NIAGARA FALLS - A company that recycles kitchen countertops plans to create new 100 high-paying jobs at a former Union Carbide property that the city purchased last year in an economic development gamble.
Sandstone Springs plans to fill the chemical research and development jobs and move into the 3625 Highland Ave. site as soon as Niagara Falls completes a $1.5 million remediation of the vacant property.
“We do not have $12 an hour jobs. These are on the average $50,000, $60,000, $80,000 a year. When you pay people well you get great people that care,” said John Bordynuick, a Canadian businessman and operating partner of Sandstone Springs.
Niagara Falls gambled in 2015 when it bought the 5.5-acre site for $165,000, hoping it could attract a new business if it cleaned up the property. It has been using $1 million in grants and another $500,000 in city funds to remediate the three buildings there.
The city bought the site from Nick P. Dalacu who was operating the Niagara Science Museum in one of the buildings. Dalacu bought the former Union Carbide Plant in 2002 for $40,000 and had been unable to develop the site on his own. He said he had even tried to sell the site on eBay.
Mayor Paul A. Dyster said the turnaround has been even quicker that he had imagined, with Bordynuik reaching out to the city before it had even finished the remediation.
“It happened faster than we thought. We were very confident that we were going to find a user, but we found a user before we could even get the facility cleaned out,” said Dyster.
Bordynuik said Sandstone, which is located in Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Canada, will move all its business operations out of Canada to this area. He said the company will continue to grow its site at 389 Ganson St. in Buffalo and build a business technology park at the former Union Carbide plant.
He told the Niagara Falls Urban Renewal Agency that he has already invested $850,000 in cash into the planned project at the Union Carbide site.
He praised Niagara Falls for its “forward thinking” in purchasing the site and getting the infrastructure ready.
“We want to spend our money on people, not windows, doors and environmental things - things that really don’t create the long-term jobs,” said Bordynuick.
Sandstone Springs already has a small testing facility in Niagara Falls at 111 24th Street and last week it was given the go-ahead to purchase 109 24th Street from the city’s Urban Renewal Agency for $1,500. This site will remain open in addition to the planned Highland Avenue business park.
Once the site is ready, Sandstone Springs will lease all three buildings at the old Union Carbide site, for an annual rate of $2.50 per square foot over the next three years, with a minimum monthly rate of $1,000. The three buildings have a total of about 37,000 square feet of space.
The property and lease will remain in the hands of the Urban Renewal Agency until remediation is completed. Sandstone will have then have the option to purchase.
Bordynuick said Sandstone is looking forward to putting a large lab facility for research and development work, chemical synthesis and purification at the old Union Carbide site and is “really looking forward to using the maximum capacity of that site.”
Bordynuik told the Niagara Falls Urban Renewal Agency in May that his company has a contract with DuPont to recycle Corian countertops, taking the cut Corian waste and recycling it back into chemical components for reuse.
He said a lot of products have expensive chemicals in them and when companies make products they have a large waste stream. In the old days, they dumped that product in the ground, he said, but now they are trying to find better ways to extract and reuse these expensive chemicals.
“This is not a traditional high pollution chemical plant,” added Bordynuick. “I want to sleep well at night and know my kids are not plagued by a name that causes pollution somewhere.”
He has previously worked in the City of Niagara Falls, as the founder of Plastic2Oil. The plant remains in business in the city, but he sold his shares in 2012. He called chemical recycling a much better investment.
Niagara Falls received a $200,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant, a $50,000 brownfield grant from Niagara County, a $250,000 National Grid brownfield grant and a $500,000 Empire State Development Capital grant to remediate the Union Carbide site. The city also spent $500,000 of its money on the project.
Dyster said the city has used some of the grant money to pay its own Department of Public Works employees to work overtime to clear space in the Union Carbide buildings.
Anthony Vilardo, director of Niagara Falls Business and Economic Development, said they want to make sure to fulfill all their grant obligations before the city sells the property.
The future price tag on the sale of the plant to Bordynuick is unknown, but both Vilardo and Dyster said they are not looking to make a big profit.
“This is a job creation project,” said Vilardo. “The ability to create a 100 jobs of this caliber is not something we’ve seen in quite a few years.”
The planned lease and use of the former Union Carbide Plant on Highland Avenue will be presented to the City Council at 5 p.m. Monday. All council members are also members of the Urban Renewal Agency, which already unanimously approved leasing the site to Bordynuick.