Biz Buzz
By Jim Martin, Doug Oathout Erie Times-News staff bloggers
Welcome to Biz Buzz, our daily blog on all things business. Turn here for breaking news on the economy, local industry and area people engaged in the region's companies.   Read more about this blog.
 Phone: 814-870-1668
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Posted: March 27th, 2014

Rochester-based Wegmans, which operates two grocery stores in the Erie area, has been named the best supermarket chain in the United States by Consumer Reports magazine.

Grocery chains were rated on a scale that took into account service, cleanliness, perishable items and prices.

Walmart, which operates numerous locations in Erie counties, ranked last on the list, criticized for having too few open checkout aisles.

According to a report in USA Today, Trader Joes and Costco., neither of which have locations in Erie County, ranked second and third on the Consumer Reports list.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 27th, 2014

Steris Corp., which cut hundreds of jobs in Erie when it closed its manufacturing and office operations here, is planning more cutbacks — this time near its headquarters in the Cleveland suburb of Mentor, Ohio.

The medical device maker has announced that as part of a restructuring plan it will close the Hopkins production facility in Mentor. About 150 jobs are expected to be eliminated, about 100 them in Ohio.

The plant builds liquid chemical sterilant processing systems. Operations are expected to cease by Oct. 31, 2015.

Walt Rosebrough, the company’s chief executive, said the plant has been running significantly below its full capacity.

He continued, “While we have not made final decisions on the locations of all of the Hopkins production, this closure enables us to more efficiently utilize our existing North American manufacturing network.”

The shutdown of Erie’s steam sterilizer plant in 2007 resulted in the loss of 450 manufacturing jobs. That work was transferred to a plant near Monterrey, Mexico. The company eliminated another 240 jobs in 2010 when it closed office operations in Erie.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 27th, 2014

Harborcreek Youth Services took delivery Wednesday of 14 new minibikes, provided to them for free by the Off-Road Express Honda dealership at 9070 Peach St.

Harborcreek Youth Services, a residential treatment facility for young men, has partnered with National Youth Project Using Minibikes in a program designed to engage youth and promote positive youth development.

The program uses minibikes to help clients develop confidence and self esteem and provide an outlet for stress and aggression.

As the sponsoring dealership, Off-Road Express provided the bikes free of charge and will offer discounts for safety equipment and service for the bikes.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 25th, 2014

The Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., opened today, initiating the start of the 2014 Great Lakes shipping season.
The locks were closed on Jan. 15 and underwent repairs and maintenance during the winter shutdown.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 24th, 2014

PNC Bank is replacing Visa credit cards for all customers who used them at a Target store during the period hackers breached the retailer’s system and stole information for as many as 70 million accounts.
PNC began notifying customers in a letter this week that a new credit card will be delivered within seven to 10 business days. The bank said it is making the move as a precautionary measure and that it affects only those customers who used their credit cards card between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15.
“We are asking customers to activate the new cards, which will deactivate the old ones,” said bank spokeswoman Marcey Zwiebel.
If customers don’t activate the cards immediately, their old cards can be used until April 30, when they will be automatically deactivated.
The theft involved credit and debit cards. Target has said the hackers used malware to electronically steal names, card numbers, expiration dates, debit card PINs and the embedded code on the magnetic strip on the back of the cards.
Zwiebel said PNC is not disclosing how many replacement cards are being issued. The replacements do not include debit cards that were used during the breach. PNC’s action is not the result of any recent increase in fraudulent activity, she said.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 18th, 2014

Erie’s fans can point to many advantages of living in Pennsylvania’s fourth largest city.

Turns out they can add relatively low auto insurance rates to that list.

A recent study by ValuePenguin.com, a consumer finance website, analyzed auto insurance rates in Pennsylvania’s five largest cities, using an average a four different driver profiles, including a 30-year-old single male, 30-year-old single female, 40-year-old married couple and a 65-year-old married couple.

The result: Erie County and Scranton were tied with the lowest annual premium for auto insurance at $1,032 a year.

Allentown was slightly higher at $1,092 a year, while Pittsburgh came in 11.8 percent higher than Erie at $1,154 a year.

The real losers were the motorists of Philadelphia.

According to the ValuePenguin study, they’re paying an average of $1,567 a year. That’s almost 52 percent more than car owners in Erie.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 13th, 2014

It’s a balmy 8 degrees outside. Roads are slick with ice and snow is piled up in frosty mountains at the edges of parking lots.

Doesn’t that put you in the mood for a chilly Italian ice or a cool frozen custard?

The folks at Rita’s — where their slogan is “ice, custard, happiness,” — are hoping so. The chain’s Erie location, at 1406 West Gore Road, opens for the season at noon today.

The locally owned business acknowledged the irony of its timing Wednesday on social media.

The Rita’s post said: “Mother Nature has her plans and here at Rita’s, we have our plans — we are opening tomorrow, March 13 — despite today’s blizzard.

The post goes on to say that “rewards are in order for the brave Rita’s fans who come to buy the treats they have waited all winter to enjoy.”

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Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 12th, 2014

Bianchi Honda Inc. in Summit Township shared American Honda Motor Co.’s top honor, the President’s Award, with 172 other U.S. dealerships in 2013.

But what Bianchi didn’t share is its record of earning that record for 16 years, more than any other Honda dealer in the United States.

The President’s Award is given to recognize a yearlong commitment to excellence in the areas of customer satisfaction, sales, training and facility image. More than 1,000 dealerships competed for the honor.

Lou Porreco, president of Bianchi Motors Inc., said, “We are very pleased to receive the coveted President’s Award for the 16th time,” he said. “It’s even more amazing that no other dealership in the entire nation exceeds our record.”

Bianchi, located at 8430 Peach St., has 113 employees.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 11th, 2014

Should the minimum wage be raised?

Economists and politicians have lined up on both sides of the issue.

But we’d like to talk to someone who is pulling down the Pennsylvania minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Do they view this as a stepping stone? Or do they find themselves frustrated and struggling to make ends meet?

If you’re willing to share your experiences and your thoughts about raising the minimum wage, please contact business writer Jim Martin at 870-1668 or send him an e-mail at jim.martin@timesnews.com

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: March 10th, 2014

An Erie business was highlighted in a “60 Minutes” segment that aired Sunday night on CBS.

The segment, reported by correspondent Steve Kroft, was entitled “The Data Brokers: Selling Your Personal Information,” and focused on companies that collect and sell your personal information.

According to Kroft’s report, and an interview with Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill, private companies are compiling and selling extensive profiles of individuals that include extensive details about their health, personal habits, sexual orientation and finances.

And, according to Kroft’s report, one of the companies assembling this information is Paramount Media, located at 3126 Peach St.

Kroft said that Paramount compiles lists of people who suffer from alcoholism, sexual addiction, gambling addiction or who are desperate to get out of debt.

A message was left late this afternoon for the company’s chief executive. This blog will be updated when we hear his reaction to the 60 Minutes report.

The report can be seen here.

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