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Buffalo and the surrounding area were long involved in railroad commerce, steel manufacture, automobile production, aircraft/aerospace design and production, Great Lakes shipping, and grain storage. Most of these industries have left the city through the years. Major steel production no longer exists in the area, although several smaller steel mills remain in operation. For example, Gibraltar Industries, a leading manufacturer, processor, and distributor of steel products for the building, industrial, and vehicular markets is headquartered in Buffalo. As of the 1950 United States Census, Buffalo was the 15th largest city in the country, the nation's largest inland port (twelfth overall), second biggest rail center, sixth largest steel producer, and eighth largest manufacturer.
The regional economy can now best be described as a mix of industrial, light manufacturing, high technology and service-oriented private sector companies. Instead of relying on a single industry or sector for its economic future, the region has taken a diversified approach that has created opportunities for growth and expansion in the 21st century.
Overall, employment in Buffalo has shifted as its population has declined and manufacturing has left. Buffalo's 2005 unemployment rate was 6.6%, contrasted with New York State's 5.0% rate. And from the fourth quarter of 2005 to the fourth quarter of 2006, Erie County had no net job growth, ranking it 271st among the 326 largest counties in the country. Yet the area has recently seen an upswing in job growth as unemployment has dropped to only 4.9% in July 2007 from 5.2% in 2006 and 6.6% in 2005. The area's manufacturing jobs have continued to show the largest losses in jobs with over 17,000 fewer than at the start of 2006. Yet other sectors of the economy have outdistanced manufacturing and are seeing large increases. Educational and health services added over 30,400 jobs in 2006 and over 20,500 jobs have been added in the professional and business (mostly finance) arena.
Buffalo has increasingly become a center for bioinformatics and human genome research, including work by researchers at the University at Buffalo and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute. This consortium is known as the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. It also includes: Buffalo Hearing & Speech Center, Buffalo Medical Group Foundation, Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute, Kaleida Health, Olmsted Center for the Visually Impaired, Cleveland BioLabs and Upstate New York Transplant Services. The DNA samples used in The Human Genome Project were also collected from anonymous donors from Buffalo.
Entrepreneurial resources and life science business consultants accelerate the growth and development of emerging companies found within the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and Upstate New York Region. For example, Buffalo BioSciences is a technology commercialization partner to the New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics & Life Sciences and contributed to the launch and early success of Empire Genomics –- a firm based on research conducted at Roswell Park Cancer Institute by Dr. Norma Nowak enabling the delivery of personalized medicine.
Buffalo is the headquarters of M&T Bank, a large regional bank with assets over $69B. HSBC Bank USA also has major operations in Buffalo (The sports arena, which hosts the Buffalo Sabres NHL franchise, is named HSBC Arena). Other banks, such as Bank of America and KeyBank have corporate operations in Buffalo. Citigroup also has regional offices in Amherst, Buffalo's largest suburb. Buffalo has also become a hub of the debt collection industry.
First Niagara Bank recently moved its headquarters to downtown Buffalo from nearby Lockport. First Niagara has branches from Buffalo to Albany, New York, and since September 2009 has had branches as far south as Pittsburgh. On September 10, 2009, First Niagara announced the relocation of its corporate headquarters from Lockport to downtown Buffalo. The company says facilities in Lockport will remain open and fully staffed. First Niagara, which had been considering expanding into Western Pennsylvania for some time, benefited from PNC Financial Services being required by the United States Department of Justice to sell off 50 National City branches in the Pittsburgh area and 11 more branches in and around Erie to competitors, since the two banks had significant overlap in Western Pennsylvania and had potential antitrust issues in that area. First Niagara took advantage by buying 57 of the 61 National City branches from PNC that had to be divested after PNC acquired National City with funds from the $700 billion bailout plan after National City became a victim of the subprime mortgage crisis. The move affected the area by creating 200 more jobs, some in the Buffalo area.
Buffalo is home to Rich Products, one of the world's largest family-owned food manufacturers. Labatt moved its US headquarters to Buffalo in May 2007. This is in large part due to Buffalo's location directly in the middle of the Northeastern Trade Corridor. The city is the heart of the Canadian-American corridor. Over 80% of all U.S.-Canada trade occurs via border crossings in the eastern United States and with five bridges to Canada, the Buffalo area is one of the key eastern border crossing locations.
New Era Cap Company, the largest sports-licensed headwear company in the United States, is based in Buffalo. It opened new headquarters in 2007 in the former Federal Reserve Building in downtown Buffalo.
Ford still maintains operation of its Buffalo Stamping Plant south of the city, and Chevrolet has a production plant in Tonawanda near the city line. The Trico company operated three major manufacturing facilities but has since closed all of them and moved operations to Mexico. For many years, Buffalo was the nation's second largest rail center, after Chicago.
Merchants Insurance Group, a property and casualty insurance company, has maintained its headquarters in Buffalo, New York. The company provides commercial, personal property, and casualty insurance throughout the Northeast and North Central United States.
Delaware North Companies are headquartered in Buffalo.
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