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E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co. Tuesday announced plans to double its capacity to manufacture Corian -- the material used in sinks and counter tops -- at the Yerkes plant at Sheridan Drive and River Road in the Town of Tonawanda.

The multimillion dollar expansion will raise employment by about 10 percent as the new facilities reach full production over the next 18 months, said Robert P. Hughes, plant manager. The Yerkes plant currently employs 440 people.

DuPont's latest local investment comes after a string of expansion projects the company has announced for its local operations.

In April the plant dedicated a new research and development center to consolidate worldwide research on the plant's two products, Corian and Tedlar polyvinyl fluoride film.

In January the plant announced a multimillion dollar expansion of its capacity to manufacture Tedlar.

Also in January ground was broken on a $40 million co-generation facility being built and operated by Indeck-Yerkes Energy Services Inc. of Illinois next to DuPont's factory. DuPont has agreed to buy steam from the facility for 20 years to cut energy costs in the production of Corian and Tedlar.

Hughes declined to reveal the total investment in the expansion of the Corian manufacturing facilities, citing "competitive reasons." He also declined to say how much manufacturing capacity is being added.

Work already has begun on the expansion. It involves converting old warehousing space, some dating back to the plant's origins in 1920. That space will be outfitted with new production machinery, Hughes said.

About half of DuPont's local work force is devoted to making Corian, and half is devoted to making Tedlar, a Saran Wrap-like material that comes in colors and is used to protect indoor and outdoor surfaces, Hughes said.

Hughes said growth in the Corian business made the expansion necessary.

"The business continues to grow with new customers and new applications," he said. "We're also beginning a plant
to sell more on a global basis."

One area of growth has been providing Corian in different colors to suit the latest fashions in residential and industrial design, Hughes said.

Besides being used to make counter tops and sinks, Corian fills a variety of other applications in residential kitchens, restaurants, the lodging industry and health-care facilities.

"This is another example of the confidence DuPont has in the products manufactured at our plant and its commitment to the Buffalo area," Hughes said.

Products that have been developed or manufactured at the local plant during its 69 years of operations include rayon, cellophane, Orlon acrylic fiber and Dacron polyester fiber.

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