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FIRST NIAGARA TO OPEN BRANCH AT CROSSPOINT

First Niagara Bank plans to open a new branch in the Crosspoint Business Park in Amherst later this year, the banking company said Tuesday.

The new Amherst branch, which is expected to open later this year, will be First Niagara's 18th office in Erie County. First Niagara already has announced plans to open branches in Lewiston, West Seneca and Clarence by this fall.

First Niagara also said it will open a branch in the Rochester suburb of Penfield later this year, giving it nine branches in Monroe County. Both of the new branches still must be approved by banking regulators.

The expansion is part of the Lockport-based thrift's plan to open 13 locations in Erie and Monroe counties in 2005 and 2006 as it builds up its presence in the urban Buffalo and Rochester markets.