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start-up nyStart-Up NY was pitched as a way for companies to locate on or near college campuses and grow their businesses. The companies don’t have to pay any state and local taxes for 10 years. Their workers don’t have to pay state income tax for 10 years.

The governor believes this will attract jobs. Though the program will cost the state $323 million through 2017 and cost localities untold millions, supporters say Start-Up will pay for itself through increased economic activity.

There are tremendous issues with fairness with this program. The first company to be announced in Rochester, Datto, does not appear to provide services not offered by other local companies, which have to pay full taxes. Datto is not even a start-up, having been founded in 2007. But despite Start-Up NY’s name, relocations and expansions of established firms are permissible.

We are getting some troubling evidence Start-Up does not have such a narrow focus on college campuses. The board overseeing the program approved the University of Rochester’s request for two StartUp locations. They are located at Eastman Business Park and Lennox Tech Center.

NEITHER OF THESE LOCATIONS ARE NEAR THE U OF R, NOR ARE THEY OWNED BY THE U OF R.

The Start-Up website says: 

Note that if a piece of property is not currently part of an academic institution’s campus, it may be possible under special circumstances for that property to become affiliated with a sponsoring academic institution…

I am considering a move to a location in New York that is not located near a college or university. Should I still consider this state and/or the START-UP NY program?

Yes. Participation in START-UP NY does not necessarily require that your business be on or next to a campus, but it must be located on property affiliated with a university.

There’s your loophole.

Here’s what’s going to happen: Start-Up locations “affiliated” with colleges will be dispersed around the area. Colleges will be the pass-through agencies to get them approved. You want to use our labs every now and then? Cool! Can you take on some of our students as interns? Cool! You’re good to go. Eventually, you’ll Start-Up locations in pockets across the county.

EMPIRE ZONES, ANYONE?

 

Stats of the Day:

 

STEM

 

STEM

 

Links of the Day:

 

– Texas A&M could sue a Buffalo Bills fan over trademark issues. The fan is a double amputee and cancer survivor.

– A judge ordered Lyft and Uber to shut down in Pittsburgh. Lyft is now operating in Rochester, but city officials have not yet taken action.

– I’m really glad I wasn’t in the same room as this guy! What a sexist jerk.

– A peregrine falcon’s first flight in downtown Rochester was scary!

 

Tweet of the Day:

The U.S. Census released data on business patterns for 2012. I did a comparison for selected retail, restaurants and recreation in the Rochester metropolitan area.

As for retail, the total number of establishments fell from 3,915 in 2002 to 3,548 in 2012. It’s clear the Internet took a bite out of some brick and mortar places. But other trends are revealed, such as the fact we’re buying fewer flowers.

We’re eating out more, with the total number of establishments climbing from 2,014 to 2,240. There are fewer bars, but the number of liquor stores went up.

Recreation patterns show we’re golfing and bowling less, but working out more.

Have a look:

RETAIL

 

HOTELSRESTAURANTS

 

ENTERTAINMENT

 

Links of the Day:

 

– Parents are ridiculously pushy. Kids can’t take criticism and solve their own problems. Such is the state of youth sports in Rochester.

– A poll of New Yorkers shows deep dissatisfaction with Common Core, as well as trust in teachers.

– I found this New York Times piece on Common Core to be overly positive. It makes it seem as if this child must learn these new, wonderful, challenging standards, or fail at life. There was no questioning of the standards themselves.

– Could a lawsuit challenging teacher tenure be filed in New York?

– Do school dress codes inadvertently treat girls as sex objects?

– There are a lot fewer people playing golf in Monroe County.

– Do we really need to drug test eighth-graders? A girl (after my own heart) protested and got booted from the National Honor Society.

– The story of a dad his autistic son who loves the Phillies will touch your heart.

Bausch + Lomb logoWe know more today about why Bausch + Lomb’s new owner, Valeant Pharmaceuticals, decided to move its headquarters from Rochester to New Jersey.

New Jersey offered a whopping $39.5 million grant to Valeant to make the move. The company has 274 jobs in Bridgewater right now. Moving the headquarters will add another 500 jobs.

Valeant has revenue of $3.55 billion.

Meanwhile, after B+L laid off 400 people in Rochester as part of this headquarters shuffle, New York State offered the company about $12 million in incentives to get B+L to manufacture a contact lens line in Rochester and hire 100 people back. Rochester Gas & Electric chipped in $1 million.

DOES ANY OF THIS MAKE SENSE?

Congress should outlaw these kinds of bribes that harm communities, workers and taxpayers.

 

Links of the Day:

 

Can someone explain to me why I-Square is getting a $2 million state grant? This project has already started construction, meaning the bank awarded financing based on a plan that did not include these funds. If there are changes or cost overruns, shouldn’t the public have been told? And why do we have to foot the bill? See the full list of Regional Economic Development Council pork here.

– Rush-Henrietta’s superintendent wrote an amazing letter spelling out why tax breaks for malls are not economic development.

Wilmorite head Tom Wilmot wants to build a casino in Seneca County.

– Rochester developer David Flaum wants to build a casino in Albany, as well as Henrietta and the Catskills.

– Governor Cuomo is against legalizing pot, but the movement among lawmakers is growing.

– City Councilman Adam McFadden was shot as a teen gang member.

– I’ve become a big fan of CBS This Morning. It’s an actual news show – by design.

– A mystery manuscript found in Rochester was written by a black man in the Auburn prison in the 1850s.

– Megyn Kelly assures everyone Santa is white. Um, Santa isn’t real.

 

Quote of the Day:

 

 

Picture of the Day:

 

 

male-and-female-symbolsI can’t believe it’s 2013 and we’re still talking about the role of women in the workplace. Obviously, there’s a problem or this discussion wouldn’t continue. The problem is few women in leadership positions and a persistent gender pay gap.

The solution isn’t that women make changes.

I’m fed up with women telling women how to get ahead. Ursula Burns advises us to marry men 20 years older. Sheryl Sandberg asks us to lean in (whatever that means) and ask for raises. Some lady tells us to find Mr. Right while in college.

Stop.

The solution isn’t to make women “fit in” to a man’s world. Sure, women can do more to step up to the plate, as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand encourages in her Off the Sidelines organization. But I rarely hear women suggest that men, particularly men in leadership positions, stop discriminating against women in the workplace.

“I don’t discriminate. I pay my female employees the same as my male employees. In fact, I have one female worker I pay more because she does a better job!”

“I have a female boss!”

We can all find anecdotal evidence disproving discrimination in a particular workplace. This is an institutional, systemic issue. Study after study shows women get paid less than men in the exact same positions, even after adjusting for maternity leave and experience. This even applies to CEOs. It’s very hard for women to fight back without knowing what their male counterparts earn or filing lawsuits. It’s very hard for women to fight back when their bosses – the people they rely on to keep them employed – are mostly men.

Ms. Sandberg, what happens when women ask for a raise and the answer is no? This empowerment stuff only goes so far.

If women want to fix this, we have to stop only talking to each other and start talking to men. Male coworkers, male bosses, husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers. As long we we relegate the discussion to women’s networking events and in special women’s sections of the newspaper, we will continue to be treated like “an other” and not an equal.

Links of the Day:

– The New York Times profiled Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, who’s become an advocate for cities after standing up to the governor.

The big gun rally in Albany in February caused $60,000 in lawn damage. I don’t have a problem with this. When large crowds gather, as we saw with the Occupy movement, muddy lawns get stirred up. It’s the price of our right to free assembly on public property.

– The NRA is trying hard to kill gun control legislation in Congress and appears to be succeeding. The group wants to make the government have to prove straw purchasers knew the person they gave the gun to wasn’t allowed to have weapons. Under that scenario, Dawn Nguyen, the woman accused of buying a gun for William Spengler, could more easily get off.

– Canadian investors are flocking to Niagara Falls – New York.

– Central New York’s rural residents complain of slow, spotty Internet service. Tax dollars spent on infrastructure is the likely solution.

Syracuse finally has a food truck scene. The regulations don’t seem as onerous as in Rochester.

“For a gorilla, she had had quite a life.”

– A Democratic state senator was arrested in an alleged bribery plot, accused of trying to get Republicans to let him on their line on the mayoral ballot.

 

Dick's

There’s a rumor Dick’s Sporting Goods is coming to Batavia. Already, residents are wary of giving the developer tax breaks for the project. Another sporting goods store owner said it wouldn’t be fair. The Batavian reports:

That isn’t scaring at least two local retailers who sell some of the same merchandise as Dick’s, but the local owners are unhappy that a giant corporation like Dick’s could benefit from any tax incentives given to COR.

Mike Barrett likened the practice of using tax incentives going to corporate chains to “using your own tax money to put yourself out of business.”

The whole thing might be a moot point. The just-passed state budget restricts when industrial development agencies can hand out tax breaks to retail projects.  The Buffalo News reports projects must be tourist destinations, in an economically distressed area or provide services and goods that are not available in the area.

This is a good thing, because retail projects are not good economic development tools. Tax breaks create an unequal playing field. The jobs created are usually low-wage and part time. The sales tax estimates assume people wouldn’t be spending their money elsewhere in the community. It also shouldn’t be assumed that because more stores open, residents suddenly have more money to spend. Finally, unless these projects are in seriously disadvantaged places, many would have happened anyway.

Think of all of the Rochester retail projects that have gotten mega-tax breaks, including Greece Ridge Mall, College Town and Tops. These developments may not have qualified under the state’s new rules. That’s as it should be.

Links of the Day:

– Jim Boeheim’s suits are made by Adrian Jules in Rochester. The clothier puts in orange lining.

– Monroe County schools get a combined $157 million from the state lottery system.

– New York City preservationists are not happy cobblestone streets are being replaced with more bicycle-friendly surfaces.

Drones could become a part of American life.

The folding car of the future.

Movie CameraNew York recently announced ‘Amazing Spiderman 2’ will be filmed entirely within the state. A car chase scene will be shot in Rochester. While it’s cool to envision Spiderman chasing bad guys around the Inner Loop, we might wish this production stayed in Hollywood.

‘Spiderman’ will qualify for state tax credits that can shave 30 percent off production costs. If the tax credits exceed the amount in taxes owed, the movie gets a refund check. New York’s tax credit program will cost $420 million this year. Do you know who pays for these tax credits? We do.

What’s the benefit?

The Tax Foundation says we don’t get much in return. The group found taxpayers get back less than 30 cents for every dollar of spending. The jobs created are mostly temporary and given to nonresidents.

Massachusetts found its film tax credit program cost more money than it brought in and created very few jobs. A Boston Globe columnist writes:

The Massachusetts film tax credit program has been a flop, a taxpayer rip-off that enriches one of the nation’s most profitable industries while choking off funds from more pressing public needs….

Film tax credits are based on a kind of voodoo economics — a faith that the more revenue the state manages to lose to Hollywood, the better off the public will end up. “Lawmakers understand that cutting income tax rates from 6 percent to 5 percent will cost the state revenue,” economics writer Josh Barro observes, yet they imagine “that cutting the tax rate on film productions to negative 25 percent or 40 percent can pay for itself.”

Yet, New York lawmakers are about to pass a budget that ups tax incentives to 40 percent for Upstate productions. It’s long past time the state do a serious, independent cost-benefit analysis of this program. But that’s not likely, since the state won’t even break down where the tax credit money went.

Update: The state has agreed to reveal how tax credits are spent on every movie and to an economic impact study!

Links of the Day:

Costco is looking at sites in Rochester and Albany.

– Batavia firefighters get probation for acting as bookies. The cop investigating them placed bets.

21 graphs that show American health care prices are ludicrous.

MoneyNo matter where you fall in the minimum wage debate, I don’t think this is what any of us wanted. When state leaders agreed to hike the minimum wage over three years from $7.25 to $9, they didn’t mention a key detail. Taxpayers would help foot the bill.

Employers would get tax credits for hiring seasonal workers aged 16-19. The Associated Press reports companies would get compensated 75 cents an hour per worker when the minimum wage hits $8, $1.31 when it reaches $8.75, and $1.35 when it reaches $9.

Even WalMart and McDonald’s, which rake in billions of dollars, would get this tax credit, which is estimated to cost New Yorkers $20 million to $40 million next fiscal year.

The Fiscal Policy Institute points out this law could prompt employers to replace older workers with teenagers, because they get a cash benefit. It could also have the effect of causing companies to keep as many workers as possible at the minimum wage, because of the financial incentive. FPI writes:

This takes income polarization and policies that deprive workers of fair pay and a decent living to new heights–we’re about to become the first state to make a minimum wage a maximum wage at the same time! Michigan and Wisconsin move over—New York wants to officially discourage pay increases. Think about it—starting in 2016, New York will reward employers up to $2,808 per teenage worker for keeping wages flat for three years ($2,808 is the $1.35 hourly tax credit times 40 hours a week times 52 weeks).

This is what happens when budgets are negotiated behind closed doors and the fine print becomes available only hours before votes.

More Links of the Day:

– New York State lawmakers propose an official state dirt. (Yes this is a real story.)

Get ready for teacher union ads blasting state tests.

– The state’s first electronic handgun permit database will cost $28 million to put in place.

The Boston Wegmans would be built at the property on the left. (Google Street View)

The Boston Wegmans would be built in the property on the left. (Google Street View)

 

Danny Wegman once called opening a store in Boston “terrifying,” but he plans on moving ahead. Boston’s mayor announced Wegmans would be opening a store in Fenway.

Wegmans said the deal is not finalized. No details about the size ad amenities were available. The store will likely replicate the one Wegmans is building in Newton, which will be only 70,000 square feet, the smallest store Wegmans has opened in decades. (The Wegmans prototype is 130,000-140,000 square feet. Calkins Rd. is 110,000. East Ave. will be 90,000.)

Residents are already worried about traffic near Fenway Park. But the news was greeted with joy on Twitter.

Wegmans THE smaller imageWhy do Rochesterians care about this new store? First, Wegmans is one of Rochester’s largest employers. The success of Wegmans is important to the region. Second, the new store will be in a place familiar to Red Sox fans all over the country. Third, the Fenway Wegmans will be a city store, a major shift for a company that has only built in the suburbs the last 30 to 40 years. The Wegmans city prototype should be followed with great interest by Rochester and other urban areas.

We’ll be watching!

Links of the Day:

Costco is coming to Syracuse. That means it’s only a matter of time before a store opens in the Rochester area.

– The Syracuse University athletic department will get more oversight in determining if players are academically eligible.

Pity the Buffalo Bills, but don’t call them poor.

 

– Critics say the state budget cares more about the Buffalo Bills than it does cancer prevention and people with developmental disabilities.

– Syracuse got two hospitals to lower the rates for city employees. Rochester should pursue this.

– Nurses are seeking doctor-like authority and could open their own practices.

– The company that makes the Entertainment coupon books is bankrupt.

Long, juicy read about the Today Show troubles.

This budget season, New York’s lawmakers have wrestled with familiar issues. Minimum wage, school aid, aid to municipalities and taxes on the rich. For the first time I can remember, they did not discuss wine in grocery stores.

Wegmans, despite its considerable clout and lobbying dollars, has not been able to uncork opposition. A key player has not given any support wine in grocery stores – Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Sign for Whitehouse Liquor in Wegmans

Sign for Whitehouse Liquor in Wegmans

With wine in grocery stores on hiatus, many have speculated Wegmans will try to get the state to allow multiple licenses. Right now, state law allows one liquor store per person and it does not allow chains. Critics say Wegmans has set up a de facto chain using adjacent stores run by various family members. Wegmans advertises for Whitehouse Liquor, which is located next to its Marketplace store. When you visit Century Wines in Pittsford, you’re asked to swipe your Shopper’s Club. This stuff possibly rides the line between what’s legal and what’s not in our tightly regulated liquor market – and it drives independent stores insane.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, Wegmans is leading the charge to loosen restrictions on who can sell beer.

Links of the Day:

– A lawsuit alleges Wegmans lent chef David Bouley $7 million to keep his restaurant business afloat.

– Albany police held a training exercise at a housing project – complete with fake blood – and scared the heck out of residents.

– Rochester’s amateur photographers are undercutting the professionals.

– Close to 10 percent of milk produced in New York State goes to the Chobani plant.

– New York farmers are installing wind turbines to protect their apple crops from frost.

– Hudson Valley Community College cut the hours of adjunct instructors to avoid paying them health insurance.

CarsRochester is a great place to buy a used car.

CarGurus.com ranked Rochester as the third best place to buy a used car in the country. Buyers pay 5.4 percent less than the national average. Buffalo was ranked seventh on the list. The website compared data on 3 million used cars for sale. Cars made before 2000 were not included.

CarGurus found the best used car markets are in cities. The Buffalo News reports:

Buffalo’s status as an inexpensive place to buy a used car makes sense to Tony Daily, general manager of Towne Automotive Group. He believes a few factors contribute to the ranking.

For starters, many items here sell for less than in some larger metro areas, he said, and there is “a lot of car turnover in Buffalo.”

(snip)

Another factor is the popularity of leasing: It is common to find cars with a single owner coming off lease after three years, he said. “They’re very easy to sell, and they’re very affordable.”

And in a region known for its harsh winters, many customers want to trade in to get something new to ensure they will have a reliable vehicle for those conditions, he said.

Last year in Monroe County, sales of new and used cars were at a decade-high level, up 4 percent from the year before. More than 64,500 new and used cars were sold in 2012.

Links of the Day:

– The state could allow hydrofracking near the pristine Hemlock and Canadice Lakes, which are the drinking water supply for Rochester.

– The state will not release information on how many tax credits each movie receives. It took the state a year to get limited data on the program to the Post-Standard.

– More evidence of Cuomo’s attempts to control press and staff interactions with media: All reporter calls are tracked.

– NYSUT is drowning in red ink. About 300 of the union’s 507 employees earn six figures.

MoneyA study out today from the U.S. Census shows more men are becoming nurses. Ten percent of nurses are men, compared to 3 percent in 1970. Nursing offers job stability and a good living. Diversifying any profession is a good thing.

But the study had a dark side. It found male nurses make more money than their female peers. Full-time women earn 91 cents for every dollar earned by full-time men in the exact same occupation. (That’s better than the 77 cents women earn across all jobs.) The nursing pay difference is called the glass escalator effect. When men enter women-dominated fields, they tend to make more money and get promoted faster.

I’m so tired of experts coming up with reasons why women get paid less money than men. Women work fewer hours. They get pregnant. They are more focused on family. They are less ambitious. They pick bad jobs. They don’t negotiate well. They don’t play golf. They don’t smile enough. They’re not as competitive. They don’t play poker. They’re not assertive. They don’t know their worth.

I want to scream.

Women don’t need studies. They don’t need self-help books. They don’t need tips on getting a better salary. They need knowledge.

The only thing that will ensure women get paid fairly is if they know what their male colleagues earn. Most private employers do not make such information public. How on earth is a woman supposed to know she’s getting shortchanged without this key piece of information?

Discrimination in the workplace is a tough thing to prove, especially without concrete data. Women can’t confront their supervisors about pay equity based on a “feeling.” They’d likely be lied to, laughed at or told they’re paranoid. They’d be given a bunch of excuses for why they can’t get raises. The economy is bad. They’re not team players. They didn’t finish a project on deadline. They came in late to work one day last week. Who do you think you are, anyway?

We need some way – other than the courts – to hold employers accountable. Governor Cuomo wants a pay equity law. It may help women filing lawsuits against their bosses, but I doubt it will help the everyday woman when she looks her boss in the eye and asks for a raise.

Rochester Metro Area:

Average salary for man working full time year-round; $49,606

Average salary for woman working full time year-round: $38,374

Source: U.S. Census ACS 2009-2011

Links of the Day:

– College Town would have happened without massive taxpayer help.

– Cuomo is okay with legalizing small amounts of pot, but not medical marijuana.

The property tax cap hurts poor schools.

– The Robert Moses Parkway is a “noose around the neck of Niagara Falls.”

“Embeer Buffalo.”

Tops logoSo far this year, Monroe County’s economic development agency, COMIDA,  has awarded tax breaks to two Tops Markets stores to aid their moves down the street.

COMIDA approved an incentive package for the Tops in Henrietta to relocate to a different plaza on Jefferson Rd. The move allows Tops to install a gas station. Without the incentive package, COMIDA said Tops would leave Henrietta, taking with it 79 existing jobs and 18 new ones. Tops was awarded sales tax exemptions on $2 million of renovations. The plaza owner was awarded sales tax exemptions on $320,000 of work.

COMIDA also approved tax breaks for Tops in Irondequoit to move to a different plaza on East Ridge Road. As in Henrietta, the move allows Tops to build a gas station. The store threatened to leave Irondequoit, costing 79 jobs and 18 new ones. (Interesting how the two stores employ the exact same number of people.) The plaza owner received sales and mortgage tax exemptions on $10.7 million of work, as well as additional property tax abatements. Tops is getting a sales tax break on $2 million of work.

Let’s be clear about why Tops is moving these stores – gas stations. Fuel brought in $51 million in sales in the third quarter of last year, a jump of 7 percent. Gas is an integral part of the business model for the chain.

We have to ask whether the threat to close the stores was real.

Tops has 153 stores. Its third-quarter profit was $4.7 million on sales of $538 million. It has been adding stores, particularly in smaller, existing supermarket locations. Even if the Henrietta and Irondequoit stores needed gas to survive, it’s doesn’t automatically follow Tops would have left those towns. If Monroe County had told Tops it wouldn’t get a deal in any of the towns, would Tops really have closed stores and abandoned two population centers? Would the county really have lost 158 low-paying service jobs? What would the impact have been if Tops did leave?

(In case you’re wondering, Wegmans also gets incentives. COMIDA most recently approved property tax abatements for a cheese-aging building.)

Sometime we should see what happens when we say, “No.”

Links of the Day:

– Experts don’t know why gas prices are rising in Western New York.

– Schumer wants a bank to stop harassing a couple over their dead son’s college loans.

– A coalition including Rochester Institute of Technology is bidding to make Upstate New York a drone testing site.

“Wages today constitute the lowest share of both corporate revenue and the nation’s economy since World War Two.”

– The WalMart of weed. This is the future.

– Walking is not a crime. Why do we often blame the victim?

Xerox featuredXerox is no longer the “Document Company.” It no longer wants to be known for…Xeroxing stuff.

Business services now accounts for more than half of Xerox revenue. It’s a lot harder to brand a company offering a wide range of back office services than one making copiers. What the heck does Xerox do, anyway? (Better yet, what doesn’t it do?)

Xerox’s Vice-President of Advertising Barbara Basney explains the company’s new business services identity in a blog post:

What does that mean exactly?   Well…it means that we are behind the scenes helping simplify the way work gets done for customers in areas like Human ResourcesF&AHealthcare,  Customer CarePublic Transportation and Document Management.

Are you surprised that this is what Xerox is all about?  If so, you are not alone, as the majority of people don’t know Xerox is a leading provider of business solutions and services.

To get the message out, Xerox has a new advertising campaign called “Made Simple By Xerox.”

At the beginning of the first ad, the actress says a copier machine is a “tough act to follow.” She says, “At Xerox, we’ve embraced a new role.” After she walks us through some of the services provided by Xerox, she says, “How’s that for an encore?”

The second ad starts with the actress saying, “When I say, Xerox, I know what you’re thinking.” She presses a copy machine button. Like the first ad, she walks us through Xerox’s services.

What do you think of the campaign? On the one hand, Xerox wants you to know it is the king of copiers. On the other hand, it wants you to know the copy machine age is a thing of the past. I think that was the main point of the ads. “Business services” is hard to explain in 30 seconds.

Links of the Day:

– A New York Post columnist seen as favorable to Cuomo slams him in a piece that alleges the governor is “running around like a banshee” worried about poll numbers.

– Syracuse police don’t always release mugshots. Open records experts say that’s not cool.

Albany has a thriving online farmers market.

– You’ll get misty, reading this story about a Central New York family. Just do it.

– The “Hoffman’s Hottie” speaks. Please, Zweigle’s, don’t get into this kind of drama.

Wegmans THE smaller imageDanny Wegman is mad about obesity.

In an interview with Supermarket News, Wegman said the right measurements must be in place to win the war on fat. Specifically, who is measuring and tracking people’s health? Wegman said there are a lot of programs, but no one knows if they’re working.

Wegmans is monitoring its own 44,000 workers. Wegmans stopped selling tobacco products and offers employees a variety of food and exercise programs. It’s using specific measurements to track success. Supermarket News reports:

So what’s been the impact of all this? Danny noted that in measuring results, Wegmans focuses on high blood pressure over weight, because it’s a less charged topic, and the necessary lifestyle changes have a beneficial impact on weight as well. The retailer began measuring results in 2008, and most recently reported that the percentage of its employees with high blood pressure has dropped from 24% in 2008 to about 14% today.

Meanwhile, even though Wegmans hasn’t specifically focused on weight, it does track body mass index, and found the percentage of its employees with healthy weights rose from 29% to 40% in the same period, and those considered obese dropped from 32% to 25%.

(snip)

So what is Danny urging? “As individual companies we should be measuring these things,” he said. “Communities should be measuring these things. Then we’d begin to see how we can make a difference.”

His recommendation is that companies focus on five standard measures: blood pressure, body mass index, sugar, cholesterol and smoking versus nonsmoking.

How would you feel if your company, which may subsidize your health insurance, measure you? While this raises privacy questions, it’s possible there could be an opt-out provision.

Links of the Day:

– Governor Cuomo is floating the idea of a non-Indian casino in Niagara Falls. The move could get the Senecas to pay money they’re withholding from the state. The tribe believes video slots at racetracks violates its gaming compact.

– The University of Rochester has an old swimming pool that’s now filled with chairs and desks. Check out these eerie photos.

The Albany Times Union contrasts two very different neighborhoods and points out more of America is divided by class.

– Health care aides are awaiting a decision on whether they can get minimum wage and overtime.

– The New York Times profiled the case of a young man who killed himself after a long addiction to ADHD medication. It’s a sad, infuriating read.

 

Tweeted by Wegmans 12/19/12

Tweeted by Wegmans 12/19/12

 

Wegmans, where you can sip a frothy latte while you fill your cart with fruits so perfect you wonder if they’re made of wax, is now offering a line of yoga products.

Stency Wegman, wife of the CEO, launched a line of yoga wear and accessories late last year.  She’s a longtime Hatha yoga practitioner and instructor who started selling her DVDs in Wegmans stores in 2011.

Glamorous CarrotThe Wegmans Organic Farm was an inspiration for the yoga wear. The clothes are made of organic cotton. The pants and shirts are emblazoned with a yoga-posing carrot. It’s what Stency Wegmans calls the “glamorous carrot” pose. “Love Your Veggies” is printed on the back of each shirt.

One could look at this as a CEO merely indulging his wife’s yoga passion. But this is incredibly smart. Yoga remains popular. Even little kids are doing downward dog. Wegmans and yoga go together like Wegmans and…the “Chickenless Florentine” that was featured today in one of the $8.49/lb. self-serve buffets at Calkins Rd.

It’s not supposed to make sense, but it does.

For example, Jane walks by the yoga display and thinks, “I really need to get back into a class. I’m feeling stressed and out of shape.” (There’s no John, because there doesn’t appear to be any menswear.) Jane puts a $59.99 tank top in her cart. She has a new resolve to be healthy, so she circles back to the produce section and loads up on organic vegetables. The next time she visits the store, she picks up the pants and the mat. Let’s face it, once you’ve spent nearly $60 on a tank top, there’s no turning back.

Wegmans wins. (Doesn’t it always?)

A few days after the New York Times published a blockbuster investigation on corporate subsidies and their dubious benefits, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a $50 million investment in a company, Albany Molecular Research, Inc., bringing 250 jobs to Buffalo.

That’s $200,000 per job. The state will pay for $35 million in new equipment and $15 million in lab space. All of this will benefit a private company.

AMRI has lost money for three straight years. It’s cut jobs and reduced facilities. Aside from the question of whether government should be in the business of providing such large subsidies, this a very clear roll of the dice.

“At first glance, this is not a stock I would recommend to a client,” said Brighton Securities President George Conboy.

Cuomo has promised Buffalo $1 billion in economic development money. We’ll likely see more of these announcements. Meanwhile, other regions and companies of the state have to compete for grants. This is government picking winners and losers.

In Buffalo, the state better hope it picked a winner. There are no guarantees.

Links of the Day:

– Zip lines, horseback riding, rock climbing coming to downtown Niagara Falls?

– Dubbed “Skleinos” by Albany media, new state senate leadership structure is mocked by the New York Post as “banana republic buffoonery.”

“We relentlessly build communities that aren’t safe to walk in.”

– Unionizing workers at the bottom of the pay scale will be difficult. But the alternative to raising wages is building a government safety net to help low wage workers survive.

– Drivers no longer respect funeral processions.

Kodak.com

Kodak executives received a total of $15.6 million in bonuses and other payments in the 12 months prior to filing for bankruptcy. That’s according to a Wall Street Journal database. CEO Antonio Perez received nearly $2 million in bonuses, stock wages and other benefits.

The WSJ looked at a number of companies that enriched executives in the months leading up to bankruptcy. The newspaper called it “Payday Before Mayday.” Hostess is among the companies that paid officials big bucks before going belly up:

To avoid running afoul of limits on bonuses that reward executives for sticking around during bankruptcy, companies craft incentive plans that compensate managers for meeting certain performance targets. But another way they can steer clear of the law’s restrictions is by paying bonuses before filing for Chapter 11.

(snip)

Companies often say they are using their best business judgment when paying bonuses to executives who are working overtime to keep operations afloat. A firm’s fate often isn’t known when bonuses are paid, and companies argue they must motivate some executives to stay lest they suffer exoduses that further destabilize troubled situations.

The WSJ found more than 1,600 top-level executives at 80-plus companies got more than $1.3 billion in payments before their companies filed for Chapter 11.

Links of the Day:

– Communities are discovering the value of being walkable. Williamsville is redoing its highway-like Main Street.

– Governor Cuomo shot down a proposal to implement a booze tax and place limits on bars and liquor stores in an effort to curb problem drinking.

– Are Common Core standards sacrificing literature for nonfiction?

– Chicago is planning to raise money by installing digital billboards on city-owned land along expressways. Coming soon to a city near you?

This made my day:

Did you know Wegmans saved $5.41 million on property taxes on its stores in New York state between 2003 and 2009? This is a company that had sales of $6.2 billion in 2011.

The data was contained in a New York Times database. The Times is in the midst of an awesome investigation into local and state subsidies for corporations. Guess what? These incentives, including grants, loans and property tax breaks, often provide dubious benefits.

The Times tallied $80 billion in giveaways every year to companies and believes the true total is far higher:

A portrait arises of mayors and governors who are desperate to create jobs, outmatched by multinational corporations and short on tools to fact-check what companies tell them. Many of the officials said they feared that companies would move jobs overseas if they did not get subsidies in the United States.

Over the years, corporations have increasingly exploited that fear, creating a high-stakes bazaar where they pit local officials against one another to get the most lucrative packages. States compete with other states, cities compete with surrounding suburbs, and even small towns have entered the race with the goal of defeating their neighbors.

While some jobs have certainly migrated overseas, many companies receiving incentives were not considering leaving the country, according to interviews and incentive data.

Despite their scale, state and local incentives have barely been part of the national debate on the economic crisis.

These subsidies are coming as local and state governments cut services and jobs and increase property taxes and fees.

I plugged in “Rochester” into the Times database. A sampling of companies getting breaks:

  • General Motors (Recently pulled out of Honeoye Falls, taking 300 jobs.)
  • PAETEC (Perinton telecom got $7.36 million in corporate income tax credits, rebates or reductions. PAETEC was sold to Windstream for $2.3 billion.)
  • Sibley Building (Rochester taxpayers took a $19 million haircut on that one.)
  • Gannett (The Democrat and Chronicle has repeatedly furloughed and laid off workers.)

 

A piece in the Washington Post suggests there’s still a lot of value in Kodak’s film business. Christopher Bonanos says Kodak could learn some things from Polaroid. Kodak is looking to sell its film division (it will hold onto movie film) and Bonanos says the right buyer could do very well.

Here are his lessons:

1. “Don’t be afraid to raise prices.” – Film buffs are die-hards. Film sales actually grew last year.

Over the past few years, the company that bought bankrupt Polaroid started making the product again. It charges $24 for a pack of eight frames. Guess what? People are buying the stuff.

“Boutique prices are going to be part of the future of film, and the devout buyer will adjust,” writes Bonanos.

2. “The only cameras are going to be high-end cameras — and very-low-end ones.”

Kodak is still having a lot of success with disposable cameras. One of the companies reportedly interested in Kodak‘s film unit – Lomography – specializes in cheap, plastic film cameras.

3. “Don’t do anything that someone else can do.”

That’s what the founder of Polaroid, Edwin Land, said.

Kodak still makes super-special lines of film that don’t have any peers. It’s discontinued some of them (Kodachrome), but perhaps they can be revived – at a higher price point.

Bonanos writes, “if you’re going to sell film in the 21st century, you need to think of your product as a fine-arts material.”

4. “The little yellow box is still golden.”

Like Polaroid, Kodak has a powerful brand name. Bank on it.

Bonanos concludes, “nearly everyone who cares about the photographic arts is hoping that someone generous and deep-pocketed is feeling the need for a Kodak moment.”

Read the article, “What Kodak Could Still Learn From Polaroid.”

Business Links of the Day:

– Missouri lawmakers want a meeting with Windstream, saying broadband speeds are as slow as dial-up.

– A Bloomberg columnist speculates Xerox could be the next Hewlett-Packard, having “destroyed more value than it’s created.”

– We should only be excited about manufacturing jobs returning to the U.S. if they pay well.

STAMP site in Genesee County

 

Did you know there’s a plan to put a giant science and tech park in Genesee County that backers say has the potential to create 30,000 jobs?

The mega-site is called STAMP – short for Science Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park.

From the STAMP website:

The STAMP site has great potential to transform Western New York into a high-tech/clean-tech hub of manufacturing similar to Luther Forest in Saratoga. After five years with $1.5 billion in private investment, over 2,000 jobs will be created onsite and about 5,500 regional supply chain jobs will be leveraged.  Full build-out of the STAMP site is expected to be 15 to 20 years out, but will bring in $10 billion in private capital investment and employ over 10,500 workers directly, 30,000 supply chain jobs and 2,839 construction jobs across both the Buffalo and Rochester metro areas.

Folks, this is way bigger than yogurt.

Economic development officials think they can leverage low cost power and huge amounts of land to attract high tech companies. STAMP is one of the priority projects for the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council. The estimated cost to develop the site is $250 million. The Buffalo News reports:

Steven G. Hyde, president and CEO of the Genesee County Economic Development Center, said plans for the park are in their sixth year. “This isn’t a pipe dream that just started yesterday. This is real and has lots of potential.”

(snip)

While semiconductor chip manufacturing is a prime target for STAMP, it is not the only high-tech industry that would be a good fit, Hyde said, mentioning solid-state lighting and photovoltaic products as two others.

Competing for such coveted plants requires a massive, available site like STAMP with some infrastructure, Kucharski said. These types of companies want access to a large labor pool like Buffalo and Rochester can offer, but also want to build on a low-vibration “greenfield” with ample room to expand; Kucharski said the STAMP site meets those criteria.

It seems Eastman Business Park and STAMP have the same goals. EBP has more going for it in terms of existing infrastructure and proximity to workers, transportation and the airport. EBP may not be a “greenfield,” but it’s just as large. EBP, which is also a Finger Lakes council priority, will almost certainly require gobs of tax dollars to modernize. Why not shift STAMP there? Why are we going to spend millions of both sites? Both will compete for the same tax dollars and tenants.

This seems like industrial sprawl.

Links of the Day:

– The “elder statesman” of the Sabres, who helped bring the team to Buffalo, has died.

The story of a Rochester policeman who is gay.

– The Los Angeles Times has the touching and sad story of a religious teenager paralyzed in a shooting who snitches because it’s the right thing to do. Part One and Part Two.

– Let’s remember this holiday season how little retail workers are paid. There are good reasons they should be paid more.

How much longer can J.C. Penney survive?

Why pot should be legalized.