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Arcade firm ?is on track ?for expansion <br> Railroad's move makes room for Koike Aronson

Not even railroad tracks could get in the way of Koike Aronson's growth.

The Arcade maker of metal cutting and positioning equipment has started adding 30,000 square feet of office and manufacturing space, a project valued at $6.6 million, said Gerald Leary, the chief executive officer. Plans call for the company to move into the additional space – which will bring its total to 167,000 square feet – by March 2013.

Before that project could get under way, the company faced an obstacle just outside its back door: Arcade & Attica Railroad tracks. There was no room to expand to the east or west of the facility, and Route 39 runs along the front.

The solution was to move the tracks. The state, Wyoming County, and the county's Industrial Development Agency collaborated on a project to move about 2,000 feet of track northward, away from Koike Aronson's back door.

New track was laid, and the railroad retrieved the old track for use elsewhere in its system, said Mike Heftka, the WCIDA's executive director. The state covered about 80 percent of the cost of the project.

Had the tracks not been moved, Koike Aronson faced the prospect of an expansion that would have been much costlier and logistically difficult, given the large amount of production space necessary for what it makes, Heftka said. The relocated tracks also create space for future expansions Koike Aronson might undertake.

Koike Aronson has 156 employees and is trying to fill about a dozen more jobs, Leary said. "We're like everybody else. We're having a heck of a time finding skilled labor."

Leary said the problem is not a geographical one unique to Buffalo – he says he talks to people in other parts of the country who have the same problem.

Leary estimates the company's sales this year will be in the $65 million to $66 million range, fueled by more business with companies that serve the mining and nuclear industries.

Among Koike Aronson's customers is Caterpillar, which has made a big push into the mining industry, Leary said. And in the nuclear industry, a lot of the activity is driven by the upgrade and repair of power plants, though some new construction is occurring, as well.

"They're still building nuclear plants in China and that's been a very good area for us," Leary said.

Exports account for about a third of Koike Aronson's sales. The company has been owned by Japan-based Koike Sanso since 1985.