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Wilson Greatbatch Technologies, the fast-growing Clarence battery maker, plans to add 65 people as part of a project that will increase the size of its Wehrle Drive research center and expand the company's manufacturing capabilities.

The $4 million project, which is expected to receive about $1.17 million in incentives from state and local economic development agencies, will allow the company to upgrade and expand its research facilities, while also creating additional space for manufacturing operations, said Ernest J. Norman, a Wilson Greatbatch spokesman.

"Our research and development currently in that space is just too small to be effective," Norman said. "We're basically in a shoe box now, so we need the additional space."

The expanded research center, with its new equipment and increased size, will allow Wilson Greatbatch to step up its research efforts to find ways to increase the power of the batteries the company makes and also make them smaller -- key considerations for its customers who make medical devices, such as pacemakers. "That's going to be the primary focus -- the improvement of our battery technology," Norman said.

But the expansion also is expected to help Wilson Greatbatch work more closely with its customers to develop new batteries that can be used on new products that its customers are developing, he said.

Wilson Greatbatch, for instance, made the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that provide power for the new artificial heart, which has been implanted in two patients this summer. "This is the kind of new technology we're working on," Norman said.

The expansion is the latest sign of the company's rapid growth over the last two years. Wilson Greatbatch, which went public last summer, increased its sales by 23 percent last year and has grown its revenues by 34 percent during the first half of this year.

The company has made three acquisitions during the last three years, including a $49 million deal in June to acquire a Nevada-based business that gives Wilson Greatbatch the capability of adding filters that can protect its products against electromagnetic interference.

Wilson Greatbatch employs more than 1,000 people, including about 750 workers at its main facilities on Wehrle Drive in Clarence and a capacitor manufacturing facility on Genesee Street in Cheektowaga.

The addition will increase the size of the company's facilities at 10,000 Wehrle Drive by about 17 percent. The expansion will add office and laboratory space and it also will allow the company's medical components and battery business to move a portion of its manufacturing operations into space that will be vacated by part of its R&D operations, Norman said.

The company is seeking a wide range of incentives for the project from the Empire State Development Corp. and the Erie County and Clarence industrial development agencies. Those incentives include a grant of about $100,000, sales and property tax abatements and a series of tax credits, Norman said.


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