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Cardboard box maker plans to locate in former winery

A Canadian cardboard box manufacturer wants to locate its U.S. home in a long-vacant building on Ridge Road in Lewiston.

The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency received an application for a 15-year property tax break Wednesday from HT Productions, a new company formed by Whitebird, a Hamilton, Ont., cardboard maker.

It plans to acquire a 50,000-square-foot former winery at 1707 Ridge Road and convert it into a box factory.

Whitebird and National Corrugated, a sister company, are located in a 120,000-square-foot plant in Hamilton.

"We want to move all our production here and use Hamilton just for warehousing," said Henry Heikoop, company president.

Heikoop said that the cardboard business is slumping in Canada but that his company is bucking the trend.

"We're out of room. My wife's from Ohio, and she said the U.S. is the place to be," Heikoop told the board.

More importantly, tax abatements are illegal in Canada.

"This will give us a chance to grow while everyone else is shrinking," said Heikoop, whose application promises 14 new jobs within two years.

None of the onetime winery's former tenants has succeeded.

"A friend of mine has owned it for the last few years, and in the last year and a half he hasn't maintained it," Heikoop said. "We want to put $150,000 into it to bring it up to speed."

The application lists the cost of acquiring the building and five-acre lot as $310,000, part of a total investment of $910,000.

Heikoop said only one employee would transfer from Hamilton to Lewiston, and all other workers would be local.

He said Niagara Sheets, a Wheatfield company that received IDA aid in 2007, supplies the business with sheet cardboard. "Their quality is incredible, and their service is impeccable," Heikoop said.

The IDA will hold a public hearing on HT Productions' 15-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, deal at 4 p.m. Feb. 7 in Lewiston Town Hall.

Another application received Wednesday came from Dr. Frederick J. Piwko, a Wrights Corners general practitioner who wants to move his office out of a strip plaza to a new building he plans to erect at 3805 Lockport-Olcott Road, Newfane.

The 2,600-square-foot medical office would cost $461,900. Employment would increase from six to eight people within two years, according to Piwko's application for a 10-year PILOT.

A public hearing on the plan is set for 3:30 p.m. Feb. 8 in Newfane Town Hall.

The IDA might vote on both PILOTs at its Feb. 9 meeting.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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