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Union Carbide's previously announced plan to make its Town of Tonawanda factory the new headquarters for its industrial gases division got a boost today when the Western New York Economic Development Corp. approved the first phase of a $34 million state financing package.

WNYEDC's board of directors approved a $1.7 million loan for the construction of a new office building for Union Carbide Industrial Gases Inc.

The 29,420-square-foot structure will serve as the national headquarters or logistics center for the industrial gases subsidiary.

Executives for Union Carbide decided to locate the divisional headquarters in the Buffalo area because of an incentive package developed by the state, according to Judith Kossy, WNYEDC's president. She explained that the Linde Division plant in Tonawanda was one of five sites competing for the national logistics center.

If New York had failed in its bid, about 1,082 local jobs would have been lost, said Susan O'Connor of WNYEDC. "We had the possibility of winning everything or losing everything," she told the board.

Approximately 340 new jobs, mainly in research and development, will be created as a result of the headquarters designation. Some of the new jobs will be filled by Union Carbide employees who are being transferred to Western New York from Ohio, Connecticut, Illinois, Texas and California.

The WNYEDC board also approved a $300,000 infrastructure grant for Union Carbide. The state money will be used for improvements to the company's 105-acre site at East Park Drive and Woodward Avenue in Tonawanda.

Industry analysts have speculated that this restructuring by Union Carbide is a prelude to spinning off one of the corporation's subsidiaries in order to raise the necessary capital to meet mounting debts.

WNYEDC's board also approved a grant and loan totaling $64,575 to Cherry Creek Woodcraft, a Southern Tier manufacturer of award plaques. The company is in the midst of expanding its operation by building a new factory in South Dayton.

Cherry Creek expects to add 50 new jobs because of the expansion. The company currently employs 145 people.

Frank McGuire, WNYEDC's chairman, praised the group for its efforts to retain local jobs. "These projects demonstrate what our staff attempts to do with every company -- a matching of various state programs to best suit their individual needs," he said.

Ms. Kossy also told the board about WNYEDC's plans to help minority and women-owned businesses. The agency hopes to coordinate services and technical assistance that isn't currently provided by the region's various small-business counseling groups. WNYEDC is devoting $75,000 to this project, she said.

WNYEDC also plans to attack the false image that Buffalo is home to numerous strikes. The agency has received a $10,000 grant to prepare a report on labor-management relations in the eight-county area. The study will be used to attract new businesses to Western New York, particularly Canadian, European and Asian companies.

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