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Canadian company plans plant in Niagara County industrial park

WHEATFIELD – A Burlington, Ont., company last week agreed to purchase 7.5 acres of land in the industrial park operated by the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency.

Whiting Group plans to erect a 20,000-square-foot plant for assembly and painting of roll-up doors for fire apparatus and emergency vehicles, as well as LED lights for the vehicles.

Whiting Group comprises four “niche manufacturers,” group president Bruce Whitehouse told the IDA board.

Most of its customers are in the U.S., and local governments tend to favor buying fire equipment from domestic manufacturers, so a site in the U.S. would help the company’s business, Whitehouse said.

“This is about as close as you can get [to the border],” he told the IDA board.

The IDA is charging Whiting Group $52,000 for the 7.5 acres, and also is giving the company the right of first refusal to buy another 5.5 acres adjacent to the site in Vantage International Pointe, the industrial park in which the county Center for Economic Development is located, off Lockport Road near Walmore Road in Wheatfield.

Whitehouse said he intends to request a tax abatement for his project at the IDA’s May 8 meeting. He hopes to start construction this summer and begin manufacturing in March 2014.

He said the company would employ 12 full-time workers and two or three part-timers at first, with the work force growing above 20 people within three years.

In other activity at last week’s IDA meeting, the board approved a $30,000 loan to Faery’s Golf and Landscape, the Cambria company that specializes in renovating golf courses.

The company, affiliated with Faery’s Nursery, is being sold by founder and owner Jack Faery to 12-year employee Anthony Grenzy in a $515,000 deal. The company will remain at its current Ridge Road location.

The loan by the IDA’s Niagara County Development Corp. subsidiary is for seven years at 5 percent interest.

Also, the IDA board approved payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, or PILOT, arrangements, for two Lockport businesses.

Lake Effect Ice Cream received a five-year, 100 percent property tax exemption for its new headquarters at 79 Canal St. The company’s ice cream making and its seasonal cone shop are moving there from Lock Street.

The amount of space devoted to the retail aspect isn’t large enough to bar aid to the project under new state IDA reform laws, IDA counsel Mark J. Gabriele said. The tax break, which includes sales tax exemptions for the building materials and equipment used to furnish the building, is being offered under the IDA’s Opportunity Zone program for downtown districts of the county’s cities.

The $210,000 project in the 2,000-square-foot building would double the Lake Effect work force from 15 part-timers to 30 within three years. The tax benefits would save the ice cream maker an estimated $40,000, according to an IDA report.

Also, Diversified Manufacturing won a 15-year PILOT with sales tax exemptions for the expansion of its metal fabrication plant on Ohio Street in Lockport. The 47,000-square-foot, $4.8 million addition would accommodate the move of Ipac, an Amherst company with the same owner, to the Diversified plant. Fifty-nine jobs would be moving to Lockport, joining Diversified’s current 106-person work force.

The company would save an estimated $515,000 from the tax breaks.