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
Posted: June 6th, 2014

It’s creeping up on midafternoon. But it’s not too late for a doughnut, especially a free one.

Dunkin’ Donuts, which has locations on upper Peach Street and in the Millcreek Mall, is offering customers a free doughnut of their choice today with the purchase of any beverage.

The promotion is being offered for National Doughnut Day, which is held each year on the first Friday of June.

The day was originally established by the Chicago Salvation Army to honor women who served doughnuts to soldiers during World War I.

The local Dunkin’ Donuts stores are owned by Scott Enterprises.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: June 5th, 2014

Erie County’s third largest employer is now the nation’s 416th largest company.

That’s according to the latest edition of Fortune magazine, which ranks the nation’s 500 largest companies, based on their revenues.

Erie Insurance, which has more than 2,000 Erie-based employees, climbed 39 spots on the ranking from its previous position as the nation’s 455 largest company.

The company’s revenues rose 13.8 percent in 2013 to $6.2 billion. Profits, meanwhile, climbed 1.9 percent to $163 million.

Terry Cavanaugh, the company’s chief executive, said in a statement, “Our continued presence on the Fortune 500 reflects not just the efforts of a single year but the achievements we’ve built over decades of service.”

The company has been recognized by Forbes magazine as one of America’s 50 most trusted financial companies.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: June 3rd, 2014

Mark Troyer is out of the potato chip business, and has been since selling Troyer Farms Potato Products Inc. in December 2008.

But Troyer, who still grows more than 300 acres of potatoes a year, has been keeping a close eye lately on his former chip plant, located on Route 97 south of Waterford.

And he’s encouraged by what he sees.

Troyer, who sold the Troyer Farms business to York-based Bickel Snack Foods Inc. in 2008, said he sold the business with the hope that Bickel would keep plant and the employees in Waterford.

That didn’t happen.

Bickel closed the plant in the spring of 2011, moving the production line to York.

Troyer has said repeatedly that he felt badly about the loss of jobs and the effect on his community.

“It was never about cashing out and getting as much money as possible. We turned down an offer because we knew the company was going to leave. We thought Bickel was going to stay forever.”

Troyer, who did not sell the building and real estate to Bickel, sold them earlier this year to Minnesota-based KLN Family Brands.

And as he watches the company renovate his old chip plant, pouring millions of dollars into the facility, Troyer sees the promise of a happier ending.

“Thursday, I counted 51 cars in the (chip plant) parking lot. That was just construction workers,” Troyer said. “They are going full-bore. KLN, I expect them to be tough negotiators, but they are committed to spending money here. They are spending a bunch of money and doing things in a very first-class manner. They are talking about 250 jobs in a couple years.”

Troyer said he was especially heartened recently to run into a couple of his former employees who have found new jobs with KLN, which makes private label chips for companies such as Target and Panera Bread.

“I gave them a big hug,” he said. “I don’t even want to call them employees. They were co-workers of mine. They were friends. “

— Jim Martin

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: May 30th, 2014

Local 712 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, based in Beaver County, will celebrate its 100th anniversary in Erie on Saturday.

Tom Germuska Jr., the group’s communications manager, jokes that the weather looks good for this weekend.

“But should there be any type of electrical problem in Erie this Saturday, just call the Bayfront Convention Center,” where there will be no shortage of electrical workers.

Nearly 700 people, including IBEW members, retirees and family members are expected to be there for the anniversary celebration.

Spending on the event, including expenditures by attendees staying in local hotels, is expected to reach nearly $500,000, the group said.

Edwin Hill, president of IBEW International, will speak at the event.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: May 27th, 2014

Cali’s West Catering, which is affiliated with Calamari’s Squid Row on State Street, will hold a ribbon-cutting and grand opening Monday. The event will be held at 3 p.m. at the catering service’s new location at 3826 West Ridge Road.

Calamari’s, which has been open since 1996 at 1317 State St. says on its website that it has catered thousands of events.

The new location, according to that site, “was established to meet the growing needs of our growing clientele.”

For more information, call 459-4276.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: May 23rd, 2014

The new Baymont Inn & Suites, located across from Presque Isle Downs & Casino, is open for business.

The new 117-room hotel was developed by BT Erie Hotel LP to help attract overnight visitors to the casino.

“We are looking forward to adding another amenity benefit for our players at Presque Isle Downs & Casino,” said Jeff Favre, vice president of the casino. “This partnership will allow us the opportunity to expand our tourist base and reach more players from outside our local market.”

The casino has a management contract to operate the new hotel, which provides a free shuttle service for gamblers.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: May 23rd, 2014

It’s not often that a business deal involving a French company attracts much interest in Erie. But close watchers of General Electric Co. — the parent company of Erie’s largest employer, GE Transportation — have followed the extended negotiations between GE and Alstom SA. GE is looking to buy the French manufacturer of various energy and rail products. What really caught some attention this week was an idea from French government officials, who suggested that GE sell its locomotive business to the French to help make the energy part of the deal work. Would GE really consider that? Apparently not, according to today’s Wall Street Journal. Quoting a person familiar with the discussion, the newspaper reported that GE Chief Executive Jeff Immelt would consider a joint venture in rail signalling but GE wouldn’t consider selling its locomotive business.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: May 21st, 2014

Union workers at Accuride Corp.’s aluminum wheels plant on East 12th Street have ratified a new contract.

The company, based in Evansville, Ind. reported today that its has reached a new four-year collective bargaining agreement with Local 1186 of the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America. The union local represents about 209 union workers at the Erie plant.

The company’s existing contract with the union was set to expire on Sept. 3.

Accuride President Rick Dauch praised the agreement.

“Accuride is extremely pleased to have amicably reached a new agreement at Erie — well ahead of schedule — that will provide continued stability and competitiveness for our industry-leading aluminum-wheel production facility,” he said in a statement.

Details of the agreement were not immediately available.

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: May 21st, 2014

According to an Associated Press report, Bradford-based Zippo and the nation’s third-biggest tobacco company are battling over the Blu brand name being used for both Zippo lighters and a hugely popular electronic cigarette.

Zippo says it owns the Blu trademark for a line of blue-flame butane lighters and is asking the court to prevent Lorillard from using it. Zippo first filed for the Blu trademark in 2005 and began selling the product in 2007.

Lorillard, based in Greensboro, North Carolina, acquired the Blu brand in 2012 and Blu now accounts for almost half of all e-cigarettes sold. It is asking the court to order the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to dismiss Zippo’s challenge.

Zippo Manufacturing Co. and a subsidiary of Lorillard Inc. have both filed complaints in U.S. District Court in California.

— Associated Press

Posted in: Uncategorized
Posted: May 21st, 2014

Erie’s gross domestic product — the market value of all the goods and services produced in Erie County — grew far faster than the GDP of the United States or Pennsylvania between 2010 and 2012.

But there’s also some less encouraging financial news contained in a report on the Erie economy by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

That report, released last week, shows that Erie’s GDP rose by 5 percent between 2010 and 2012, far better than the 1.7 percent increase made by Pennsylvania and the 1.3 percent improvement in U.S. GDP.

The bad news, according to the Fed, is that Erie’s GDP remains about 1.6 percent below where it was in 2007. By comparison, U.S. GDP remains about 3 percent below its pre-recession level.

There’s less encouraging news on the job front, however.

While Erie’s unemployment rate has fallen in recent months, the total number of people working also has fallen about 1 percent since mid 2012.

So how can the unemployment rate be falling? The answer, according to the Federal Reserve, is that the size of the labor force, the number of people either working or looking for work, has gotten smaller.

Posted in: Uncategorized

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