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Alpha Bytes Inc. said Tuesday that its second-quarter profits plummeted by 76 percent as the Niagara Falls-based specialized software firm's sales plunged by 42 percent.

Alpha Bytes, which develops software for vision care and hearing aid retailers, said its profits tumbled to $79,046, or 1 cent per share, from $335,302, or 5 cents per share, a year ago.

The company's sales fell to $364,796 during the quarter that ended on July 31 from $626,038 the year before.

Alpha Bytes has installed its software in more than 5,500 vision care sites run by chains such as Wal-Mart, Sam's Stores, LensCrafters, Pearle Vision and many independent optical centers. It also signed contracts earlier this year worth more than $2 million with Eye Care Centers of America and Scrivens in the United Kingdom.

Falls firm developing natural gas igniter

Standard Ceramics Inc. in Niagara Falls is developing a natural gas igniter designed to take the place of pilot-light systems, reducing fuel consumption.

The six-employee company is demonstrating a prototype igniter through Friday at the Discover Ceramics '97 Manufacturing Conference and Exposition in Columbus, Ohio.

The company's patented silicon carbide material conducts electricity, making it suitable for an igniter. The material, called SC2812, has electrical properties that are easier to control and alter than materials currently in use, the company said.

Standard Ceramics was founded by research scientist and ceramics engineer Kaiyin Chia in Alfred in 1993. The company moved to Niagara Falls in 1995, using the resources and staff of the Niagara Falls Economic Development Zone.

Workers approve union at National Electric

Workers at National Electric Construction Co. in Buffalo have voted to join the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 41.

Full-time employees in electrical construction, maintenance and service voted 9 to 1 in favor of the union, according to the National Labor Relations Board.

The election at the company's 906 Niagara St. location excluded clerical employees, estimators, professional employees, guards and supervisors.

Sprint PCS outlet opening

Sprint Personal Communications Services and Sprint Corp. have scheduled a grand opening of their store today inside the RadioShack outlet at Boulevard Mall in the Town of Amherst.

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