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Buffalo plant to make radiant heat panels; President believes homeowners are open to energy-efficient flooring system

Gary Hydock believes homeowners and businesses are ready to embrace radiant heat on a larger scale, and he is opening a manufacturing plant on Buffalo's East Side to back up his idea.

Modular Radiant Technologies, with Hydock as president and chief executive officer, is moving into vacant industrial space it acquired on Northampton Street, near Genesee Street. Production equipment has just started to arrive.

The company will make radiant floor heat panels aimed at sharply cutting customers' energy bills while providing a comfortable setting for people living or working in those spaces. Hydock's panels also use recycled products and are marketed as easy to install.

A decade ago, Hydock incorporated GCS Radiant to make the panels. That company ceased operating in fall 2009 amid the economic slowdown and problems GCS had sourcing the product from subcontractors.

"Everybody seemed to hunker down and get extremely conservative until the storm cleared," Hydock said. "Now we're seeing people investing in their homes, their personal real estate. We're seeing the beginning of the housing market picking up."

Hydock said he continued to receive inquiries after GCS folded. And with greater interest in "green" energy and energy efficiency, "it just made sense to get back after it and manufacture it ourselves," he said.

Modular Radiant Technologies was launched last fall.

Radiant heat involves running warm water through tubes beneath a floor. Modular Radiant Technologies' panels, which are a combination of plastic and concrete, store heat and radiate it through flooring atop the panels.

The complex that Modular Radiant Technologies acquired dates to 1920, according to city records, and was formerly the home of Cathedral Envelope. One of its neighbors is the Milk-Bone plant.

Hydock estimates $1 million will go into launching Modular Radiant Technologies' production plant. Investors such as Kevin Neumaier, president and CEO of Ecology & Environment, are backing the venture. Hydock also credited the Small Business Development Center at Buffalo State College with helping him put together a business plan.

John McKeone, a business adviser at the center, worked with Hydock and is excited about the company's potential.

"Gary is the prototypical entrepreneur," McKeone said. "He believes in his product 2 4/7 ."

McKeone has 20 years' experience in manufacturing, so he turned out to be a good adviser as Hydock learned what the production side of the business would entail. McKeone put in long hours with Hydock as the plan took shape, and he helped Hydock get past the disappointment of being turned down for two grants.

"The [product] patents are for real, and they're putting a good team together," McKeone said.

One member of that team, Roni Stasaitis, the director of operations, said radiant heat was too often pigeonholed as a "luxury item," suitable only for more-expensive homes. Stasaitis said the technology is a viable alternative to other kinds of heating systems, with an up-front investment that can be recouped through reduced energy bills.

"Forced air is so prevalent in our area, because that's all that's been done," she said.

Stasaitis also shares Hydock's enthusiasm for the business. "It is going to happen," she said. "It's going to be huge for Buffalo."

Hydock said he and his team can't wait to get started with production.

"We're all very driven," he said. "I don't have any other way to explain it."