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NEW OWNERS OF ADVANCED REFRACTORY
CUT 50 JOBS HERE

Advanced Refractory Technologies in North Buffalo will lose more than one third of its jobs in the wake of an ownership change.

M/A-COM, a high-tech firm based in Lowell, Mass., bought ART earlier this month and will eliminate about 50 jobs at the Hertel Avenue plant because they duplicated other positions within the company, said Maryanne Kane, a M/A-COM spokeswoman.

The job cut is covered by the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires companies to provide 60 days' notice of a mass layoff or plant closing. The affected ART employees will lose their jobs in mid-August and receive severance packages, Kane said. When the cuts are finished, ART will employ about 80 people in Buffalo.

"It is essential to position ART for long-term business and financial success," Kane said in a statement. "The restructuring in no way reflects on the quality of the workers, whose contributions to ART over the years are appreciated. It is important to note that going forward ART will continue to maintain a sizeable work force in Buffalo."

M/A-COM employs about 2,800 people and is part of Tyco Electronics, a major business unit of Tyco International. Tyco International also owns Buffalo-based Graphic Controls, which recently opened a new headquarters and plant on Exchange Street.

M/A-COM supplies radio frequency, microwave and millimeter wave semiconductors, components and Internet-related networks, to wireless telecommunications and defense-related industries.

ART makes ceramic powders and components for the wireless, telecommunications, aerospace and nuclear industries. The company was started 20 years ago by two Carborundum Co. alumni, Keith Blakely and Peter T.B. Shaffer.

Blakely, the company's chairman, president and chief executive officer, could not be reached to comment on Tuesday. An ART employee said Blakely no longer works there. Ronald LaRose, another ART executive, referred questions about the local leadership team to M/A-COM's headquarters.

Over the years, ART has won contracts with the federal government and the military that have helped fuel its growth. A year ago, for instance, ART was awarded $5 million to continue research in composite materials used in artillery, amphibious vehicles and tanks for the Army and Marine Corps.

A Tennessee-based venture capital firm also has invested in the company.

Mayor Anthony M. Masiello said he will seek a meeting with Tyco officials to try to persuade them to reverse the decision about the job cuts at ART.

At the very least, Masiello said he'd like to get a sense of the new parent company's long-range plans for ART, and stress to Tyco's officials the value of ART's work force. "It's essential that we find out where they're going with that company," he said.

Masiello said Tyco already has a significant investment in Buffalo through its ownership of locally based Graphic Controls. After buying that company, Tyco cut about 300 local jobs and moved some operations to Massachusetts. But Tyco recently opened the new headquarters for Graphic Controls, giving city officials a greater sense of security about the company's long-term presence here.

Masiello said he was concerned about the loss of jobs at a company like ART with demonstrated growth potential. When ART last year announced an $8 million expansion program, including a "clean room," the company had high hopes for job growth. Company officials said then they planned to add 133 employees over the following three years.

Alan DeLisle, president of the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp., the city's economic development arm, said the planned job cuts at ART are a disappointing turn of events for a company that the BERC has worked with closely.

"We've got quite a history with them," he said. "It's always difficult when that kind of local decision-making is interrupted with an outside acquisition."

At the same time, DeLisle said, city officials must look at the change in ownership as an opportunity and find ways to take advantage of it. "You need to now seize that opportunity," he said.

Three years ago, ART bought Tech-Ceram in Amesbury, Mass. Tech-Ceram's 150 employees will not be affected by the ART ownership change, Kane said.

ART receives discounted replacement power from the New York Power Authority under a program designed to spur job growth. But even after the planned job cuts, the company would still have more than enough employees to remain qualified, said Michael Saltzman, a Power Authority spokesman.

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