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Praxair plans $39 million upgrade in Tonawanda

Praxair plans a $39 million upgrade of its Town of Tonawanda facilities, a project designed to keep the industrial gas company’s operations competitive.

The investment is expected to retain more than 1,300 jobs at the Tonawanda site and help create 22 jobs with an average salary of $82,000, said Richard Ball, a project manager with Empire State Development Corp. Ball described details of Praxair’s project at a Monday meeting of the Western New York Power Proceeds Allocation Board.

“To continue the success of the Tonawanda facility and maintain the current growth trajectory, Praxair must complete a major facility upgrade,” the allocation board said in a statement.

The board recommended supporting the project with a $500,000 award from an economic development fund administered by the New York Power Authority. The fund gets its money from the proceeds on the sale of unallocated hydropower from the Niagara Power Project. Eligible recipients must be within a 30-mile radius of the Niagara Power Project.

The allocation board said the funds would “complete a comprehensive New York State incentive package that will secure the long-term future of Praxair in Western New York.”

The Tonawanda site’s functions include global plant engineering, research and development, North American operations communications and global plant monitoring.

The allocation board’s recommendations are not final – the New York Power Authority’s board of trustees has the last word, and that board’s next scheduled meeting is July 29.

The allocation board also recommended awarding $125,000 to the Niagara Falls International Airport Stakeholders Group. The group is studying existing “dark fiber” – or unused fiber optic cable – infrastructure in sites around the airport, to help evaluate the sites’ economic development potential and identify any gaps.

The allocation board’s recommended award is expected to cover half the financing needed for the study.