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North Buffalo high-tech manufacturer breaks ground on $13M expansion

A man holding three plates of clear Alon on a blue table
Surmet Corp. Buffalo
Surmet manufactures Alon, which is transparent and protective and used by warships and starships alike.

An obscure industrial park in North Buffalo houses an expanding high-tech manufacturing plant that's using ceramics in very new ways.

Business for Surmet Corp. is so good the Boston-area company is expanding to add production capacity and increase its well-paid workforce.

The company held a ceremonial groundbreaking Tuesday, getting ready for the more than $13 million project to renovate existing space, build and addition and install special equipment — the largest in this country — to manufacture the company's exotic ceramics.

Invest Buffalo-Niagara President and CEO Tom Kucharski said the plant here beat out a plant in near Boston for the expansion dollars.

"People show up and they work hard and that's something that resonates in a lot of these even far-advanced processes and manufacturing techniques," Kucharski said. "Those are the kind of employees that they want to have and operate in a place where you have good, consistent low-cost power and a variety of factors that you don't have elsewhere."

The expansion will be completed in February.

Surmet Security Products Vice President Uday Kashalikar said a new Alon product is making the military safer in Black Hawk helicopters.

"This new product for this platform, Alon-transferred armor for these helicopters, and they are deployed. And the feedback that we got from our warfighters was that for the first time is that we have both advanced protection and situational awareness," Kashalikar said. "They could see where they are going and have protection at the same time and that's changing the way we're flying."

Surmet describes itself as a world leader in transparent ceramics, including Star Trek materials like transparent aluminum. Company officials at the groundbreaking said they have entrepreneur Elon Musk saying he wants Surmet products for his starship.

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.