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Unicell to invest $3.5 million for electric truck work

Unicell, which designs and makes bodies for commercial trucks and vans, is investing$3.5 million in its Howard Street operation in Buffalo, as part of a contract with Navistar Inc.

The company is bolstering its business by assembling a body for an electric truck, said Roger Martin, the owner and president. While it is not expanding the size of its facility, Unicell is investing in molds, tooling, equipment and employee training.

The company's Howard Street site has 45 employees, including some new hires related to the Navistar deal, Martin said.

In 2009, the company received a contract with Navistar Inc. to manufacture a unique body to be assembled onto an electric truck. Martin said he supports developing technology that is not dependent on fossil fuels, which he called "an essential transition."

To support the project, Unicell received a $175,000 investment package from Empire State Development's Economic Development Fund. The company also will accrue $728,000 in benefits through the state's Empire Zone program.

"Encouraging small-business innovation is essential to developing a more vibrant economy that works for Western New York," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement.

In April, a fire resulted in$1.25 million damage at the Unicell site. But the loss largely involved the machine that ignited some nearby combustibles in a compost area. The structure itself sustained only $150,000 damage, according to fire reports.

e-mail: mglynn@buffnews.com

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