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Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 11:01 am

Chamber endorses Cuomo's Tax-Free NY plan

post by Howard B. Owens in business, chamber of commerce

Press release:

The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce has reviewed Governor Cuomo's economic agenda for "Tax-Free Communities" in and around specified college and university campuses. The Genesee County Chamber of Commerce welcomes any environment that will facilitate the establishment of new long-term businesses and create more jobs while ensuring that existing businesses and jobs are likewise encouraged to thrive. This legislation has the potential to bring in businesses that otherwise might not have recognized all that Genesee County has to offer.

This endorsement is based solely on the above understanding of the legislation's purpose. Care must be taken that its actual implementation does not involve provisions, policies, or procedures that are counter to the spirit of the Bill. Not only must New York State taxpayers not be adversely affected by such legislation, but red tape, forced spending, and bureaucratic decisions would force extra costs onto the new businesses and cause them to lose the benefits that they supposedly received. Given that the Bill is designed to help startup companies begin their ventures, it is imperative that future tax savings not be offset by startup costs that would be much greater than those the company would incur in the private sector. We look forward to the time when companies can see that all of New York is open for business.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Downtown Batavia Public Market opens Thursday

post by Billie Owens in BID, business, farmers market

Press release:

BRING YOUR FEET DOWNTOWN AND MAKE HEALTHY CHOICES! The Batavia Business Improvement District announces the opening of the Downtown Batavia Public Market on Thursday, June 20 and runs through Sept. 26. The market is open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., every Thursday and is located at the corner of Center & Ellicott (Rte 63) streets in Downtown Batavia.

Conveniently located in the center of our city, visit our market before you do your regular shopping to be sure your food is the freshest and that your dollars remain local. Now entering its eighth year, the public market has grown and changed to become a staple of the Downtown.

The market this season will have the following vendors providing fresh baked goods, a wide variety of produce and fruits herbs, flowers, maple syrup, dip mixes, dog treats, BBQ sauce, handmade quilts and other items. Plus, pulled pork sandwiches, Italian sausage, hot dogs and hamburgers for lunchtime at the market. Look for the colorful umbrellas.

Vendors include: Alston’s BBQ Sauce; Athena’s Bakery & Dog Treats; Crazy Quilts; Irene’s Variety; Karen’s Yarn Paper & Scissors; Nice Farms; Stymus Farms; and Schwab Farms.

If you would like to know more about how to participate in the Downtown Public Market, please contact Don Burkel at the BID at 585-344-0900 or email dburkel@downtownbataviany.com for local food, fun, and familiar faces!

Monday, June 17, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Collins asks small business owners in NY-27 to take survey

post by Howard B. Owens in business, chris collins, NY-27

Press release:

To mark National Small Business Week, Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) is asking small business owners in his district to complete an online survey about the economy and other issues impacting the small business sector. Starting today, Collins will be e-mailing the survey to small business owners across the eight counties of New York’s 27th Congressional District. Small business owners not a part of the Congressman’s e-mail list are encouraged to complete the survey on the Congressman’s Web site.

The survey asks local small business owners to weigh in on such topics as federal regulations, taxes, and the new employer mandate which is part of the President’s healthcare law. Collins is also asking small business owners to report on recent hiring activity, reasons why owners are or are not hiring, and what programs they would like to see the federal government pursue to spur small business growth and development.

“As a small business owner myself, I understand firsthand the challenges and hurdles business owners face on a day-to-day basis,” Collins said. “As a member of Congress, one of my top goals is to continue to push hard for common-sense polices that create the right kind of economic environment for small business entrepreneurs to expand their company or start a new business, and hire more people. While I will continue to visit directly with small business owners all across NY-27, this survey is a great opportunity to hear from a wide array of small business owners so I can best represent their interests in Washington.”

Collins is a member of the House Small Business Committee and chairman of its Subcommittee on Health and Technology. National Small Business Week runs from June 17 through June 21. On June 21, Collins will host a roundtable meeting, talking with small business owners directly about the issues addressed in the survey.

The survey can be found online at chriscollins.house.gov

Friday, June 14, 2013 at 1:27 pm

The Pok-A-Dot, a Batavia landmark, turns 60 this month

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Pok-A-Dot

The Pok-A-Dot turns 60 years old this month and co-owner Phil Pastore couldn't be happier.

Not many restaurants survive 60 years, and fewer still with the same ownership.

"It’s probably one of the greatest things in my life, to own something for 60 years and still be alive to appreciate it," Pastore said.

"We're quite proud," said his wife, Leona, "quite proud."

Pastore said his friend Joe Marone, who ran a concession business, came to him one day while he was working at Masse Harris and suggested they open a hot dog stand at the corner of Ellicott and Liberty streets.

In the 60 years since, the Pok-A-Dot has become a landmark, a throwback to a simpler time of friends and neighbors seeing each other every day and sharing a bite to eat. It was the favorite restaurant of famed author John Gardner and has become a must-visit stop for many politicians on the campaign trail.

It's been featured in international media reports.

And still, it's a place where locals come for coffee and breakfast or a beef-on-weck every day.

"It's the food," Pastore said, explaining the Pok-A-Dot's success. "And it's a very friendly place, a place where you can sit around an eat and talk with people. That's what it's really known for."

The 60th anniversary celebration will be from 5 to 9 p.m., June 22. Musician Bill McDonald and friends will play and many old friends are sure to gather.

Photo: Joe Marone, Joanne Cox, Phil Pastore and Nicole Johnson.

Friday, June 14, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Batavia Downs not terribly hurt by Cuomo's deal with Senecas, but just don't call it a casino

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Downs, business

We're not supposed to call it Batavia Downs Casino anymore, but beyond that, officials are still sorting out what a new compact between New York and the Seneca Nation means for Western Regional OTB.

In exchange for resuming long-overdue payments, at a reduced rate, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has granted the Senecas exclusive rights to casino operations in WNY.

Exactly what "exclusivity" means hasn't been entirely spelled out, said Michael Kane, president of the Western Regional OTB.

Dick Siebert said he's worried the governor has given away Rochester to the Senecas after promising that Batavia Downs would be the only gaming facility in the region.

Dropping "casino" from the name isn't too troubling, nor is the requirement to stop calling video terminal games "slots," and even the loss of electronic table games isn't crippling, but there needs to be some compensation to WROTB for the deal cut with the Senecas.

The Senecas had their taxes reduced, Siebert said, so should Batavia Downs.

"They got what they wanted and we’re just looking for a little relief ourselves since they took the table games away from us," he said.

WROTB is lobbying for a 15-percent reduction in the amount of money it sends to New York, Siebert said.

"We need concessions to be able to provide more for our local counties," Siebert said.

Batavia Downs is undergoing a $27-million renovation downstairs and space was being set aside for electronic table games. That space will just now be used for something else, Siebert said.

"We can survive without them (the table games), that's for sure," Siebert said.

Kane agreed.

"We still think our customers will be very happy with the expansion," Kane said.

Related link: The Buffalo News.

Thursday, June 13, 2013 at 11:49 am

With no malt houses in New York, Hawleys' new venture to fill unique niche at the right time

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, agriculture, Beer, business, Patricia Hawley, Ted Hawley

You can't brew beer without malt, which is something Ted Hawley thinks legislators forgot about when they passed a farm brewing bill last year that will eventually require ales and lagers  labeled "New York Beer" to contain 90 percent locally grown ingredients.

"They just thought they could grow barley in New York," Hawley said. "They didn't know there was another step, which is malting. It has to be malted before you use it in a brew. So it was kind of interesting that they put this huge amount of effort into requiring 90 percent ingredients from New York, but there's no way it can be produced with 90 percent ingredients."

The timing of the bill was fortuitous for Ted and Patricia Hawley, who started planning a year earlier to open a malt house on their farm off Bank Street Road, Batavia.

It will be the only malt house in New York, though the Hawleys are sure others are coming with anticipation of a craft brew boom in the state thanks to the new rules.

The farm beer license created by the bill is modeled after the winery license, which requires local ingredients and allows for tastings, on-site sales, bigger production runs and statewide distribution.

The Hawleys, like the bill's supporters, envision beer trails -- like wine trails -- and a new branch of agri-tourism throughout Central and Western New York, with hopefully the Hawley's malt house, and Batavia, right on the map.

The Hawleys are never afraid to dream big, and asked about the future of craft beer in Batavia, Patty shared a vision of microbreweries being drawn to the area.

"If you look at the larger picture, it would be really great if we could encourage microbrewers to come in, who are largely young, to set down roots, raise their families here, to change the landscape of what Genesee County looks like," Patty said. "It would be very cool to bring in that demographic, who then attract others with that whole artisanal mindset."

The Hawleys have no immediate plans to brew beers themselves, though they imagine selling beer right on their farm that's created by other microbrewers using Hawley malts.

It's almost a matter of coincidence that the Hawleys came into the malting business.

Living local is important to the Hawleys and they also have a strong interest in organic products (Patty Hawley owns Fountain of Youth Organics in Brockport), so two years ago, Ted went to a conference to learn more about growing organic grains for commercial bakeries.

"We were thinking that we were going to grow some organic grains on a little bit of land that we have for the baking industry, which is another kind of booming initiative," Patty said. "At this conference, there was one brief mention, like a sentence or two, if there were any entrepreneurs out there, malt is needed and there are no malt houses. Initially we weren't thinking in that direction."

Ted started researching the idea and saw it as a great opportunity for a new business venture even before the farm bill passed.

Since then, he's been learning everything he can about malting and grains, attending conferences, taking workshops, going to seminars.

"About 100 yeas ago, New York State used to be the largest producer of barley, the largest producer of malt, the largest producer of hops in the whole country," Ted said. "Some fungus came in and kind of knocked it down a little because of the farming practices and repetitive planting and (the state) never recovered after Prohibition."

Hawley just returned from the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Center, where he found himself sitting next to representatives from the largest breweries in the world.

The center, he said, can create any kind of climate in the world. They grow many varieties of barely in different conditions and then malt the barley in small batches and brew beer to test the results.

Not all barley types grow equally well in all climates and since malt varieties of barley haven't been grown in New York in nearly 100 years, Hawley is on a search to find the best barley varieties to grow in Genesee County.

To get their malting operation off the ground, the Hawleys are growing barley on 43 acres in Byron (top photo) and planted a variety that is used commonly for malting. But Ted also has a field in Le Roy where he's growing 23 varieties of barley in cooperation with researchers from Cornell.

"A variety you grow out in the Midwest is not going to grow the same here," Ted said. "We've got to see what grows here and thrives and keeps the proteins down and the enzymes up, which is different than feed-grade barley, which is protein high, enzymes low, and that's what's been planted here the last 100 years."

The Hawley malt house will produce a variety of artisanal malts based on the varieties of barley and other grains they find grow best in Genesee County.

Already, some 50 brewers have expressed an interest in Hawley malts, from some larger craft brewers to guys still brewing private stock in a garage, Ted said.

The passage of the bill also created another opportunity for the Hawleys. They were able to apply for and receive a $117,000 state grant, which allowed them to immediately double the size of their operation.

Eventually, Ted believes the Hawley house will produce 150 tons of malt a year, but he's starting out small -- 1,000 pounds a week (the 43 acres in Byron will yield 43 to 50 tons of malt).

"This is all new, so I need to feel comfortable doing this," Ted said. "It's quite an intricate process."

There is no limit to the kinds of recipes brewers can dream up for beer and the Hawleys think that creative opportunity will help fuel a craft beer boom in New York and that brewers are ready for locally produced malts unique to New York.

"This craft brewing industry is phenomenal," Ted said. "There's no rules. I mean, there could be up to 30 ingredients in brews, from nuts and berries to honey, to apples. There's no rules and there are some great craft brews that are being processed right now in people's garages. This farm brewing bill will offer them an opportunity to open up larger and sell their brews."

Monday, June 10, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Stafford CC, more affordable than you might think, with wealth of family activities, club president says

post by Howard B. Owens in business, golf, Stafford, Stafford Country Club

There's a new energy at Stafford Country Club says club President Marc Staley, with more activities for families and improvements to the golf course that keep it interesting but also make it more playable for those who aren't long hitters.

Stafford is in its 91st year and has had good times and bad times, Staley said, but things seem to be on an upswing these days.

"We try to make sure people come out here and enjoy themselves, that's number one," Staley said. "We have a top-notch course that's playable, a tremendous outdoor pool -- the largest outdoor pool in Genesee County -- a fish pond, bocce ball, tennis, sledding in the winter, dining -- there's a lot of things that are very family friendly about the place."

Stafford, being a private club, has the reputation, of course, of being elitist and stodgy. That might have been true at one time, Staley said, but that was then and this is now. There are more women members and more children around.

"We're working hard to get the word out as a board that this isn't some stuffy place, not some place over in Stafford where only rich people go and hang out and smoke cigars," Staley said. "I think it had that feel to it for many years, and I think by design. A lot of members liked that persona, but times have changed."

It's hard to dispel the myth, according to Staley, because the club's charter prohibits it from spending money on marketing.

The club also can't advertise its membership fees, which are considerably lower than one might expect and for avid golfers as affordable, at least, as playing open-to-the-public courses on a weekly basis.

"When people contact us, they're typically shocked that there's no initiation fee and that there's a dues structure that's payable over 10 months," Staley said. "For a family that's playing 30 or 40 rounds of golf a summer, whose husband, wife and kids are playing, it is every bit as affordable as playing those rounds on a public course where you're paying greens fees and renting a cart every single time. Every time you go, it's a hundred or hundred and twenty bucks if you take a family."

An annual full family membership with unlimited golf is a bit over $3,000, plus members are obligated to spend at least $600 a year on food and drinks, which helps ensure the club can afford to keep staff on its payroll. 

There are also tiers of membership for people who don't play as much golf, or don't play golf at all. A social membership (you can still pay greens fees for up to three rounds a season) is $600. That gets you unlimited access to the clubhouse, pool, two clay tennis courts and all social events.

In recent years, the number of social memberships dropped off, Staley said, but the board is working at incorporating more social events into the calendar to bring some of those members back.

Staley said his experience is typical of many of the family members -- he joined when he was single and 28. Back then, it was all about golf. Now he's married with two young children. His wife golfs, but the family spends a lot of time at the pool (which is has its own food and beverage service) and participating in family events, such as scavenger hunts and family meals.

Six times a year the Staleys participate in the club's "Nine and Dine" event, which puts two couples in a foursome for a best-ball tournament and then the players enjoy a meal together.

It's a great way, he said, for members to meet each other and get to know each other better.

One of the big social events, Staley said, is the annual bocce ball tournament. It's a packed house with an Italian buffet that night.

The big annual events are the club's invitational golf tournament, in which members must invite a guest, and the fall tournament, in which members can play each other. The tournaments tend to be packed, Staley said, and even attract galleries who follow the play.

The course opened in 1922 and was designed by Walter Travis, a renowned course designer who had already built several beautiful courses in the Northeast, including Orchard Park, Look Out Point and Cherry Hill.

In the middle part of the century, some of the Travis-designed features were lost and the club has been working over the past 15 years to bring those features back and to make other improvements to the course, Staley said.

An example at Stafford is shaving the grass shorter on the aprons of the greens. Most of the greens have slopes and mounds around them that can make hitting a green more challenging, but also give the golfer more creative options for pitching, chipping and putting.

"During times of economic stress, maintenance decisions get made, not just at our course, but other courses, too," Staley said. "If you look at some of the history of the courses in Rochester that have been around for years, they change. You really have to make a concerted effort to put them back to play the way they were designed. Only then can you see the brilliance of the designer."

One of the projects under way at Stafford is to build more forward-placed tee boxes. It's part of the USGA's "Play it Forward" program. With more young golfers, more women and more seniors, golf courses need to become more playable.

"When you come out here you want to enjoy yourself," Staley said. "You don't want to get your butt kicked for four hours."

There have also been trees removed that weren't part of the original Travis design, or because they've become diseased; and there has also been a major renovation of the bunkers.

There's a whole, multi-year master plan for improvements.

"It will take us a lot of years and a lot of money to do it, but we're trying to stay committed as a board to doing something to move it along, move it in the right direction," Staley said.

Staley thinks a lot of people in Genesee County simply aren't aware of what Stafford has to offer or what a unique opportunity Stafford offers to golfers who would enjoy a private club membership. He said board members hope they can start to change the Club's image.

"If you picked Stafford up and dropped it in the middle of Perinton, we have a different story here," Staley said. "You would be paying $15,000 or $20,000 up front just to get in the door, but we not here. That's the beauty of this place. It's sort out in the middle of nowhere, and for people who live in Le Roy or in Batavia, you really have a gem out here, a beauty of a place."

On the Web: Stafford Country Club.

Friday, June 7, 2013 at 10:30 pm

Collins believes something should be done to help farmers with labor, but doesn't support 'path to citizenship'

House Republicans are staunchly opposed to one element of an immigration reform bill -- a path to citizenship -- that some supporters think is critical to its passage, Rep. Chris Collins said today during an event at Post Farms in Elba.

"As a country that was founded on the rule of law, the first action that these adults took in coming into this country was to break the law, so a pathway to citizenship will not come out the House Republicans," Collins said.

The immigration reform bill is the result of hundreds of hours of negotiations between farmers and the farm labor community, which wants to see people who have been working the the United States for years, although illegally, have a chance to become citizens.

While Collins doesn't support allowing such individuals to become citizens, he said he doesn't see a problem with allowing them to obtain permanent work status.

"Call it a blue card," Collins said. "We're fine with making it so that workers who are now here illegally are stay here legally. Make it so that they can go home and visit their families and come back and we know who they are and where they are and that they pay taxes."

Dean Norton (left in photo), said that if the House Republicans can't be brought into the fold, we could wind up with two versions of immigration bills that will go to conference committee. Losing the path to citizenship will be a disappointment to some members of the coalition who worked on the bill, but he thinks when it comes down to it, both sides need some sort of reform to pass.

"I've got to believe in my heart that once we get people sitting down at the table, they won't do anything to scuttle reform," Norton said. "It's too important to the country and to our food supply."

Collins did say he supports citizenship for the children of workers here illegally.

"This is the country they know and love," Collins said.

Friday, June 7, 2013 at 8:23 pm

Photo: Dancing Derrick downtown

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, downtown, T-Shirts Etc.

Dancing Derrick was on East Main Street today, in front of T-Shirts Etc.

Friday, June 7, 2013 at 9:12 am

GCEDC announces approval on four projects with a promise of 22 new jobs

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

Press release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) approved four projects at its June board meeting. They total approximately $2 million in investments as well as the retention of 91 jobs and the creation of 22 new jobs.

“All of the projects being considered by the board are investments in infrastructure which means the companies seeking benefits intend to be here for the long term,” said Steve Hyde, GCEDC president and CEO. “Companies typically do not invest in facilities and infrastructure without long-term plans so it is great to see this commitment to our region.”

Mega Properties, Inc., (Koolatron) is a Canadian company that manufactures, markets and distributes various portable thermoelectric cooler parts and components. The company is proposing to invest $775,000 in its operations that would retain 11 jobs and create six new jobs. Because the company is seeking more than $100,000 in incentives – in this case $190,000 – a public hearing must be scheduled.

Imagination Industries is seeking to build a 7,015-square-foot facility at 8240 Buffalo Road in the Town of Bergen. The multiuse facility will house an indoor firing range, training center, gunsmith services and a laser engraving business. The company plans to invest nearly $400,000 that would create 10 new jobs.  The project is allowable under state retail restrictions as the purpose is to make available services which would not be, but for the project, “reasonably accessible” to residents of the municipality where the project is located.  

The company is seeking a sales tax exemption of $19,970, a mortgage tax exemption of $3,750 and a property tax abatement of $63,195. The Board found that the project meets the goods and services retail clause in order to approve the application.

Reinhart Enterprises operates a 25,720-square-foot multi-commercial tenant facility on Liberty Street in Batavia. Due to flooding this past year, 4500 square feet of space was vacated. The company is looking to improve its facility and is planning a $206,000 capital investment for drainage and parking lot improvements to enhance the property for current and prospective office and corporate tenants. The company is seeking a sales tax exemption of $9,888. The investment would create three new jobs and retain 80.

Jackson Square LLC, the former Cars Warehouse which was built around 1880 in the area of the city known as Jackson Square, is proposing to convert the former structure into a mixed-use commercial and residential site. The ground floor will have flex office/light industrial and four new market rate apartments on the second and third floors. 

The City of Batavia is the current owner of building and will transfer the title to the Batavia Development Corporation for sale to Jackson Square LLC. The company is seeking a sales tax exemption of $24,816 and a mortgage tax exemption of $2,994 contingent upon Jackson Square LLC purchasing the building.

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