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Ground Breaking for New Waterfront Vinyl Plant

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – Governor Pataki joined local officials at a groundbreaking Tuesday afternoon for the first new development along the old Union Ship Canal. CertainTeed, a manufacturer of vinyl fences, decks and railings, will re-locate to the new business park from its current facility in Cheektowaga.

The brownfield site is now know as Lakeside Commerce Park. It was once home to the Hanna Furnace Company. The city of Buffalo, Erie County and New York State have spent millions cleaning up the site, making it available for development.

CertainTeed is investing $13.5 million in the project. It will be eligible for financial incentives from the state. Governor Pataki said the company's decision to locate there sends a powerful message.

"This is exactly what we want to see happen -- old industrial areas that have been abandoned being redeveloped in a positive way, creating jobs and expanding the tax base," Pataki said.

But CertainTeed's decision to build a facility near the waterfront is not without controversy. About a dozen environmental activists turned out to protest the plans. Mike Schade of the Citizens Environmental Coalition says the chemical PVC, which is used in the manufacture of vinyl, is a health threat.

"We're cleaning up a site, but we're bringing in another polluting industry," Schade said. "Chemical emissions from vinyl plants release dioxin into the environment. It's the most toxic chemical known to mankind. It accumulates in our bodies. It builds up in our fat. And it causes a wide range of health problems, ranging from cancer to birth defects."

But CertainTeed plant Manager Darren Campbell says PVC is not manufactured at its local plant. It is brought here from elsewhere to make the company's fences and railings. Campbell says that process does not damage the environment.

"We've been at our existing facility since 1979, and we've had a number of environmental tests," Campbell said. "There have never been any problems."

Construction of the new plant will take about a year. The company's 160 jobs will be retained, though Campbell says it's possible more jobs could be added if its market expands.