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THREE AREA COMPANIES MAKE THE INC. 500 LIST

Three Western New York companies made Inc. magazine's list of the nation's 500 fastest-growing companies, released Monday:

Western New York Contract Staffing Services, No. 134. Unranked on last year's list, the Williamsville company grew its sales to $8.9 million last year, from $545,000 in 1992. Employment rose from 50 workers to 500 in the same period. The professional staffing service was founded in 1992.

Black Cat Computer Wholesale, No. 183. Unranked on last year's list, the Amherst maker of desktop computer systems increased its sales from $415,000 in 1992 to $5.5 million last year. Employment grew to 16 people, up from one, during the same period.

Oneida Sales & Services, No. 321. The Buffalo manufacturer of concrete and fencing products climbed in Inc.'s rankings from No. 488 last year. The company's sales grew from $733 in 1992 to $7.1 million in 1996, while employment went from five people to 40.

Last year three area companies made Inc.'s list: Voice Technologies Group of Amherst, Softbank Services Group of Buffalo and Oneida Sale & Services.

The local companies demonstrate that it's possible to achieve rapid growth in upstate's business climate, "but it's not easy," said Deborah Williams, president of Black Cat Computer Wholesale.

Kodak's earnings plunge 43%
ROCHESTER (AP) -- Stung by heightened competition in its core photography business as it invests heavily in digital imaging, Eastman Kodak Co. said today its profit plunged 43 percent in the third quarter.

Kodak earned $232 million, or 71 cents a share, down from $410 million, or $1.22 cents a share, in the same period last year. The performance came in below Wall Street analysts' forecasts of around 74 cents a share.

Sales fell 9 percent to $3.79 billion from $4.18 billion, weighed down by last year's sale of part of its copier business. When those costs are excluded, sales fell 2 percent.

Kodak took a pretax charge of $46 million to cover an antitrust lawsuit. A California jury found that Kodak illegally refused to sell parts for copiers and microfilm machines to repair companies -- in August, a federal appeals court set aside half of the $71.8 million damage award.

The world's biggest photography company said the dollar's strength abroad carved 20 cents off each share in the third quarter, when Japanese archrival Fuji raised the stakes by slashing film prices in the United States.

Meantime, its huge investment in the emerging field of digital photography has so far failed to pay off. Its losses of more than $100 million in digital-imaging operations in the first half of this year deepened in the third quarter, but Kodak declined to say by how much.

Workers' comp costs falling
ALBANY (AP) -- New York's workers' compensation costs are higher than the national average, but are coming down, according to a study released Monday by the state Business Council.

According to the business lobbying group's study, average compensation costs for New York manufacturers was nearly 29 percent higher than the national average as of Jan. 1, 1997. Two years earlier, New York's rates were 57 percent above the U.S. average.

The study, conducted for the group by Actuarial Solutions of Long Island, showed that average workers' compensation premiums dropped 25 percent over the past two years.

The study also noted that wage replacement benefits for injured workers were 28 percent higher than the national average.

Another reduction, averaged at 8.4 percent, took effect earlier this year and was not part of the survey.

In other business news
Pharmacia & Upjohn Inc. said it is moving its headquarters from London to the East Coast and shifting or cutting 600 jobs from Kalamazoo, Mich. The drug maker, whose products include Rogaine hair restorer and Nicotrol nicotine patches, said its new headquarters will be in the mid-Atlantic region, but it declined to name a specific location.

Apple Computer Inc. announced price cuts. It said it reduced the prices of its desktop Power Macintosh 8600 line by $600 to $800, and is offering cash rebates of $250-$300 on them. It said it cut the Apple PowerBook 3400 notebook line by $800 to $1,000.

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