Tag Archives: business

Corporate Welfare King Complains About Socialism; Obama Looks Forward

25 Jul

A couple of weeks ago, President Obama gave a speech in Virginia where he somewhat clumsily made the assertion that even self-made businessmen didn’t get successful on their own. They had teachers who inspired them, firefighters and police who protect them, roads that help them engage in commerce, and that ours is a society in which we are somewhat interdependent on each other; i.e., “government” to help private enterprise thrive. It is thus everywhere, despite the current fad among some to denigrate government and everything it does. Fox News is, naturally, at the forefront of this phony nontroversy, even trotting out a couple of little kids to discuss how N0bama is nationalizing their lemonade stand, or something. 

So, Mitt Romney – who purports to be a self-made businessman, facts notwithstanding – put out this ad: 

Jack Gilchrist, the New Hampshire business owner Romney features in that ad, is right out of Republicanland central casting. He whines that the President is “demonizing” people like him, who, with his father, built his business, “through hard work and a little bit of luck”. Also, the black Kenyan guy doesn’t “believe in America”. So, there’s that. 

Yet Jack Gilchrist didn’t just get where he is thanks to hard work, luck, teachers, roads, and civic protection services. He also got there thanks to thousands of socialist government dollars

In 1999, Gilchrist Metal received $800,000 in tax-exempt revenue bonds issued by the New Hampshire Business Finance Authority “to set up a second manufacturing plant and purchase equipment to produce high definition television broadcasting equipment,” according to a New Hampshire Union Leader report at the time…

Last year, Gilchrist Metal also received two U.S. Navy sub-contracts totaling about $83,000 and a smaller $5,600 Coast Guard contract in 2008, according to a government web site that tracks spending.

Gilchrist also is a recipient of an SBA loan of about $500,000, with matching funds from the federally-funded New England Trade Adjustment Assistance Center.  In other words, Gilchrist got where he is thanks to hard work, a little bit of luck, and over a million dollars in federal and state corporate welfare. Out of all the businesspeople available in the country to use to send this message, Romney’s campaign didn’t even adequately vet their Obama-hating generic middle-aged blue-collar rich guy. 

By contrast, in the wake of the Aurora shootings, the Obama campaign took the opportunity to speak frankly to the American people about what’s really at stake in this election, and he also directly addressed Romney’s clumsy rejection of civic society: 

Kodak Moment

6 Jan


I will never, for the life of me, understand why Kodak couldn’t have pivoted into becoming a digital imaging giant. I haven’t developed a roll of film in ten years, and Kodak owned tons of digital imaging patents. I’ll never understand why Canon, Nikon, Leica, Minolta, Pentax, and other foreign camera makers thrive on excellence and innovation, but Kodak couldn’t get it together to make a quality digital imaging product that people around the world would use. It was all unnecessary and myopic.

HT Marquil from EmpireWire.com.

Matt Chandler: Don’t Legalize the #BUFTruck

2 Nov

When last we Fisked a column by Matt Chandler of Buffalo Business First, he was busy imploring all the mean people to stop being mean to kind old racist Carl Paladino. Today, he publishes an article that is supportive of the food trucks in Buffalo, but then essentially asks the Common Council to stop crafting legislation that would legalize their operation.

As it stands now, the food trucks operate essentially as outlaws. They can sell food in the city so long as no one complains. But if someone does complain, there are no rules in place to protect anybody, and the trucks get chased away by the police. Trucks are permitted to operate on private property with permission, or along Buffalo Place in the central business district with a permit.

So, Chandler is exactly correct when he writes,

The argument is that trucks can park outside and siphon business away from bricks-and-mortar restaurants. The problem with that argument is simple: Ask people how they decide where to eat lunch and they’ll usually list a combination of the following: Who has the best food? Who has the fastest service? And who is most affordable?

It doesn’t matter if you are slinging dogs out of a cart, tacos from a truck or sandwiches out of a building, those factors drive customers.

The food trucks are simply another form of business competition, and competition is good.

If traditional restaurants are threatened, it should drive them to improve their product, deliver it with more efficiency and stay competitive in their pricing. At the end of the day, the customer wins.

But then, noting that the Common Council had tabled (again) proposed regulations, he asks them to leave it there. This completely ignores the fact that it’s the food trucks who are helping drive the debate on setting rules and regulations so that they are permitted to operate in the city without fear of being chased away arbitrarily and capriciously. Regulation is not a bad word when it protects the competing rights of mobile and stationary businesses to be treated fairly.

Currently, the proposals from the trucks and the brick & mortars are largely similar. Some differences exist – for instance, the trucks want a 200′ radius from the front doors of open kitchens, while the restaurants want the radius to emanate from the walls of any such restaurant, not just the front door. The restaurants want the city to set up special vending districts in city lots, and the trucks oppose this. The restaurants want “tax parity”, which is somewhat ridiculous. This is why we have legislatures and courts. Now, the lobbying begins in earnest. We know what each side’s proposal is.

So, after mounting an eloquent defense of the food trucks, Chandler ends with this:

With buildings crumbling, houses abandoned, schools a mess and jobs evaporating daily, don’t our elected officials have more important things to devote their time to?

As for me. I’m going to file this blog, then finish eating the delicious turkey sandwich I bought from the brick-and-mortar deli located 25 feet from a food truck. They prepared it fast, charged a reasonable price and, most important, it is delicious.

I can’t really think of a more pressing issue for city government to take up than freeing up a new business sector to do business in the city.  I can’t think of something more important for the legislature of a poor city to do than to help enable an entire, brand-new sector of small businesses with comparatively low startup costs to legally operate in the city. The Common Council shouldn’t forever table this bill – on the contrary, it should act on it as soon as possible, and do so in such a way that we end the status quo, which is tantamount to illegal protectionism of restaurants.

I wonder what deli is located 25 feet from a food truck?

Poloncarz on Jobs

2 Nov

We like to tout how immune we’ve been from the global financial crisis and recession, but I don’t think 50 years’ worth of economic, commercial, industrial, and population decline and treading water are much to be proud of.

And while the right wing in this region like to blame the “failed policies” of Democrats, let’s remember that we have had exactly one Democratic county executive in the history of Erie County, and under Dennis Gorski we had budget surpluses. Twice, Republican County Executives have plunged the county into economic crisis through tax cuts paired with increased spending.

Republicans don’t like or trust government because they don’t know how to govern. Democrats understand and recognize that government has a role to play in our economy.

Well, that’s not totally true.

Republicans like Chris Collins also think that government has a role to play in our economy, but that role is limited to stuff suburban people like, such as toboggan runs and golf courses. Stuff poor city people need? That we privatize, regardless of the financial realities.

And that’s a central issue for me – if you’re supposedly for smaller government, as Collins and other Republicans claim to be, wouldn’t it be the frivolous recreational things that should go first? Aren’t golf courses and toboggan runs the types of items that can be privatized or sold off to the private sector? On the other hand, feeding the poor, treating the sick, and ensuring that we have a healthy, educated population are things that government has to do, and do well. That doesn’t mean throwing money away, it means getting rid of what doesn’t work and promoting what does.

As the quote above suggests, Collins promised to grow our population and make the region more job-friendly. Through his machinations to manufacture majorities in the legislature, he has few excuses.

In the beginning of his term, Chris Collins proclaimed, “[w]e must grow as a community or we will die.”

He also said the public should hold his administration “accountable for [their] promises,” adding, “just like we do in the private sector.”

Mark Poloncarz has a plan to grow jobs, our population, and our economy. He has a plan to use our natural advantages – economic, social, and geographic – to grow our economy. We need a unified, regional approach to business development, not one that enables one town to poach business from another. That figurative re-arranging of Titanic deck chairs is usually touted as a “win”, but it’s not – not if that win is at the expense of another WNY community.

Poloncarz wants Erie County to better link our economy to that of Southern Ontario and Toronto. We need to be – and should be – the natural US headquarters for Canadian corporations looking to do business here, like Labatt USA is.

As County Executive, Mark Poloncarz will make it the top priority of his administration to create new jobs for Erie County – not just move jobs from one part of the county to another, as has been the practice under Collins’ tenure. Mark will task his administration to bring in new businesses to the region which will generate new jobs and to create an atmosphere that will add jobs to existing businesses. Mark will also work to consolidate myriad of industrial and municipal development agencies that currently exist to make it easier for out of area businesses to view Erie County as a viable option for business development. Currently, Erie County has six Industrial Development Agencies (“IDAs”) that often poach businesses from one part of the county to another.

Instead of working together as a County and doing whatever possible to attract new business to relocate into the area or grow and sustain current businesses, we are acting as individual towns and cities fighting among ourselves to attract businesses. The reality is we are not creating new jobs, we are merely shifting existing jobs to one town at the expense of another. This practice is not sustainable and it must stop.

Back in 2006 during the debate over the Erie County Charter, there was a consensus that someone in the Rath Building should act in the manner of a county manager – someone apolitical who can be a good administrator, while the elected official promotes the region. Poloncarz wants his Deputy County Executive to be in charge of promoting and growing jobs in the region. More jobs means more people means community growth.

Collins’ reign has been punctuated by gimmicky Six Sigma, which has cost millions and generated no savings whatsoever. He ran as someone who is “not a politician”, but has been more political than even his predecessor. He rejects regionalism, which in turn promotes fractured, redundant government and delivery of services.

Election Day is next Tuesday the 8th. People are saying they don’t want to hear about dirty tricks anymore, they want to know about issues. Over the next several days, I’ll be highlighting the issues and why I’m voting for Mark Poloncarz for County Executive.

Jobs, regional business development, a one-stop office for business attraction and incentivization, growing and enhancing our contacts with business and government counterparts in Ontario, and creating a more business-friendly environment to help WNY better compete against other regions in the US will be among Poloncarz’s priorities when he is sworn in as County Executive in January.

The Food Trucks Propose a Law (UPDATED)

28 Oct

The following document was filed with the Common Council today. It represents the law the food trucks would like to see enacted to regulate their business in the city of Buffalo.

UPDATE: The document I posted below was missing a page from the proposed bill. Here is the entire document: 


Note that they are adamantly against – and will oppose – any distance restriction beyond a 100′ from an open kitchen, or 500′ from a festival.  Apart from that, no additional restrictions are proposed. The definition of a food truck is clarified to exclude hot dog vendors and trailers, and the statute is rather succinct in requiring a license, health inspections by the county, and the aforementioned radius from brick & mortar restaurants. That’s it.

The ball’s now in the Common Council’s court. This proposal was filed so that the Council could consider it at its November 1st meeting.


Thoughts on the #BUFTruck Council Hearing (UPDATED)

30 Sep

As promised, here are my thoughts about the Food Truck public hearing at City Hall yesterday:

1. It was striking that only one person spoke in opposition to the food trucks.  John Fusco of Zetti’s has become something of an unintentional internet phenomenon with his focus on restrooms and his strong New York accent, but upon reflection, boycotting these restaurants isn’t the answer. I know Fusco, and he’s a good guy. I disagree strongly with what he said, but I appreciate that he was the solitary truck opponent to get up and voice his concerns. I have a bigger problem with the other restaurants, who put on a conciliatory public face while trying to kill or hyper-restrict the trucks.

2. The truck owners were very eloquent advocates for their cause. Pete Cimino of Where’s Lloyd was especially passionate and really killed it.

3. The Common Councilmembers who were present (all except Mickey Kearns) all seemed to indicate that they were willing to pass a law to regulate (in a good way) food trucks, and are concerned about the time, place, and manner details. This is the sausage-making that most people ignore, but is critically important.

4. The resolution at the end of the meeting was that the trucks and restaurants put their heads together and come up with a set of rules that everyone can live with. It is hoped that recommendations from this advisory committee will be completed within 30 days, in the hope that the law can be changed by November.

5. Going back to that word – “regulation”. It sometimes gets an undeserved bad rap. Regulating food trucks with time, place, and manner restrictions is a massive improvement over the status quo, whereby the trucks are prohibited from working the streets and setting up just about anywhere except on private property, or in locations for which they have a permit.

6. The story told by architect and developer Steve Carmina was startling. He owns a building at Main & Mohawk that likely wouldn’t have been leased had Lloyd’s taco truck not set up there and made that corner a destination of sorts a few days per week. That stretch of Main Street is especially bleak and depressing, but when that truck is there, it acts as a magnet for people from all over the city and region. He gave the truck credit for that pedestrian traffic and resulting economic activity, which in effect revitalized that corner.

7. There has been some “first world problems” and “stuff white people like” type criticism over this issue. I get it. But scratch the surface, and this is an issue that has plagued Buffalo for years – the city’s business friendliness. There’s loads of reasons why Buffalo’s downtown business district is a bleak shell even between 9 – 5 on a weekday.  Further restrictions on mobile businesses will only help to perpetuate that – ease them and perhaps it’ll change.

8. The food trucks are at a seasonal disadvantage. When the temperature drops, their customers won’t take kindly to standing in line for an extended period of time exposed to the elements. The regulations the city imposes should be eased between November – March to let the food trucks more easily find customers.

9. Two people spoke, expressing to the Council that they were prepared to invest huge money into their own food trucks, but not until the legal uncertainties were resolved. That’s the real-life consequence of slow action on needed legislation.

10. It’s great that people are taking an interest in this political process.  Hopefully, they’ll recognize that almost all of Buffalo’s problems have political solutions and they’ll become more involved and active.

11. I will try to keep on top of the committee’s work and report what sort of progress is being made, and what sort of nonsense might be taking place.

12. The legislative process is silly and slow, but the city, her leaders, and their staff are listening. A petition posted earlier this week has garnered over 4,300 signatures solely based on social media.  Each time that petition was signed, that signature was sent via email to each Councilmember and the head of Buffalo Place.

13. The Mayor’s office has been characteristically silent. Typical. Why is he letting the Council lead on this issue? Why isn’t the Mayor taking a stand one way or another – why isn’t he saying anything about what is at its core a story about how the city deals with businesses, and how quickly it adapts to novelty? To my mind, Byron Brown should spend the next week sampling the wares at each of the trucks, listening to their concerns and stories.  He should be thanking them for enhancing the quality of life downtown. Because he’s a politician, he should also be listening to the concerned restaurants.  He should also then be using his office to be a leader, and help bring about a fair resolution that is a win for everyone. We don’t have a mayor like that, apparently. This issue underscores what a disappointment that is.

UPDATE: 14. I forgot to add the most important part. SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL FOOD TRUCKS. 


Related articles

The Food Truck Public Meeting: What to Expect

28 Sep

1. It will be in room 1417 of City Hall at 10am on Thursday September 28th.  In case the crowd is too large, there is a strong possibility that the meeting might be moved to the legislative chambers on the 13th floor.

2. You will have an opportunity to speak, if you wish.  Look for a sign-in sheet. There are no restrictions on who can speak, but it is likely that your comments will be limited in time, and that they be relevant to the matter at hand.  Tailor your remarks in such a way as to zealously advocate on behalf of the food trucks you love, while recognizing the legitimate concerns that existing brick & mortar restaurants have.  If you have specific recommendations or ideas, bring them up – don’t assume that it’s obvious, and don’t assume it’s already been thought of. If you have researched the matter and can point to specific provisions of actual laws that have been enacted in other cities, cite them.

3. This is not a bitch session. This is your opportunity to be heard with respect to some real, positive legislative change that will put Buffalo ahead of many other cities in the state. If you’re a Buffalo booster – young or old – this is a big deal.

4. Come with your mind open. Do not presume that all restaurants are opposed to food trucks. Do not prejudge what the councilmembers’ opinions or positions are. If someone speaks on behalf of a business association with which you disagree, listen respectfully. When you’re doing something novel – when you’re ahead of the times – there’s a lot of hand-wringing and anxiety that goes into that. Be respectful of others’ viewpoints, and expect them to be respectful of yours.

5. The matter is not going to be resolved tomorrow.  You will not walk out of there having witnessed a new food truck law being debated and enacted. This is just one part of a lengthy process, which will continue to evolve and be discussed and debated – both privately and publicly.

6. The meeting will be live-streamed. Look for it here at WNYMedia.net.

Sign the Petition: Let the Food Trucks Roam Buffalo

26 Sep

I realize that the regulation of food trucks is not the most pressing matter facing the world, the state, the city, our society, etc. I am fully cognizant of the fact that this is, on the surface, a first world problem.

However, this is also an issue about freedom to do business in a business-unfriendly place. This is an issue about defeating a strict adherence to oldthink with grassroots support for something new, good, and innovative. The very fact that the food trucks in Buffalo have had to unite for a lobbying effort to counteract an effort to run them out of business by existing quick-serve brick & mortar restaurants underscores the difficulty they face in just being allowed to operate in a reasonable way, and in changing presumptions and mindsets.

This isn’t about poaching customers or throwing a middle finger up at existing restaurants.  This is about setting up reasonable, rational regulations to protect the food trucks’ right to do business, and also to protect the concerns of existing brick & mortar restaurants, many of whom are quite supportive of the food truck movement.

Good food and consumer choice wins here. Please sign the petition, linked-to below, which has been endorsed and approved by the Buffalo coalition of food trucks. This will be sent to each Common Council member, as well as the Executive Director of Buffalo Place. Be heard.


#BuffCashMob To Village Beer Merchant

11 Aug

You voted, we listened and the winner of this week’s #BuffCashMob is The Village Beer Merchant! If you have no idea what the Buffalo Cash Mob is, click here to find out and then click here to see how the first Cash Mob went last week at City Wine Merchant. Or read the story in The Buffalo News.


Located at 547 Elmwood Avenue, Village Beer Merchant (VBM) is the most unique and complete gourmet food and specialty beer one stop-shopping store in the City of Buffalo.

You can buy the beer in bottles, make your own six-pack, or fill up a growler of beer from their wall of taps.

While VBM offers more than 1,200 craft and import beers, it is much more than just a beer store. VBM’s extensive selection of gourmet products and foods, from Stonewall kitchen products to Belgian chocolates, will help you liven up any meal and inspire new culinary ideas. At VBM you can also find fine cheeses, assorted imported meats and olives, along with toppings, spreads and crackers.

Join us this Friday between 5-7PM to show the love to a local business that made an investment in our community by spending a minimum of $10 on their products. Lets keep it local and support our entrepreneurs!


Beers On Tap are always being replaced once a keg is finished. Please call ahead to insure availability of your favorite beer On Tap.
While we hope to have the below selections available when you arrive at The Village Beer Merchant, we cannot promise that a keg won’t run dry before you get here.  We rarely put the same beer on tap once a keg has kicked. We apologize if one of the listed beers is gone when you get here.  Be sure to call and double check for current listings!

Beers On Tap as of Saturday 08.06.11

01. Sierra Nevada Summerfest
02. 3 Heads Ontario Coast IPA
03. Flying Bison ESB
04. DeKoninck Belgian Amber
05. Ellicottville Black Hops
06. Flying Bison Buffalo Lager
07. Wolavers Wildflower Wheat
08. Abita Satsuma Wit
09. Original Sin Vermont Cider
10. Sam Adams Latitude 48 (Simcoe single-hop version)
11. Great Divide Hercules Double IPA
12. Otter Creek Summer Pale Ale
13. Victory Sunrise Weisse
14. Sam Adams Imperial White
15. Lake Placid Ubu Ale
16. Southern Tier Farmer’s Tan Imperial Lager
17. Southern Tier Hop Sun
18. Sam Adams East/West Kolsch
19. Flying Bison Aviator Red
20. Flying Bison Cascade Hop Lemonade (N/A)

The Village Beer Merchant on Beer Advocate

Village Beer Merchant on Yelp

Village Beer Merchant on BuffaloBarfly

Click here for directions to the Village Beer Merchant.


#BuffCashMob: Nominations, Please

2 Aug

This past weekend, Chris introduced us to the #BuffCashMob idea, which he describes as

Rather than do the slacktivist thing, posting links to businesses we like and writing on their Facebook pages, let’s get out, en masse, and show them some straight up cash love. Buy their goods, pay for their services, patronize their establishments. And have a great fucking time doing it!

The goal will be to get 100 people to “flash mob” a local establishment to spend $10-$20 each on the goods and services offered. No discounts, no coupons, no special deals. Just spend $10 in their business.

Think of it as a reverse-Groupon. Instead of businesses offering crazy discounts to get people to mob their stores, the Buffalo hivemind is going to take the initiative and spend money for goods & services at posted prices. The best way to promote and grow Buffalo business is to support and patronize them.

The thought for the inaugural #BuffCashMob is that it ought to probably take place around 5:30 this Friday, perhaps at a local watering hole as a Twitter meetup happy hour. But really, what it is, is up to you. Fill out the form below or Tweet your nominations using the #BuffCashMob hashtag, or by @replying to the @BuffCashMob Twitter account. We’ll post a poll Thursday of the top three semifinalists, and announce the winner Friday morning.  Happy voting!