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Cooper Turbocompressor in Cheektowaga wants to grow again. And again the manufacturer wants assistance from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency.

The company is considering its second expansion in a year and fourth since 1981 with IDA tax abatements.

It submitted an application for IDA review describing a $9.7 million project that would include tons of new testing machines and equipment plus a 25,900-square-foot addition to its plant at 3101 Broadway.

Sumner Kibbe, the plant's director of manufacturing, said the project would lead to more jobs for machinists and testers, but he did not have a specific estimate Thursday.

The company now employs more than 500, nearly half of whom are represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local Lodge 330.

Cooper has been hiring machinists frequently for most of the year, said union business representative Gregory R. Stone. He said he had no details about the firm's hiring plans.

Kibbe said the expansion has not been approved by Houston, Texas-based Cooper Cameron Corp.'s board of directors. He said if the IDA authorizes tax abatements by providing bond financing, then the board would be more likely to approve the investment.

The project primarily involves the construction of test bays
equipped with big machines to help evaluate the multi-ton air compressors made by Cooper.

Included in the new equipment would be a 60-ton crane, Kibbe said.

The IDA previously has helped the company grow. A year ago the IDA agreed to issue bonds and provide tax breaks for a $11.4 million project -- a 24,000-square-foot plant expansion. The company has indicated in the past that its growth could occur in places other than Western New York as Cooper has plants worldwide.

"Obviously we wouldn't be making that kind of investment unless we felt this is the place we want to be," Kibbe said about the new plan.

Cooper intends to spend about $2.1 million on the addition and $6.33 million on the equipment and machinery, or a total of $9.68 million.

The IDA scheduled a hearing on the plan for 1:30 p.m. Nov. 1 at Cheektowaga Town Hall.

Dennis H. Gabryszak, Cheektowaga's supervisor and an IDA board member, said the company is adding to the area's economy because it is an exporter and therefore is a wealth-producing business. As a result, he said, it should be eligible for IDA assistance.

The IDA's involvement with the company began in 1981. Tax abatements have expired on the old portion of the plant and it is now fully taxed, said Ronald Coan, the IDA's executive director.

A new 15-year tax abatement with an agreement for Cooper to make payments in lieu of taxes would be worked out on the addition, he said.

Kibbe said the company expects a big demand for its centrifugal compressors used in manufacturing processes by many industries, including glass and chemical. About 52 percent Cooper's sales are abroad and 1 percent in Erie County.

Coan said he expects the project to be on the agenda of his board's Nov. 13 meeting.

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