David Robinson | The Buffalo News
It’s been a year that Goldilocks would love for Buffalo Niagara business.
Not too hot, since our growth hasn’t kept pace with the rest of the country, in keeping with our recent pattern.
But not too cold either, with the job market tightening, unemployment dropping and hiring moving along at a slightly better-than-average pace.
With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the Buffalo Niagara business community’s winners and losers in this most moderate year.
ACV Auctions – The online auto auction company already was a winner after walking away with the $1 million grand prize from the 43North business plan competition in 2015. But it was an even bigger winner this year, as its newly launched business took root and branched out into new markets.
Along the way, it raised $5 million in new funding and brought on Synacor Inc. co-founder George Chamoun in a move to add a CEO with experience turning a startup into an established business. And it’s already hired about 30 people in Buffalo.
Frank Heard – When the Gibraltar Industries CEO joined the company in May 2014 as the heir apparent to then-CEO Brian Lipke, the Hamburg building products maker was just starting to recover from the recession, which battered its key construction markets.
Under Heard, Gibraltar has gotten a makeover. He hit a home run by branching out into solar racking systems. He’s focused Gibraltar’s capital on its most profitable and fastest-growing businesses, jettisoning money-losing laggards like its Alabama bar grating and European solar racking operations.
It’s paid off, too. Gibraltar’s stock has nearly tripled since Heard was hired in May 2014. Its sales are above $1 billion, and analysts expect Gibraltar’s profits this year, excluding one-time items, to be more than three times higher than they were in 2014.
Himesh Bhise – The Synacor Inc. CEO didn’t have it easy when he took over the Buffalo internet content provider in August 2014. Its business was sagging after losing a key web portal customer and Bhise had to beat back a challenge from disgruntled shareholders. Meanwhile, Bhise urged patience as he tried to refocus Synacor’s business.
That patience paid off last May, when Synacor snatched a big contract away from Yahoo to provide portal services for AT&T – a whopping piece of new business that will nearly double the technology company’s sales and quickly take it out of its doldrums and put it back on a growth track.
For now, the benefits of that three-year AT&T deal haven’t appeared, only its costs, which have cut into Synacor’s earnings this year and kept its share price depressed, at around $3. But that should change once the AT&T revenues start flowing next year.
Howard Zemsky – The Buffalo developer with the Steven Wright sense of humor is probably the only winner to emerge from the Buffalo Billion corruption scandal.
But emerge Zemsky has. He’s now the undisputed head of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s economic development efforts now that Alain Kaloyeros, Zemsky’s rival in state economic development circles and the flamboyant SUNY Polytechnic president, is on the outs at SUNY Poly and is facing corruption charges for allegedly steering key Buffalo Billion contracts to favored firms, like Buffalo developer LPCiminelli.
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