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Monday, May 13, 2013 at 11:55 pm

Video: Buffalo TV station airs lengthy piece on salary paid to GCEDC CEO Steve Hyde

post by Howard B. Owens in business, GCEDC
Here's WGRZ's report on the compensation paid to Steve Hyde, CEO of GCEDC.
Monday, May 13, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Sweet Ecstasy fits right in at Seymore Place in Downtown Batavia

Tonisha Price has a growing little bakery business -- so much so that she needed to move Sweet Ecstasy out of her cramped shop in Stafford and find a space closer to her growing customer base in Batavia.

While going through the city's grant process, she had a meeting at Seymore Place, the former Batavia Club building at Main and Bank streets that is home to GO ART!

She'd already scouted several locations in Batavia, but immediately recognized Seymore Place as the perfect quaint locale for what she wanted to do -- expand her bakery business, but also provide a cozy setting for lunches and catered affairs.

"As we were going through the approval process, we ran across this place," Price said. "This wasn't our first choice, but once we saw it, we fell in love and here we are today."

Besides sweet treats, Sweet Ecstasy will offer grilled sandwiches, quiches and soup on a daily basis for lunch. Every Friday is "fresh bread Friday."

Price is also planning "supper clubs," where one night a month, there will be a special dinner served. The first one -- date to be announced -- will feature sushi.

The new location opened Friday and Price has already booked five special events that take advantage of the unique space at Seymore Place and she's looking to book more bridal showers, receptions, birthday parties, tea parties, office parties and other such events.

Sweet Ecstasy is also applying for a liquor license so they can serve wines and craft beers.

Photo: Price, Jean Robbins, and Tonisha's mother Carla Price, seated.

Monday, May 13, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Photo: Big Pauly's open for business

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Big Pauly's, business

As promised, Paul Berardini opened his new pizza shop today, Big Pauly's. It's in the same location as the former Pauly's Pizza (314 Ellicott St., Batavia).

Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 8:03 pm

Darien Lake opens 2013 with greater emphasis on family and WNY

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

Darien Lake Theme Park is getting back to basics -- entertaining families and celebrating its Western New York roots.

Symbolic of that theme was the grand opening today of the 2013 season with a ceremony honoring Paul Snyder, the founder of Darien Lake Fun Country, which was primarily a campground until 1981, when Snyder opened an amusement park.

Snyder, now owner of Beaver Hollow in Java, said he wanted to create a family-oriented atmosphere and he's glad to see Darien's current owners, Herschend Family Entertainment, putting more emphasis on family rides and attractions.

"They've turned it back into a family-oriented resort," Snyder (top photo) said. "I think when Six Flags owned it, they made it kind of a hard-ride park for teenagers and young adults. It was different and harder and I think (the present ownership) has done of good job of turning it back into a family-oriented park. They've done a good job."

New this year is an area called Boardwalk, which features a renovated carousal and Blast Off, a brand new ride that General Manager Bob Montgomery called a "family thrill ride."  It simulates the feeling of "riding a rocket ship to the moon," generating four Gs of air-powered force.

Also new this year is an Anchor Bar food stand, which fits into a growing trend at Darien Lake to feature things that make WNY special. The original Anchor Bar in Buffalo, of course, is where buffalo wings were invented.

The park also serves two other WNY delicacies, Perry's ice cream and Sahlen's hot dogs.

Local music will also get a little extra attention this summer with local bands being invited in for a summer-long battle of the bands.

One of the upgrades to the carousal was decorating it with paintings of WNY scenes (two photographs by Howard Owens were turned into paintings for the carousel -- a picture of a barn in Stafford and a sunrise over Harlow Lake (pictures below).

All of Herschend's parks feature regional themes, Montgomery said, but it's also what the company's research showed people wanted as part of the Darien experience.

Even our Canadian visitors, they're coming to a different country and they wanted an experience that reflected that," Montgomery said. "That's why we began the relationship with Anchor Bar. That's going to be appreciated by our local visitors, but by the people that come from further away as well."

The park's light show has also been upgraded into a bigger laser and fireworks show called "Ignite the Night."

The creation of Broadwalk, installation of Blast Off and creation of "Ignite the Night" was a lot to take on over the off-season, Montgomery said, so the push toward more WNY touches is far from over. There's only so much that can be done during a single off-season.

"You'll see that more and more as we make our way around the park with renovations, bringing those things in," Montgomery said.

Snyder is clearly proud of what the park he started as become and said it's something Genesee County should treasure.

"Darien Lake is the largest privately owned attraction in the State of New York," Snyder said. "A lot of people don't know that, the fact that it employs thousands of young people every year and that employment probably helps keep those kids working and out of trouble -- there's just so many benefits that flow from the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars at this point, it's unique and special."

Friday, May 10, 2013 at 11:33 am

GCEDC announces public information session

post by Howard B. Owens in business, GCEDC

Press release:

Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) officials will hold a public information session on June 4 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the MedTech Center Building, located across from Genesee Community College (GCC) in Room 214. GCEDC officials are encouraging residents to attend the meeting to learn more about how the GCEDC fosters economic development in Genesee County.

Mark Masse, senior vice president of operations for GCEDC, will provide an overview of the organization, the incentives they offer, and how a potential company can be attracted to our community. A question and answer period will follow the presentation.

“This is a great opportunity for residents as well as local businesses to learn more about  how our organization enhances economic growth in Genesee County,” Masse said.

Because the seating capacity is limited to about 100 persons, GCEDC is requesting that those interested in attending to please contact Rachael Tabelski, marketing and communications manager at GCEDC by calling 585-343-4866, ext. 12, or sending an e-mail to [email protected].

Friday, May 10, 2013 at 8:27 am

GCEDC paving way for possible medical device technology company at Med-Tech

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Alabama, bergen, business, Darien, GCEDC, Oakfield, Stafford

Genesee County Economic Development Center is trying to get initial permitting completed on a proposed expansion of the Upstate Med-Tech Center on R. Stephen Hawley Drive just in case a specific medical device technology company wants to lease the space.

Mark Masse, VP of operations for GCEDC, told the County Planning Board on Thursday that a contractor has a potential leasee and is in negotiations now. Getting certain regulatory hurdles cleared now would help the process.

"If they reach an agreement, the potential leasee is working on a tight time frame," Masse said.

Masse doesn't know yet how many new jobs could be created by the company.

"They haven't gone before the board yet for incentives from us," Masse said. "More information would be available at that point in time, if it gets to that point."

The planning board unanimously approved site plan review for proposed 60,000-square-foot facility.

The board also unanimously approved a site plan review for a proposed 60,000-square-foot cold storage facility at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

Masse said GCEDC still owns the property the unnamed company is considering for the facility and sales negotiations are ongoing.

That company also has yet to come to the GCEDC board seeking incentives, so Masse doesn't know yet how many new jobs will be created by the facility.

In other board action:

  • Did not approve variances for applicants to operate a gift and hobby shop on Knowlesville Road, Alabama, and a country store on Tesnow Road, Alabama. The board encouraged the applicants to seek a zoning change with the town rather than get a variance to existing zoning.
  • Approved a special use permit for a home welding business at 7460 Alleghany Road, Alabama.
  • Declared that a proposed boarding house at 316 E. Main St., Batavia, isn't subject to county planning review. Owner Terry Platt is looking to convert a single-family home into a 12-room boarding house.
  • Approved subdivision and site plan review for 7,015-square-foot building to house a gun store, laser engraving business and indoor shooting range at 8240 Buffalo Road, Bergen.
  • Approved site plan review to rebuild a fabrication business at 1606 Broadway Road, Darien.
  • Approved, with modifications, a site plan review and area variance for a new Dollar General at 111 N. Main St., Oakfield.
  • Approved a site plan review for conversion of a former restaurant and apartment complex at 6309 Clinton Street Road, Stafford, into a four two-bedroom apartment and a single one-bedroom apartment complex.
Friday, May 10, 2013 at 7:32 am

Some business property owners shocked by re-assessment, but process is flexible, city says

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business

For the first time since 2005, Batavia's commercial property owners are getting their parcels re-assessed and the effort has been greeted with some decidedly mixed reviews.

With some property owners being told their initial re-assessment shows an increase in value of 55 percent to 400 percent -- adding $70,000 or $95,000 or $120,000 per parcel -- there is a bit of a sticker shock.

Re-assessing commercial property when it hasn't been done for eight years isn't an easy process, explained Rhonda Saulsbury, the city's assessor. There are a number of factors to consider and the initial re-assessment is sometimes based, admittedly, on incomplete information.

That makes it important for property owners to help fill in the blanks for the assessor's office.

"The goal here is to keep property values as fair as possible citywide," Saulsbury said in an e-mail. "Without going through this process (after 8 years) that wouldn’t be possible. I have also reduced a great number of assessments citywide resulting from the same methodologies. I do not hesitate to make an adjustment down when given reasonable information to substantiate the change in value.

"Until someone reaches out to me with an issue," she added, "I can’t fix it."

Local property owners have confirmed that after responding to the initial re-assessment letter to the city and providing more evidence about the status of their buildings, Saulsbury has adjusted, and even rescinded the increase in value.

One local businessman with at least two commercial properties downtown was actually notified that the value of one property was reduced. He didn't complain about that re-assessment.

Another property owner said his assessment only increased 10 percent.

So while some property owners are being hit hard, the impact isn't uniform.

The criteria for reassessment is almost an endless list, Saulsbury said, and includes location, property use, rentable space, income generated, building updates, additions, demolitions and deferred maintenance.

The assessor, from just looking at the building, can't know all of these details, which is why property owner feedback is an important part of the process.

If a property value increases substantially, she said, the assessor's office believes there's a reason for it -- such as a former warehouse being converted to office space, but it's still important for a property owner to clarify any concerns.

City Manager Jason Molino said the process is intended to be one in which property owners provide feedback on the assessment.

"Review procedure and phone numbers are included in the notices sent to property owners that receive a change in their assessment, as we encourage an open door policy to anyone with a question or concern," Molino said.

Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Photos: Y gets 14 new pieces of equipment in Wellness Center

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, fitness, YMCA

The Wellness Center at the YMCA is getting an equipment upgrade today with 14 new pieces of equipment, including stair steppers, virtual bikes and treadmills.

The cost of the new equipment is about $60,000.

Pictured with one of the new virtual bikes is John Becker, Wellness Center coordinator, and trainer Stacie Ewert.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 10:21 am

Tim Horton's proposal highlights growing traffic problem at Lewiston and West Main

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Tim Horton's

Town of Batavia Highway Superintendent Tom Lichtenthal and engineer Joey Neth spent an hour on the rooftop of the Rite Aid overlooking Lewiston Road and videotaped the traffic flow, or lack of it.

The resulting highlight reel, played for the Town of Batavia Planning Board on Tuesday night, captured eight near-miss accidents, two dangerous maneuvers by drivers, five unsafe mid-road crossings by pedestrians and two bicycle crossings.

An hour observing West Main Street Road near Colonial Boulevard didn't yield much better results.

For the Lewiston Road side, the driveway for Rite Aid and the driveway for the Tops Plaza, essentially create an intersection, and over the past three years, there have been seven accidents at that intersection.

That's seven times the state DOT average, Lichtenthal said.

"What's going on here is we have so many conflict points, when you look at this intersection; you've got cars merging here; you've got a wide open driveway where one makes a right turn and one makes a left turn; you've got pedestrians trying to cross in the middle of traffic, plus cars coming off the Main Street intersection, and you're looking at all of these things coming together right here, and that's why you get so many of these types of accidents," Lichtenthal said.

The traffic study was conducted because Tim Horton's wants to build a new store behind the Rite Aid, that would connect, essentially, Lewiston with Main.

The overall traffic Tim Horton's is likely to generate isn't that significant by itself -- an average of 50 to 60 cars an hour, with 60 percent of Tim Horton's traffic occurring in a three-hour period in the morning.

Technically, the road capacity in the area, can handle the volume, Lichtenthal said, but the construction of the multiple turning lanes and intersections in the area make for very messy traffic patterns.

It's a situation that's only going to get worse with the expansion of Batavia Towne Center and Batavia Downs.

Lichtenthal said that, unfortunately, it's a classic case of the last one (in this case, Tim Horton's) getting stuck dealing with the problem.

Matthew J. Oates (photo), chief engineer for Benderson Development Co. took a different view.

The combined retail space for Tops Plaza, Rite Aid and the other retail in the area is more than 220,000 square feet, while the Benderson development is less than 20,000 square feet.

He said just as the DOT did when problems got too bad on Jefferson Road and Ridge Road in Rochester, the growing traffic problems on Lewiston and West Main are a DOT issue and shouldn't hold up development of Tim Horton's.

"I understand the town sees a large issue with the traffic, but without the traffic, we wouldn't have the interest in the development and without the traffic, Tim Horton's wouldn't be coming here, so one follows the other," Oates said.

Lichtenthal pointed out that the DOT is out of money and the Feds aren't sending highway grants down the pipeline any longer to help with local traffic issues.

"The DOT is now looking back and the towns and saying, 'you let this development happen without looking at the repercussions on the roadways. Now you expect us to fix it, ' " Lichtenthal said, "and they're telling the towns, 'you fix it.' "

The environmental review process was extended by consent of the planning board and Benderson in order to see if a solution can be found, or plan developed, to deal with the growing traffic issues.

Tim Horton's is just one step along the way, Lichtenthal said.

"These are baby steps," Lichtenthal said. "You take these baby steps and add them together and it's a big step and then what do you do?"

Last week, the Geness County Economic Development Center Board approved $1.7 million in tax breaks for COR Development to add four more retail spaces to the Batavia Towne Center in the location of the former Lowe's store.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 5:47 am

NY is Open for Business

post by Bob Harker in Andrew Cuomo, business, ny, politics, taxes

"ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Chief Executive magazine ranks New York as the49th worst state for business in the opinion of CEOs questioned. The ninth annual survey of CEOs blamed New York's high taxes, bureaucracy and a regulatory system that is difficult to navigate. The CEOs ranked New York just better than California. Most larger states with strong labor unions faired poorly in the rankings. CEOs liked Texas most for the ninth straight year, followed by Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee and Indiana. The ranking comes as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is continuing a "New York Open for Business" campaign with TV ads that say the Empire State is now far more welcoming of business and employers. A Cuomo spokesman notes the state is now at its highest work force size ever."

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