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Buffalo Manufacturing Works is already making a difference in the regional economy

Buffalo Manufacturing Works, the industrial innovation center at 847 Main St., is proof positive that this region can once again become a powerhouse, one that is on the cutting-edge and from where groundbreaking ideas can be conceived and tested.

The $45 million in state money from the Buffalo Billion economic-development initiative is the engine powering this worthy endeavor. The center opened in April 2015 and it has been a whirlwind of ideas springing from the drawing board to the testing stage in hopes of one day becoming one of the tools in the company toolbox.

With local manufacturers in mind, the purpose of the center was to allow companies to develop new products or “innovative production methods that would make them more competitive.”

News business reporter David Robinson delved into the inner workings of a place that just, well, works.

It does so with $8 million in equipment housed at the former SmartPill building on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. More money, $5 million, is expected. It will be put to good use.

The center is a marketplace of ideas. It is where smart people – in this case, the center’s engineers and other experts – can think and work and test ideas on actual equipment that small and even larger companies cannot always afford to buy. It is already supplied and is state of the art. It is useful even to a company such as Moog, which has annual sales topping $2.5 billion. It can be even more valuable to smaller manufacturers whose innovative ideas – at higher cost and higher risk to test – may not take flight without the innovation center.

All in all, it is well worth the $25,000 yearly membership fee. The center also will generate revenue from the services it provides and, as noted in the article, its leaders hope to gain more than $6 million in annual revenue by 2020.

The center has already launched 35 projects while working with more than 50 companies, including Eastman Machine, Harper International and Praxair. It should soon begin to see its own payoff as more equipment is added, along with more money. The center’s president, Michael Ulbrich, pointed out that only about half of its $25 million equipment budget has been allocated.

The manufacturer’s research center is managed by EWI, a nonprofit from Columbus, Ohio, which operates a similar center in that state’s capital and has 30 years of experience in channeling the best energy from manufacturers.

This co-op, as it was described by Empire State Development President Howard A. Zemsky, is a game-changer for companies faced with global competition. It allows a fully equipped safe place to examine new ideas from all angles.

Buffalo Manufacturing Works is a place that works for the companies it serves and, in the process, for the area’s economy.