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Going neither West nor South, Pyrotek stakes future in WNY; Lithium battery plant unveiled in Sanborn

Pyrotek's new lithium battery component plant could have been built down South or out West. But after to a multilevel government effort, the 93,000-square-foot manufacturing plant opened Tuesday in Sanborn.

The multimillion-dollar expansion more than doubles the Cory Road site. It calls for 50 new employees for the production materials for lithium-ion batteries, which power electric vehicles.

With the anticipated rise in consumer demand for alternative vehicles, the new plant puts local workers in the forefront of the growing electric-hybrid vehicle industry.

"The future is happening right here in Sanborn," Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, D-Amherst, said during Tuesday's grand opening.

The international carbon graphite company received an $11 million U.S. Department of Energy grant in April 2010 to make the battery materials and matched it dollar-for-dollar to pay for the construction of a building to do the work.

The structure houses 12 high-temperature electric furnaces used to produce anodes.

On top of the federal government's assistance, New York State chipped in with funding via Empire State Development Corp. and the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal. The New York Power Authority agreed to an allocation of hydropower.

On the county level, the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency sweetened the deal with property tax abatements and sales tax exemptions. Pyrotek also received a grant from National Grid and training support from the Workforce Investment Board in Niagara and Erie counties.

"The collaboration was excellent," said Allan G. Roy, president and CEO of the company. "The support was a factor in relocating here."

The state and Niagara County combined to contribute $1.3 million.

Various elected and appointed government officials touted the benefits of the expansion. So far, the company has hired 35 people of the expected 50. When hiring is done, it will have about 90 workers. Hourly pay ranges from $16 to $21 for nonmanagement employees.

"They chose to invest here in New York State, Niagara County because we worked as a team," said Sam Hoyt, regional vice president of Empire State Development.

The new plant will play a key role in reducing the country's dependence on foreign oil and cut emissions, said Harold Hinkle, division director for power and vehicles technologies at the Department of Energy.

State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, said the allocation of hydropower was instrumental in sealing the deal. "It's an asset we need to use more," he said.

Pyrotek considered Tennessee and Washington State for its expansion, but construction was simpler at the Sanborn site. The company plans to meet its employment goal in the next few weeks and, with improved market conditions, hopes to add more positions.

"It would be a disappointment," Roy said, "if we stopped at this level."

email: esapong@buffnews.com

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