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Two companies were given tax breaks by the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency on Thursday to build plants totaling $1.8 million in Wheatfield that will create 27 new jobs, most of them high-paying professional positions.

Both facilities will be constructed in the new 158-acre Vantage International Pointe, a high-tech industrial park bordered by Lockport and Walmore roads, just east of Niagara Falls International Airport.

Zaepfel Development, a multimillion-dollar company based in Williamsville, will receive sales tax exemptions over 15 years to build a $1 million research and development facility.

Zaepfel will lease the building to a company involved in the research and development of resins and molding compound products. That company, whose name was not released, will add 15 chemists and engineers to its current staff of 32, said the IDA's assistant director, Larry D. Witul.

The construction project includes the installation of specialized analytical and testing equipment. The 10,000-square-foot facility will have the potential to be doubled in size for future expansion, Witul said.

Oxygen Generating Systems of Niagara Falls was granted $158,000 in sales tax savings over 15 years to build an $800,000 manufacturing plant on a six-acre parcel.

The company will double its current work force of 12 over the next three years by hiring skilled employees, including engineers, operations managers and machine assemblers, Witul said.

Currently renting space in the former Bell Aerospace building on Niagara Falls Boulevard at Walmore Road, the company has developed a process that harnesses air, separates out the nitrogen and ends up with 95 percent pure oxygen, explained Bob Schlehr, co-founder and owner and sales and marketing manager.

The company doesn't sell the almost pure oxygen, it sells the equipment that collects the oxygen to firms around the world, he said. It just sold a $100,000 cylinder-filling plant to a company in Zambia, said Schlehr.

Construction of the new plant is expected to begin later this year, and the move will be made in 2002, he said.

The IDA tentatively approved a request by Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara for help in issuing tax-exempt bonds to build a $2 million training and manufacturing facility in Lockport for 135 people with disabilities.

The project includes building individual residences for the people, but the locations haven't been announced, Witul said.

The IDA's final approval hinges on a public hearing that will be held after the residential locations have been decided.

"That could be controversial," said the IDA's first vice chairman, David R. Chamberlain.

The 23,000-square-foot building, to be constructed at Heath and Niagara streets, would provide vocational training and workshops for people with disabilities, most of whom will earn wages, according to Jill Bacon, vice president of communications of the tax-exempt agency.

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