When an out-of-town buyer acquires a local company, anxiety about the local operations’ fate sometimes follows.
In this case, the local company was century-old manufacturer Niagara Blower, and the buyer in 2013 was the mammoth, Sweden-based Alfa Laval. But the head of Alfa Laval’s U.S. operations on Wednesday sought to erase any concerns about Niagara Blower’s fate under new ownership.
“We don’t acquire companies to fix them up and sell them,” said John Atanasio, president and chief executive officer of Alfa Laval U.S. “We acquire companies to bring them into our family.”
Niagara Blower has just finished moving from Ontario Street in Buffalo into a renovated, expanded location on Sawyer Avenue in the Town of Tonawanda. The company has about 110 employees and plans to add another 10 to 15 workers over the next year.
“So far, we have invested at least $3 million inside the facility to get it to where it is, and we’re not finished investing yet,” Atanasio said. “We’re dedicated and we’re staying here in the Buffalo area.”
Niagara Blower makes specialized industrial heat transfer and air conditioning systems. Its products are used in systems in North America and around the world in industries such as oil and gas, food and beverage, and pharmaceuticals.
Niagara Blower and its parent company hosted an employee celebration marking Niagara Blower’s 110th anniversary, as well as the move into its new, more modern plant and the Alfa Laval acquisition. By relocating, Niagara Blower doubled the amount of space it has,affording more room for future expansion, said Peter Demakos, general manager of the company.
Niagara Blower started out in 1904 making heating and ventilation systems for industrial facilities. The business has endured several ownership and management changes over the decades, and has built a customer list that includes ExxonMobil, Labatt, Tropicana and ConocoPhillips. “What’s really surprising to most people is that almost all of our work ends up outside of Buffalo,” Demakos said.
Niagara Blower grew rapidly from 2003 to 2012, repeatedly breaking its records for sales and profits, despite operating from the old facility on Ontario Street, Demakos said. The plant was running constantly, on overtime and on weekends.
“It was crazy – you walk in any time, the music’s going, the cranes are moving, sparks are flying,” he said. “I think there were months at a time when we never even turned off the lights.”
Niagara Blower’s sales this year are 10 times what they were in 2004, Demakos said. He estimated that between salaries and work given to local vendors and suppliers, Niagara Blower pumps about $12 million a year into the local economy.
Niagara Blower now belongs to a company with worldwide sales of about $5 billion; Alfa Laval’s U.S. operations, which employ about 1,400 people, are expected to generate $675 million of this year’s total, Atanasio said.
Since the Alfa Laval deal, Niagara Blower has secured two notable projects: a $13.9 million air cooler system, and a $9.1 million order to supply air cooler systems to a U.S. natural gas plant. Both are due for delivery next year.
Atanasio said Alfa Laval’s 2015 outlook is strong: “There’s nothing but upside for us in the oil and gas industry.”