BUFFALO, N.Y., Feb. 9, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Upstate New York business leaders are more optimistic about business conditions for their own industries and the state's overall economy in 2011 than at any time in the past four years, according to First Niagara's Annual Survey of Upstate New York Business Leaders released today. Although these business leaders are more optimistic than in the past, an overall Confidence Index of 98.4 on a scale of zero to 200 still shows a mixed viewpoint when these leaders look at current and future economic conditions. Survey results were based on responses from 645 leaders of private businesses in the four major Upstate markets of Buffalo, Albany, Rochester and Syracuse. “Businesses have fought through and survived the toughest economic times of the past 80 years,” said John R. Koelmel, president and CEO of First Niagara Financial Group Inc. (Nasdaq: FNFG), the parent company of First Niagara Bank. “Although still cautious, the more balanced outlook is encouraging as we continue to emerge from the economic challenges we experienced.” "Our 2011 survey reflects what we see on the front lines with our customers across Upstate New York," Koelmel added. "As a strong, community oriented bank, we have seen the beginnings of improved demand for loans from businesses seeking to renew meaningful investments in their organizations to drive top-line growth." Responding to First Niagara's fourth annual survey, conducted during the final quarter of 2010, were chief executive officers, chief financial officers and other senior managers of private businesses with $5 million to $150 million in annual sales. Survey results are available at http://www.fnfg.com/CEOSurvey. ABOUT FIRST NIAGARA First Niagara Financial Group, Inc., through its wholly owned subsidiary, First Niagara Bank, N.A., has $21 billion in assets, 256 branches and $13 billion in deposits. First Niagara Bank, N.A. is a multi-state community-oriented bank providing financial services to individuals, families and businesses. Upon completion of its pending merger with NewAlliance Bancorp, Inc. -- subject to customary closing conditions including approvals from regulators -- First Niagara will have more than $29 billion in assets, $18 billion in deposits and 340 branches across Upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts. For more information, visit www.fnfg.com. SOURCE First Niagara Financial Group, Inc.