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 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: 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.

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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

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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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Posted: March 7th, 2014

Krispy Kreme is marking daylight saving time Sunday by giving away one free original glazed doughnut to each person who stops by the shop at 7501 Peach St. The promotion will run from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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Posted: March 7th, 2014

Did you know today was Employee Appreciation Day?

Employees at Erie-based Erie Insurance Found out this morning when Terry Cavanaugh, the company’s chief executive, surprised them with a reception, free lunch and a bonus in honor of the day of recognition, established in 1995.

Cavanaugh offered his remarks in person to the company’s 2,500 Erie-based employees and by video conference with another 2,000 employees who work in offices around the country.

“He said thank you for the work you do, and that we are buying everyone lunch today and then everybody got some kind of small bonus,” said Leah Knapp, a spokeswoman for the company.

She said Erie-based employees will receive free lunches in the company cafeteria while employees in other locations will receive catered food or gift cards to buy lunch.

“It was a nice little surprise,” Knapp said.

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Posted: March 7th, 2014

More of us are doing our own taxes, according to the Internal Revenue Service. As of the end of February, almost 24.9 million of us had filed electronic returns from a home computer – a 7.5 percent increase from a year ago. Tax professionals had filed more, but the gap between tax professional and individual taxpayer is shrinking.
In addition, the average tax refund is $3,034 so far this year, an increase of 3 percent from a year ago.
Surveys show most Americans plan to use their refund toward paying down debt, though an Edward Jones survey of more than 1,000 adults found those between 18 and 34 were the most likely to say they planned to spend their refund on shopping or going out.

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Posted: March 5th, 2014

Interest in building hotels on Erie’s bayfront continues to grow.

Developer Kennedy, owner of Erie’s Renaissance Centre, has announced plans to build a new Cobblestone Inn on the south side of the Bayfront Parkway near Liberty Park.

Kennedy, who announced plans last week to build a 37-room Cobblestone Inn on Route 6 in Corry, said this new hotel will be a three-story, 54-room hotel.

Kennedy said he expects work on the project to begin this fall, with completion expected in early 2015.

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Posted: March 4th, 2014

Primanti Bros., the iconic Pittsburgh restaurant famous for its sandwiches stacked with french fries and coleslaw, is coming to the Millcreek Mall.

Primanti has confirmed plans to open a 4,700-square-foot location inside part of the space once occupied by Burlington Coat Factory at the western end of the mall.

Joe Bell, spokesman for the Youngstown-based Cafaro Co., wich owns the mall, said Primanti will share a portion of that space with a new 6,300-square-foot Mad Mex restaurant, which is described as an American mash-up of Mexican food with Southeast Asian and West Coast influences.

Primanti Bros., a Pittsburgh staple that was founded in the 1930s, operates 17 locations, including outlets in Heinz Field, PNC Park and near Grove City.

For weeks, there has been public speculation that Primanti Bros. was eyeing the Erie area. Until now, however, the company had not confirmed those plans.

Both Primanti and Mad Mex are expected to open by fall.

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Posted: March 3rd, 2014

The Sheraton Erie Bayfront, owned by the Erie County Convention Center Authority, has been ranked the No. 1 Sheraton in North America for overall satisfaction.

Properties are ranked by Sheraton guests through a performance measurement survey, including a loyalty index. The Erie hotel, which is managed by White Lodging Services Corp., topped all 210 Sheraton properties in North America.

“I am very proud of the hard work and efforts that the staff of the Sheraton Erie Bayfront Hotel provide to our guests each and every day,” said Dan Pora, general manager of the hotel.

The hotel’s restaurant, the Bayfront Grille, also finished first out of 205 Sheraton restaurants in North America, and won top honors out of 423 Sheraton restaurants around the world.

“It’s great to see all of the planning, long hours and sacrifice from our families pay off,” Executive Chef Michael Cerrie said. “I am proud, my team is proud and Erie should be proud of their accomplishments.”

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