Tonawanda News

May 29, 2013

Business eyes Spaulding site for expansion

By Jessica Bagley jessica.bagley@tonawanda-news.com
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Simmers Crane Design & Services is the first company to publicly announce its desire to take residence in the City of Tonawanda’s newly developed business park at the former Spaulding Fibre site. 

The company, which is owned by Pollock Research & Design, currently rents an 11,000-square foot facility on Fire Tower Road in the Town of Tonawanda, but is looking to move to a larger site. 

“We would like to stay in the Tonawandas,” the operations manager, Peter Gruenthaner, said. “But, essentially, we need more manufacturing space.” 

The company was founded in 1958 and builds and services overhead cranes typically found in machine shops that are used in steel mills as well as the automotive and power generation industries. Simmers has had a facility in the town for 10 years, and employees 30 people locally, Gruenthaner said. 

If the company does make the move to the city, Simmers would employ at least five more individuals.

But, at this point, the move is only in the application stage. 

“The only thing we have really done is apply for assistance from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency,” Gruenthaner said. “The project hinges on being able to get that assistance.”

The application to the ECIDA details the company’s plans to build a 20,000-square-foot building on 4.86 acres of the property. The project is estimated to cost $1.7 million. 

A hearing on the company’s application will be held Thursday, the ECIDA website states. If the application is approved, the ECIDA would assist the company by providing financial assistance — likely in the form of sales and use tax exemptions, a mortgage tax exemption and a partial real property tax abatement. 

The plans mark a new beginning for the Spaulding Fiber site, which housed 860,000 square feet of factory buildings. The company was once the largest employer in the city, and produced circuit boards for transistor radios among other things. 

But the jobs soon began vanishing and not long after, the plant shut down in the early 1990s. The 47-acre property was then tied up in bankruptcy until 2005, when the city was left with the deteriorating site.

Tonawanda, with the assistance of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, began demolishing the degenerating buildings. The cleanup and soil remediation took more than eight years, $20 million in federal, state, and county aid as well as an additional $700,000 from the city. 

In late 2011, infrastructure work began for the site’s future business park, which is now equipped with water and sewer lines, new roads, sidewalks and curbs. 

After Years and millions in renovation work, Mayor Ron Pilozzi said he is excited by Simmers’ plans. 

“Hopefully it will be the first of many organizations to break ground,” he said. “It will add to the tax rolls and give job opportunities to the folks in our city.” 

Pilozzi said the city began negotiating with the company several months ago. The cost to build on the property will likely be about $40,000 per acre, but that figure is subject to change depending on the amount of acreage sought.

The city has also negotiated with another company interested in building on the site.

“We have done everything I can possibly think of to make sure we have a shovel-ready site, and that we have the right climate to spur as much activity as possible,” Pilozzi said. “We are ready to go.”

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter at @JessicaLBagley