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FIRMS HOLD THEIR GROUND IN A TOUGH ECONOMY

Given the slow upstate economy in general, Southern Tier business held steady in 1998, according to area economic development officials.

"It was an up year for us," said Mickey Martelle, executive director of the Allegany County Industrial Development Agency. "Our two major industries, Dresser-Rand and ABB Air Preheater, are holding their own."

Martelle pointed to $30 million in tax-free bonds issued for Alfred University that helped the school refinance its debt and rewire the campus to meet the increased demands brought on by computers. Another $22 million in bonds were sold for Houghton College, which also refinanced its debt and built a new music performance facility.

Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. bought the dormant electricity co-generation plant in Hume. Between that and an expansion at the greenhouse that had been the main purchaser of the plant's power, Martelle said about 33 new jobs will be created.

"Don't forget that in Allegany County, New York's second-poorest county, we kill for three jobs," Martelle said.

There has also been growth in Cuba, where the IDA refurbished the old Acme Electric building. The building is full now, Martelle said, with 21 tenants. An abandoned Agway mill across the street is also being refurbished and already has three new tenants.

Cattaraugus County

In Cattaraugus County, John Sayegh, director of economic development, planning and tourism, said plans to extend Route 219 south to the Pennsylvania border have caused the county to plan for business expansion along the 219 corridor in Ellicottville and Limestone.

In Limestone, the county is proposing to build a new entrance to Allegany State Park, and hopes that will trigger some development in the village. In Ellicottville, Sayegh said the county is studying the feasibility of building a performance amphitheater on a 10-acre site that would be donated by the Holiday Valley ski resort.

The county helped the resort add additional snow-making capability and grooming equipment.

Norm Leyh, executive director of the Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency, said the agency assisted in 14 projects that involved $72 million. Among them were expansions at St. Bonaventure University and Olean General Hospital.

Gir's Farm Service in Conewango Valley, which sells animal feeds, completed expansion of its manufacturing facilities, and Gernatt Asphalt Products of Great Valley has begun a $5.9 million expansion and renovation of its plant.

Expansion for 21 other manufacturing concerns meant about 100 new jobs in the county, Leyh said.

Chautauqua County

In Chautauqua County, the IDA wrote $30 million in tax-exempt bonds, which helped WCA Hospital in Jamestown restructure its debt and make some renovations, according to Tony Raffa, special projects coordinator for the county's Department of Development.

Dowcraft Corp. in Falconer, a manufacturer of movable wall partitions, constructed a new facility at an old woolen mill. The project will mean an additional 25 to 30 jobs, he said.

New bonds also helped Jamestown Community College acquire a building that will expand its Dunkirk campus.

The start of 1999 brought bad news for some Bush Industries employees. The furniture manufacturer announced that it was laying off 239 of its 1,800 employees in Western New York. More than half of those laid off were temporary employees, though, and Bush said it hopes to return most of them to the payroll in the future.

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