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Air Preheater plans expansion in Friendship

Air Preheater Co. of Wellsville plans to add 75 jobs next year as part of a $15 million expansion of its plant in Friendship.

The 480-worker company is a unit of France's Alstom Power Inc. industrial products conglomerate.

The expansion, scheduled to be finished in 2007, will add 44,000 square feet of factory space, the company said.

Air Preheater Co. is seeing increased orders and rising backlog for its equipment for power plants and other industrial processes. "Preheaters" capture heat from smokestacks and use it to warm incoming air, improving fuel efficiency.

The investment "will ensure we capitalize on this opportunity to increase our global competitive edge," president Edward J. Bysiek said in a statement. The investment corresponds with Alstom's clean power strategy in the U.S. and globally, the company said.

The company also sees increasing demand for its systems for coal and mineral grinding processes.

The Friendship Town Board is scheduled to vote today on holding a special hearing Jan. 4 to consider a new 94-acre Empire Zone that would convey tax breaks to the company, Friendship Empire Zone Director Wendall Brown said.

A zone provides breaks in sales, property and state income taxes. The amount of the break for Alstom is yet to be determined, Brown said. Once the zone is designated and Alstom applies for zone benefits, a decision should be coming from the Empire State Development Corp. within 90 days, he said.

The state's designation of the project as zone-eligible helped attract the expansion to Wellsville, which faced competition from a sister plant in Concordia, Kan., Brown said.

"This [program] helps retain jobs in New York State -- it makes it possible to compete with Kansas or any state," he said.

Zone designation would spur hiring by providing tax credits of $1,500 to $3,500 a year per job created.

Wellsville is a primary manufacturing facility for Alstom's global air preheater business, sold under the brand Ljungstrom, after the inventor of the air preheater. According to the company, the first air preheaters were supplied from Frederik Ljungstrom's plant in Wellsville to International Paper. The Wellsville plant dates to 1923, making it a longtime leading private sector employer in Allegany County.

The company is preparing to add skilled jobs including welders and machinists as well as administrative staff. The investment will include new equipment and renovations to two existing buildings.

Based in Paris, Alstom SA has about 60,000 global employees and sales of $18 billion, mostly to the power generation and rail transport industries.

e-mail: fwilliams@buffnews.com

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