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U.S. home construction at a virtual standstill

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Home construction in the United States is all but coming to a halt.

Americans are on track to buy fewer new homes than in any year since the government began keeping data almost a half-century ago. Sales are now just half the pace of 1963 -- even though there are 120 million more people in the United States now.

The sliding sales show just how far the housing market has fallen since the bubble burst four years ago. And they're a blow to the economic recovery as it draws strength from other places.

Diminished sales have driven the median price of a new home down to about $202,000, the lowest since 2003. If the sluggish sales continue, analysts say, small homebuilders will fold, meaning less competition as the market improves and higher prices later.

"The longer it goes on, the more builders will drift away from the industry altogether," said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist of Capital Economics.

Ashworth noted that a surge in foreclosures is forcing down prices for previously occupied homes even faster than they're falling for new homes. As a result, new homes are less attractive to buyers.


2 local companies get grants

Empire State Development Corp.'s board has approved economic development grants totaling up to $530,000 for two Western New York companies.

Windham Professionals, a collections agency in East Aurora, was approved for a grant of up to $280,000, to support an expansion tied into a contract it won with the New York State Higher Education Services Corp.

The funds will be used to help cover the cost of acquiring and installing furniture, fixtures and equipment. ESD said the project, whose total cost is $2.34 million, will retain 60 jobs and create 140 others.

SKF Heat Transfer was awarded a grant of up to $250,000 to help pay for acquisition and installation of machinery and equipment related to construction of a facility in Falconer. The total project cost is $18 million.


Marranca heads bank group

Salvatore Marranca, president and CEO of Cattaraugus County Bank in Little Valley, was formally elected Wednesday as chairman of the national trade group for community banks.

The former federal bank examiner and Vietnam veteran, elected at a convention in San Diego, will serve a one-year term for 2011 to 2012, representing community banks in lobbying Congress and regulators. He previously served as head of a state trade group as well.

According to the text of his remarks, Marranca told the gathering that community banks "truly are America's financial foundation" and the future is bright.

"We will also keep reminding lawmakers that community banks are the economic engines of Main Street. So let us do our jobs to help the businesses, the nonprofits, the young people, and the seniors in our communities. Let us help them fulfill their dreams."


Girasole on appraisal board

LEWISTON -- Anthony P. Girasole, a principal with Brisbane Consulting Group in Buffalo and a Lewiston resident, has been chosen to serve on the New York State Board of Real Estate Appraisal, State Sen. George D. Maziarz announced.

The board oversees the activities of all real estate appraisers across the state, including setting policy, reviewing licensing applications, adjudicating complaints and monitoring New York Department of State appraisal activities.

Girasole worked in the family business, Girasole Appraisal Co., for more than two decades, including 13 years as its president. His father served on the Real Estate Appraisal Board in the early 1990s.

Girasole also will become president of the New York State Society of Real Estate Appraisers later this year.


Waste company acquired

Summer Street Capital Partners has purchased a waste collection business in West Virginia and Maryland, the Buffalo-based private-equity firm said.

Summer Street purchased Apple Valley Waste, which provides solid waste collection and recycling services in Berkley and Jefferson counties in West Virginia and in Washington County in Maryland.

Apple Valley is based in Keameysville, W.Va. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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