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Money

IBM seeks to move pollution trial, Rochester real estate improving

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Alice Bartlett
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IBM wants to move a pollution trial out of Broome County.

IBM wants to move a hearing about pollution at a former Endicott site out of the Broome County area, reports Jon Campbell at the Press & Sun-Bulletin:

About 1,000 individuals, groups and businesses are part of a series of toxic tort lawsuits against the company, alleging that decades of chemical pollution and trichloroethylene (TCE) seeping from IBM's North Street plant in Endicott caused illnesses, deaths, damaged property values and hurt business. IBM has said the claims are without merit. "New York state has strict rules prohibiting any extended family relationships between plaintiffs and potential jurors," Shelton said. "The tactics create a situation where it makes no sense to try this case in Broome County when it may be subject to certain reversal after months of effort and much expense for all parties involved."

Real estate
Positive signs are cropping up in Rochester's commercial real estate market, reports Tom Tobin at the Democrat and Chronicle:

It will take time for the commercial market to return to the aggressively confident days of 2006 or 2007, the industry experts said. But the leasing of retail and industrial space and the sale of commercial properties are picking up. "People are talking again. And when people talk, positive things happen," said Michael Frame, managing broker of CB Richard Ellis/Rochester, a major global player in the commercial field. CB Richard Ellis has been working with Eastman Kodak Co. in seeking tenants or buyers for properties in the massive Eastman Business Park in Rochester and Greece. "It's definitely better," said Larry Glazer, CEO of Buckingham Properties in Rochester. "Rental and suburban properties are doing well, while downtown office is still soft."

Kodak
An institutional Kodak investor is calling on the photo firm to invest more in a turnaround or sell itself, reports Matt Daneman at the Democrat and Chronicle:

Investment Partners oversees more than 205,000 Kodak shares and $1 million worth of Kodak bonds. The firm has a history of activism with the companies in which it invests, having in the past year also contacted hearing aid company Otix Global Inc. and power company Constellation Energy Partners with recommendations for improvement. [Investment Partners co-principal Gregg] Abella pointedly questioned Kodak CEO Antonio M. Perez last month at the company's annual investor conference in New York City about the idea of a sale of the company. Perez deflected the question. On Wednesday, Kodak spokesman David Lanzillo said the company continues "to execute the strategy that we presented to investors on Feb. 3, and we remain committed to completing our transformation into a sustainable, profitable company."

Meanwhile Molly Cappotelli reports at the Rochester Business Journal that Kodak has scheduled its annual meeting for May 11 in San Diego.  Investment Partners should get their proxy vote form by March 31 - but I'm guessing they're going to show up in person.

Manufacturing
Western New York's manufacturing index dropped in February, as it grew elsewhere in the nation. David Robinson at the Buffalo News reports:

“As the local and national indexes continue to diverge, the question becomes: Which one is lagging the other?” said Arthur D. Aramino, the chairman of the National Association of Purchasing Management—Buffalo’s business survey committee. Mikhail Melnik, a Niagara University economist, said he views last month’s steep decline in the local index as a sign that factory activity here is stabilizing, after showing signs of modest growth since November 2009. “Our regional index does not yet indicate a contraction in manufacturing activity, but rather a leveling off, with near zero growth,” said Melnik, who predicts that local growth rates will be about 1 percent lower during the first half of this year than they were during the second half of last year.

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