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Power Drives combining operations on Exchange Street in Larkinville

Power Drives Inc. decided it needed more space to grow, and settled on a new home for its New York State operations: the Colad Group’s building in Larkinville, which it just bought for nearly $4.1 million.

The company designs and makes hose and tube assemblies for customers including engine manufacturer Cummins Inc. Power Drives will bring its corporate offices, currently in South Buffalo, and its Chautauqua County manufacturing operations under one roof, at 801 Exchange St. The facility is across from the Larkin at Exchange building.

Power Drives expects all 31 members of its management team and administrative staff to move from their current location in South Buffalo. And the company will offer transfer opportunities to 60 to 75 percent of the 98 employees at its Falconer plant. All told, Power Drives expects to have a combined workforce of about 130 at the new location.

Power Drives determined it needed newer, larger manufacturing space than what it had in Falconer, said Louis Panzica, the company’s president and chief executive officer. “We’ve really outgrown that some time ago.”

The company was unable to acquire adjacent property to expand that site, Panzica said. So the company searched for a new location that would allow the company to use modern manufacturing techniques and accommodate its expected growth.

The company considered sites throughout Western New York and Erie, Pa. – where Power Drives has another manufacturing plant – before settling on the Exchange Street site, which the company’s ownership group purchased. The new site has about four times the manufacturing space the Falconer plant has. Falconer is about 70 miles from Buffalo, beside Jamestown.

“It’s really in an ideal location for what we need now and we’re going to need in the future and kind of how we want to brand ourselves going forward,” Panzica said. “This is an up-and-coming geographic area in the city, a pretty exciting area.” Within the next 90 days, Power Drives will start moving its manufacturing operations into the Colad building from Falconer, which is about 80 minutes away. The company will start moving the headquarters and administrative staff into the site in late fall or early winter.

Power Drives will work with the Falconer plant employees who are not offered transfers to help them try to find other jobs, Panzica said. The company will also hire for a variety of new positions at the Buffalo site.

Power Drives was founded in Buffalo in 1946 and supplies customers including Cummins, which has a massive engine plant in Chautauqua County, and GE Locomotive.

Empire State Development is supporting the company’s move with a $200,000 capital grant and $800,000 in Excelsior Jobs Program tax credits over the next 10 years, which are tied to the company’s job creation and investment commitments.

The sale of the Colad building itself made a splash in the commercial real estate market.

“It’s probably one of the most significant industrial transactions in Western New York history,” said John Ticco III of Pyramid Brokerage Co., who handled the marketing and sale of the property for Colad along with Pyramid colleague Richard Schechter. “It’s a very accessible building, with good ceiling heights, dock and grade-level access, and an abundance of parking.”

The 77,000-square-foot building itself takes up only 2 acres, leaving 6 acres of parking and greenspace on both sides that also can be redeveloped. “A lot of the value is in the vacant land,” Ticco said.

Colad, which is owned by a Baltimore-based group, will relocate diagonally, to the Larkin Center of Commerce. The company designs and makes custom binders, boxes, packaging, sales kits, folders, CD sleeves, mailers, printed tabs, dividers and printed presentation packaging.

Power Drives’ ownership group owns the Falconer plant, after purchasing it about 10 years ago, and will eventually put the facility on the market, Panzica said. The company leases its headquarters space in South Buffalo and plans to exit that space by year’s end.

email: mglynn@buffnews.com and jepstein@buffnews.com