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Who won, who didn't in 2006

It's been another of those one step forward, one step backward kind of years. Here's a look at some of the Buffalo Niagara region's winners and losers in 2006:

>The winners

NRG Energy -- For now, the owner of the Huntley Station in the Town of Tonawanda is a winner, but only if they can come up with the extra aid or cost cuts to make their clean-coal power plant economically viable. Otherwise, NRG Energy could turn into just another Bass Pro.

HSBC Bank USA -- A new data center in Niagara County and an expanded one in Amherst will bring high-tech jobs to the region. Sure, the project means only about 80 new HSBC jobs and the bank is getting huge incentives and tax breaks, but these are coveted 21st century jobs that pay more than double the region's average. And for each HSBC job, the project is expected to create five or six more tech jobs at support firms.

B. Thomas Golisano -- The Rochester businessman is reaping his rewards now for buying a bankrupt hockey team and enduring a yearlong lockout. Now, the Sabres, with a roster of exciting players and a hot start, are the hottest ticket in town, and that means Golisano's investment in the Sabres is worth a lot more than it was when he plucked the team out of the bargain bin.

Walter Zurowski -- The president of Hydro-Air Components in Hamburg mastered the art of the deal in 2006. First he played the "Give me money or I'll move the business" card to the hilt, playing the region off against North Carolina to win big incentives for a $7.5 million plant in South Buffalo. Two months later, a Swiss company, Zehnder Group AG, bought the whole company.

>The losers

Bass Pro -- After more than two years, even the region's development officials finally lost touch with the fishing and outdoor chain. And really, that's a good thing, because Bass Pro's expansion since then has taken much of the cachet away from the chain. A store here would be just another store, just like a new Buffalo casino will be just another gambling joint.

Autoworkers -- It was the Year of the Buyout at local auto plants, as General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Delphi Inc. and American Axle and Manufacturing all offered their workers big checks to give up their jobs. Nearly 3,000 local autoworkers took the money and ran, rather than risk involuntary job cuts down the road as U.S. automakers lose market share. The departing workers got a nice soft landing, and hopefully the jobs of the remaining workers are more secure, but the local auto industry will only be a shadow of the giant it once was.

James J. Allen and Charles Webb -- It's been a rough year to run an IDA. Allen, who heads the Amherst Industrial Development Agency, faced a renewed push to merge his organization into a single, countywide agency, losing a previously staunch ally, the Amherst Town Board, in the process. Then there was the "Pulse on America" flap. Allen first said he had no idea how the Amherst IDA was picked to be on CNN. Then it turned out it was because the agency paid $25,000 and that "Eye on America" was just an infomercial. For Webb, who proved to be more of a technocrat than a visionary, his tenure atop the Erie County IDA ended after three uninspiring years.

Buffalo Wire Works strikers -- The 38 members of the Machinists union walked off their jobs in November 2005, balking at the manufacturer's proposal to cut wages, benefits and vacation time. Nine months later, with management refusing to budge, the workers ended their strike. But it was too late. Their jobs were gone, filled by replacements.

e-mail: drobinson@buffnews.com

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