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INGRAM OPENS GADGET SHOWROOM
CENTER ALLOWS CUSTOMERS TO TRY OUT NEW GEAR

Technology wholesaler Ingram Micro opened a gadget-lover's paradise at its Amherst building on Wednesday.

The California-based company held an opening ceremony for its East Coast Solutions Center, stuffed with $5 million of the latest electronics for homes and businesses. The center gives technology retailers -- Ingram's customers -- a place to try out new gear and demonstrate it for potential buyers.

Housed in Ingram's building near Buffalo Niagara International Airport, the center will draw hundreds of visitors to the area, boost business for regional technology vendors, and further anchor Ingram Micro's presence in Western New York, company officials said.

"I've said time and time again how strategic this location is," said Brian Wiser, senior vice president of marketing, during the opening ceremony.

Amherst Supervisor Susan J. Grelick attended the event and called the solutions center an asset for the economy.

Ingram's site on Wehrle Drive is its sales office for the U.S. and its largest location in North America. In a good-news, bad-news announcement earlier this month, the company said it would reduce the job total here by 120, leaving about 1,200 by the end of the year, but concentrate U.S. sales activity at Amherst. At the same time, Ingram announced the Amherst solutions center, similar to one at the company's headquarters in Orange County.

Regional technology companies said the center will give them a boost by allowing them to learn and demonstrate the latest gear -- without having to buy it for their own showroom.

"We may be able to develop solutions along lines we may not have thought of before," said Larry Baum, president of Baum Control Systems in Ithaca, who attended Wednesday's opening. Because the center isn't sponsored by any individual manufacturer, but carries equipment from many different ones, it gives technicians a place to tailor customer-specific solutions, he said.

The 2,400-square-foot center within the Wehrle Drive building has equipment from 88 sellers, Ingram said. The equipment includes a "digital home" demonstration platform for next-generation entertainment technology as well as corporate network gear. Staffed by Ingram technicians, the center lets vendors demonstrate systems for hot business applications like digital surveillance, network security and document control.

The West Coast solutions center in Santa Ana, Calif. has conducted 540 training sessions and demonstrated $30 million in technology since opening in 2001, the company said.

"For the last four years, we've been extremely jealous of that (West Coast) center," said Mike Semel, branch manager for Databranch Inc., a technology provider in Elmira Heights with an office in Olean. Being able to demonstrate costly gear for business customers is key to making a sale, he said.

Ingram Micro describes itself as the world's largest technology distributor, with annual sales of $25 billion and 13,600 employees.

e-mail: fwilliams@buffnews.com