Tonawanda News

The Town

January 23, 2013

Tonawanda man to receive tech honor from Obama


Tonawanda News — “Before that, it cost about $500 a month for government or insurance to have in-home oxygen concentrators,” McCombs said.

As a thanks to all he has done, Obama will present the National Medal of Technology and Innovation to McCombs at the ceremony Feb. 1. 

A White House statement recognized McCombs and the other winners, saying they

“represent the ingenuity and imagination that has long made this nation great -- and they remind us of the enormous impact a few good ideas can have when these creative qualities are unleashed in an entrepreneurial environment.”

McCombs joined Amherst-based Air Sep Corp. in 1990 after selling his business Xorbox Corp. He now serves as the senior vice president of research and development.

The company employs 380 people and is the world’s largest producer of oxygen concentrators — including high profile clients like the Buffalo Bills. 

The company’s success comes from the passion displayed by McCombs and his team for their work. He may be a businessman, but he’s a scientist first. 

“So often people try to get into a business, make money and then leave,” McCombs said. “But I love what I do. This is my vocation and my avocation.” 

McCombs’ professional success becomes even more impressive when one considers his personal story — one of rags to riches. He said he grew up in a “shack” his father built in Amherst, which was then only fields. 

“I was lucky to learn how to read and write,” McCombs said. “It was difficult. My father started a dairy, which went bankrupt during the depression. So it was tough.” 

He met his wife, Grace, at Amherst High School, before attending the University of Buffalo. 

“I saw her first in the hallway in 1954, we both remember that,” he said. “We were walking, and I saw this beautiful little girl, and she turned and looked at me, too. Unfortunately, she happened to be going with my good friend at the time. But by the next May, she was going with me.”

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