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FRENCH MANUFACTURER MOVING AHEAD ON PLANT HERE

Officials from a French company opening a Buffalo plant to make aerospace and automotive parts are visiting the region this week, meeting with bankers, architects and local development officials.

Fabrication Conception Mecanique Plastique will open its first United States production facility in a vacant building at 80 Clyde Ave. near the Gaiter Business Center. Chief Operating Officer Thierry Callendrier said the company will initially hire five to 10 workers, but he projects the facility will have 100 employees on its payroll within several years.

Callendrier said production equipment will start to arrive in the 20,000-square-foot structure by the end of November or early December. The plant is expected to be operational in early January.

"We'll come back in about a month and start looking for some highly skilled mechanics," said Callendrier. "We'll be bringing some of them back to France so they can see how we operate."

FCMP is based in Marignier, France, but companies in the United States account for 40 to 50 percent of its overall sales. Callendrier said FCMP recently decided to open a U.S. production division and considered sites in Buffalo, Cleveland and Chicago.

Western New York's labor market was a key selling point.

"You have some good mechanics here," he said. "Your unemployment rate is also slightly higher than some other cities, so we should be able to find some candidates. But we know it won't be a piece of cake."

Callendrier conceded that as FCMP grows, filling some of the mechanics' slots could become more challenging.

The fact that FCMP's oldest client -- Enidine -- is locally based also played a role in landing the company.

Enidine is an Orchard Park company that is affiliated with International Motion Control of Buffalo. Patrick P. Lee, IMC's chairman and CEO, contacted FCMP, one of its long-time suppliers, and urged it to consider Buffalo as a location for its first North American division. The company will occupy a structure that was built "on spec" about a 1 1/2 years ago, meaning that there was no signed lease with a tenant when it was being erected.

Lee's involvement has been touted by development officials as an example of how CEO-to-CEO networking can be used as a tool for expanding the local economy.

Callendrier said FCMP officials have also been meeting with local bankers during their four-day visit to Buffalo.

"Financing is moving along slowly," he said. "It will probably take a few months to finalize everything."

The company will qualify for incentives based on its location in a state Economic Development/Empire Zone and it has accepted a $200,000 capital grant from the Empire State Development Corp.

Callendrier said he will relocate to Buffalo this fall and expects to live here for at least a couple years.

Is he looking forward to living in America? "I lived in Cleveland for 2 1/2 years, working as a mechanical engineer for an American company," he responded. "So I know what life in the U.S. is all about."

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