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Graphic Controls to move medical device jobs to Buffalo

A Buffalo manufacturer on Friday said it will move 43 jobs from Vermont to Buffalo as it shifts operations of a medical device maker it bought in 2015.

Graphic Controls on Friday announced it plans to move the jobs and operations of its Vermed facility in Bellows Falls, Vt., to Buffalo.

The move will shift production of electrocardiogram electrodes to Graphic Controls' factory at 400 Exchange St. in a move that company officials said will bring more work in a growing product line to Buffalo, while also saving the firm money by consolidating two facilities into one.

The state is providing $500,000 in Excelsior tax credits to Graphic Controls that will be released to the company when it fulfills its promise to create 43 new jobs in Buffalo, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said during an announcement Friday morning.

Eric Saenger, Graphic Controls' vice president of operations, said the Vermont factory, which employed 85 people when the company said in April that it would be closing, was "just too small to be viable."

In addition, after rearranging the production floor of the Exchange Street factory, the company freed up space that could accommodate the electrode production line in Buffalo.

"In order to grow the business, we needed to get it in a better environment," Saenger said.

The Buffalo factory is one of the leading producers of casino tickets, producing more than 6.5 billion of the slips last year. Graphic Controls has about 65 percent to 70 percent of the global casino ticket market. The Buffalo plant also prints lottery tickets for the New York Lottery, among other products.

The company also has been rebuilding its medical products business, which it departed after selling the unit to Covidien 20 years ago but reentered after a non-compete agreement expired. The Buffalo factory, for instance, also prints EKG charts.

"We were in some businesses that were declining, and we wanted to ensure the viability of this plant," Saenger said, noting that the company's sales of some products, such as event tickets and industrial pens and markers, had been slipping.

Graphic Controls had considered shifting the work to other sites, including Idaho, she said. Howard Zemsky, the president of Empire State Development, toured the Graphic Controls factory with state Sen. Timothy Kennedy, D-Buffalo, about a month-and-a-half ago.

Hochul said the decision by Graphic Controls to move work from Vermont to Buffalo is a sea change for the region after decades of watching production work move overseas or to other U.S. markets.

When plant consolidations were announced in the past, "that meant they were heading down the Thruway to another state," Hochul said.

The company acquired the Vermont medical device maker in March 2015. Sam Heleba, Graphic Controls' president and CEO, said at the time of the acquisition that the purchase of Vermed and two other companies had increased its medical device sales. Graphic Controls is owned by a Japanese company, Nissha Co.

Graphic Controls already is producing the electrodes in Buffalo, making about 150,000 of the adhesive devices each day. Saenger said he expects the product line shift to Buffalo to be complete by early October.

"We're on time. We're under budget," Saenger said.

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