have competed against 54 different sites and eight states.”

Hyde issued his annual report to the county legislature’s Ways and Means Committee last night.

The committee went on record opposing a change in state industrial development regulations that would transfer final decisions on state tax breaks from local IDAs to Albany.

If you've downloaded the Reacht App for your smart phone, at some point within the next day, we'll ask you this poll question: Do you think a manufacturing company will commit to STAMP within the next few weeks? To download the app, click here.

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