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A company that specializes in the manufacture and distribution of custom surgical packs has located in an 18,000-square-foot facility on Columbia Drive here. Custom Pack Reliability, an Orlando, Fla.-based company, started operations earlier last week.

Former Niagara Falls resident Richard L. Ellwood is president of CPR and founded the company in 1992. He also owns a health care consulting firm and is the former Niagara Falls director of human resources and services.

The company, which provides the surgical packs and other products to health care institutions, currently employs 25 people in Orlando and so far employs 20 here. "We hired 18 people off public assistance and county job training programs," said Ellwood. In addition, "We're gearing up to have 27 or so by the end of the year." He added that his goal here is to employ 100 people. Some corporate positions may be transfered from the Orlando office.

The company is located in the former Books on Cassette building at 1 Columba Drive under a 12-month lease.

The company is paying $7.50 an hour for production and warehouse jobs, and after 90 days the workers will be eligible for an incentive, said Ellwood. He added the company will pay an average of $21,000 to $22,000 annually. Ellwood acknowledged that it is not normal for companies to relocate north from Florida here to the Niagara region. "The reason that we went in the opposite direction that most people do . . . is that we have an enormous amount of business to produce, and in order to fulfill those customer obligations we need to have a labor force that has a strong work ethic, and we found that in the Town of Niagara, and we're thrilled about it."

He said that the first contact he made to bring his company to the region was to call Niagara Falls Mayor James C. Galie. The mayor put together a task force made up of representatives from the Niagara Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, city officials, the Town of Niagara Economic Development Projects Office and the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency.

Although the mayor and Ellwood could not find a suitable location in Niagara Falls to begin the business, Ellwood said he is still looking for a more permanent facility. "We're giving consideration to moving into the economic development zone in the city."

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