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Thousands of state layoffs coming, and utility rate hike vote today

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The governor is considering laying off between 10,000 and 15,000 state workers - depending on who you read.

Conflicting layoffs
The Buffalo News reports that the Cuomo administration is mulling layoffs of more than 10,000 state workers to help make up the state's deficit.  The Wall Street Journal says the cuts could number between 10,000 and 12,000, and the New York Times says up to 15,000.  It's all a guessing game until February 1, according to NYT:

But the cuts would represent a substantial downsizing of the state’s workforce, including clerical workers, state troopers and park rangers. And that belt-tightening would almost certainly be accompanied by noticeable reductions in government services, though it is hard to predict where and how much until Mr. Cuomo releases his proposed budget in early February. Mr. Cuomo has made trimming the state’s far-flung bureaucracy a top priority of his new administration, hoping to reduce costs to taxpayers and root out waste. Along with Medicaid and education spending, money for so-called “state operations,” including payroll, health and pension benefits, is one of the larger portions of spending borne directly by New York taxpayers.

It's budget gap season everywhere, and the Democrat and Chronicle has a good piece detailing the multiple deficits - city, city schools, and state - that planners will have to grapple with.

National Grid rate hike vote is today
The vote on whether or not National Grid can raise rates is today, and it's not looking good for the utility.  The state's Public Service Commission (PSC) has been rumbling for a while about granting the firm permission to hike rates at a far lower level than it requested.  The Times Union reports:

National Grid Chief Executive Officer Steve Holliday -- who always keeps a measured and diplomatic tone in public -- voiced his displeasure at the time. "I have to say I'm a bit disappointed," Holliday said in an internally produced interview posted on the National Grid website in November.

The rejection of the full rate hike request could lead the utility to try again, as early as later this year.  The Times Union's The Buzz blog is reporting that shares of the company are already dropping in anticipation of the ruling by the PSC.

State of SUNY
Reaction to SUNY chancellor Nancy Zimpher's "state of SUNY" address continues to roll in.  In Rochester, 13WHAM spoke with SUNY Geneseo students, where some of Zimpher's proposals were a miss, but others - like making it easier for students to transfer within SUNY - were a hit:

The difficulty in transferring all of one’s earned credits, despite staying within the SUNY system, is another obstacle the changes aim to overcome. "I had to end up taking three courses over once I transferred to Geneseo,” Hinz said of his transfer from Alfred State University. "I lost a course; I'm actually re-taking it this semester,” Alexandria Maker-Weipert, a SUNY Geneseo junior said. “It is only one course, but still that is something I paid for, I took, I did well in, and I'm having to take it again."

The Times Union points out that Zimpher didn't use her speech to pitch for allowing campuses to set their own tuition, which had been part of the "SUNY Empowerment" act last year.

Best companies to work for
The Post-Standard reports that research firm SRC Inc. and grocer Wegmans are on Fortune's 100 Best Companies to Work For list for this year:

The designation is a first for SRC, formerly known as Syracuse Research Corp., in Cicero. The not-for-profit research company ranked 78th on the list. This is the 14th time Wegmans has been named to the list. It was listed third last year, and retained that ranking in 2011. “This is a great honor and an outstanding testament to our employees’ hard work toward our goals and mission,” said Bob Behler, SRC’s president and chief executive officer. “I am extremely proud to work side-by-side with such great minds-their dedication and commitment to our customers, as well as the company, are enviable and make SRC the company that we are today.”

One other upstate firm, Mattel (based in East Aurora), also makes the list at number 69.  You can see the full list here.

Help for entrepreneurs
The Small Business Administration is holding a seminar in Buffalo to help entrepreneurs start or grow their businesses, reports the Democrat and Chronicle.

And the Press & Sun-Bulletin has a profile of Binghamton University's Small Business Development Center, which helps potential entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground:

The 20-hour program helps participants gauge the financial feasibility of their idea and develop a business plan, covering topics such as taxation and insurance. Guest speakers included bankers, accountants, insurance agents and lawyers. The 20-hour program is offered quarterly, with the next program being offered in May.

Obama economic policy
Business Insider has taken the liberty of summarizing a long piece in the New York Times Magazine, about the Obama administration’s trouble economic policy, for you.  While the Innovation Trail doesn't endorse CliffNotes, it is a helpful crib sheet in advance of the president’s visit to upstate on Friday.

Hydrofracking
The Daily Review in Towanda has a profile of how natural gas drilling has changed the outlook for Wilkes-Barre's economy and airport:

This year, as drilling expands and Texas and Oklahoma plates continue to fill parking spaces, the Marcellus Shale boom is poised to do more than increase passenger counts to pre-recession levels. It could transform the way the Pittston Twp. airport does business for years to come. "This is in the infant stages," airport director Barry Centini said. "We see a lot of leases, a lot of potential wells that could be drilled, and this could bring in a lot more people. We want to be prepared to handle them."

And after much negotiating, a coalition of landowners in the Southern Tier have signed a new deal with Inflection Energy, for gas drilling rights to an aggregated 3,000 acres.  The Press & Sun-Bulletin reports.

Promoting Erie County
The Buffalo News reports that Erie County's industrial development agency has a new website that profiles available space for business in the county:

"A Realtor doesn't have to get into a car and drive folks all over Western New York," said County Executive Chris Collins. "They can sit there at a computer and do it." It can be accessed through the Erie County Industrial Development Agency's website, www.ecidany.com. The website showcases industrial parks with at least 10 acres of available land.

Happy birthday!
The Oswego-Fulton Chamber of Commerce had its 95th annual meeting yesterday.  Yeah, you read that right - 95 years! Aside from hitting a pretty impressive vintage, the business of the meeting was fairly mundane, addressing membership dues, and recognizing members, according to Oswego County Business Magazine.

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