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LISTEN ON DEMAND: THIS AMERICAN LIFE tribute to the 10 killed in the Tops Market shootings.

Lackawanna is now the official home home of Mr. Clean

A poster of Mr. Clean wearing a Buffalo Bills logo on his white outfit.
Mike Desmond
/
WBFO News
Mr. Clean wears a Buffalo Bills logo on his uniform at TMP Technologies.

The balloons were on a pole, the fancy chairs were ranked in rows and a ribbon was there to be cut. It was the official sun-lit, outside opening of the TMP Technologies plant on the old Bethlehem Steel plant site.

The vast new complex will build Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, but it almost wasn't.

Mr. Clean could have packed and moved to Ohio. Mr. Clean is produced for Procter & Gamble and that consumer products giant wanted production in Ohio.

The manufacturing floor of TMP Technologies.
Mike Desmond
/
WBFO News
Mr. Clean is apparent on the manufacturing floor of TMP Technologies.
Two large rows of inventory, with three people walking between them.
Mike Desmond
/
WBFO News
Some of the inventory at TMP Technologies.

Coincidentally, the manufacturing plant on Dingens Street wasn't big enough and operations were difficult, with raw materials moving around warehouses. TMP owners decided they would stay in the area and the Erie County Industrial Development Agency came forward with an offer to help build a brand-new plant on the steel plant site.

Company President Bob Laughlin said ownership didn't want to move.

"We're all from Buffalo. None of us want to move," Laughlin said. "And we all thought, 'What's good about Buffalo?' The bad thing is you have all these abandoned industrial warehouses. We thought that's our strength. We can make a very competitive bid to our customer because we can effectively move into a bigger facility. There aren't any facilities around. We looked and looked and looked. They're all renovated already or knocked down."

On Thursday, TMP showed off the massive new $22 million, much larger new plant, with its array of really high-tech, specially designed manufacturing equipment, 13 assembly lines, vast stockpiles of raw materials and the rising total of employees, currently 150 of them, from management to engineers to production workers in a plant that looks as if Mr. Clean just stopped by.

"No matter what you're producing, you can't compete with low labor. You can't compete with China. We lost to Mexico, China, Spain, Ireland," Laughlin said. "So a while back, we said whatever we do, we have to make it highly automated. We have to reduce the labor component or it's going to be short term. We're not going to be able to keep the business."

The very high-tech TMP Technologies employs people and robots on its manufacturing floor.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.