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Syracuse orchestra faces creditors in court, jobs on the rise in Rochester

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Times are tough for the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra - there's a lien on their Steinway.

The Syracuse Symphony Orchestra (SSO) heads to court today to duke it out with ceditors.  The now-defunct orchestra has about $4 million in liabilities, according to the Post-Standard:

The main secured creditor is M&T Bank, for a loan of about $545,000. The bank has a lien on the SSO’s Steinway piano, music library and other equipment. There are also 559 unsecured creditors, ranging from a $2.7 million debt to the musicians’ pension fund to useless $20 tickets for canceled concerts for its 50th anniversary season. The SSO owes the Oncenter, the government-owned facility where it plays most concerts, $68,000 for hall rental, food and ticket fees and another $2,500 for parking. The orchestra has $101,000 in the bank.

Job growth

The Rochester area is adding private sector jobs at a clip not seen since the early 90s, reports Diana Louise Carter at the Democrat and Chronicle.  Even though the region picked up nearly 12,000 jobs from May 2010 to May 2011, the numbers still aren’t great though:

The region's unemployment rate remains high by historical standards — 7.1 percent in May, down from 7.2 percent in April and 7.8 percent in May 2010. Part of the reason it hasn't declined more is that people are entering the labor force to look for jobs. When they were sitting at home and not looking, they weren't counted as unemployed. Almost 529,000 people were in the regional labor force in May, up more than 4,000 from April. Some were recent college graduates, while others were drawn by the increasing possibility that they might find work.

Tax breaks

Protestors gathered at two of upstate New York’s beleaguered malls yesterday to protest corporations getting tax breaks - and then failing to create jobs.  Union workers came out to the Carousel Center in Syracuse and the Medley Center in the Rochester suburbs, to lambast the breaks that father and son Scott and Robert Congel have gotten respectively at both properties - without delivering the promised economic revitalization.  David Andreatta reports at the Democrat and Chronicle that the events were timed to a report from the Alliance for a Greater New York about how the governor should use his much-discussed “regional councils:”

The report cited the Medley Centre as a failure of those policies, as the developer, Scott Congel, has not delivered on his pledge to invest $260 million into remaking the mall into a tourist destination with 900 new jobs despite receiving tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks over 30 years. "The Medley Centre is an example of a good idea gone bad," said Bob DeNoto, of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 86. In Syracuse, demonstrators gathered at the Carousel Center, where Congel's father, Robert, has not realized longstanding plans to revamp the mall into a tourist mecca called Destiny USA that would include a 1,300-room hotel and 18-hole golf course. "New York spends $8 billion a year on corporate tax breaks in the name of economic development with precious little show for it," said Paula Hansen, president of Metro Justice.

Phones still out for social service provider

The Spanish Action League in Syracuse has been without phone service for three weeks, and employees are resorting to their cell phones to help provide social services to their clients, reports Charley Hannagan at the Post-Standard:

The company’s telephone service provider Choice One Communications and Verizon, which carries the service through its lines, blame each other for the league’s loss of service at its 700 Oswego St. offices, Paniagua said. In the meantime, the league has no service, she said. “It’s been very frustrating. No one really listens,” [league executive diretor Rita] Paniagua said. Spokespeople from Choice One, now called Earthlink, and Verizon were unavailable this morning to speak about the league's problem.

Kodak retirees

Kodak retirees in Rochester gathered yesterday to talk about how to protect their pension benefits from the vagaries of the economy and changing tides at the company, reports Diana Louise Carter at the Democrat and Chronicle:

Pension plans from Kodak are well-funded and secure, [Kodak retiree group president Bob] Volpe and the other panelists said, but economic changes and the company's future path could have a negative effect on health insurance coverage and some other benefits. "Our financial viability is tied inextricably to Kodak's viability," Volpe said. The group offered some reassurances and basic explanations of the vagaries of retirement benefits, but also provided some "what-if" scenarios were Kodak to go bankrupt or be sold.

Utica’s Victorian renaissance

And to end, this fascinating story from Dan Miner at the Observer-Dispatch, about the man who bought the old HSBC Bank building in downtown Utica to turn it into a stage for Victorian reenactments - or whatever else he fancied:

[Accountant-turned-developer Ronald] Prince bought the marble-faced building in 2009 from U.S. Bank for $250,000 – unusually, by developer standards, putting it in his own name – and thinking it had a number of possibilities. Restaurants, a performing arts venue and lofts came to mind. But the ultimate vision was a headquarters for a fair that could evoke 19th century urbanity. Where better than Utica? he thought. “He seemed a little eccentric,” said Robert Sullivan, who at the time was the city’s Urban and Economic Development commissioner. “Anybody who talks about establishing a Victorian fair in Upstate New York ... I was like, ‘OK, well, he’s got different ideas.”

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