June 15, 2018
Unifrax showcased recent investments and upgrades completed at two of their manufacturing facilities in Tonawanda, N.Y., Thursday, June 14, during a presentation and plant tour attended by local and state government officials, local development agencies and utility representatives. Unifrax thanked agencies including National Grid for their partnership supporting Unifrax to grow successfully in Western New York.
Unifrax President and CEO John C. Dandolph discussed two major construction projects to help the company meet global demand, increase capacity and streamline manufacturing processes for products used in transportation emissions control applications. The two projects include the new manufacturing line at the Unifrax Firetower Drive complex in Tonawanda that increases capacity of the plant by 50 percent. The expansion facilitates growth and increases capacity to serve global customers supplying emissions control devices to automotive, commercial trucking, and off-road vehicle manufacturers.
National Grid awarded an economic development grant of $500,000 to help Unifrax expand the facility, upgrade electric service and infrastructure to accommodate the new line. Total electric infrastructure costs are estimated at $2.3 million. The total project cost was approximately $33 million and completed in late 2017. The Firetower Drive complex is 265,000 sq. ft. with 321 employees.
The second project includes a new building at 55 Pirson Parkway adjacent to the Firetower Drive complex. The new building holds the largest polycrystalline emissions control support mat manufacturing line in the world, outside of Japan. The $34 million project includes the 85,000 sq. ft. building and manufacturing line, new office space, loading bays and process rooms. The new facility is complete and started production in April. The products made at Pirson Parkway are the first ever manufactured outside of Japan.
This project also received a National Grid economic development grant of $500,000 to support electric service upgrades and the installation of new electric infrastructure including transformers. This project has created 22 new positions at Unifrax to date.
“Unifrax has seen significant growth and an increase in demand for our products used in emissions control devices for vehicles”, said Dandolph. “The expansion and new manufacturing facility provides the increased production capacity we need to meet the growing demand from customers around the world. These products will be an important part of our portfolio for many years to come. By continuing to invest in our facilities, we are demonstrating our commitment to our customers, our employees and our communities. Partners like National Grid are essential to this growth and we wanted to take time to say thank you,” added Dandolph.
“We’re eager to work with customers who, like Unifrax, invest in their facilities and undertake major economic development projects,” said National Grid regional director Ken Kujawa. “Our programs are intended to encourage economic growth and energy efficiency, which is good for Unifrax, and good for the region.”
National Grid also provided Unifrax $323,000 in energy efficiency incentives for a variety of projects, including those related to lighting, heat recovery and compressed air. These projects will result in an estimated annual energy savings of 2.8 million kilowatt hours. According to U.S. Energy Information Administration statistics, that’s approximately enough energy to power 265 U.S. homes.
The building project grants were made available through National Grid’s Electric Capital Investment Program, which provides financial incentives to offset customer costs associated with upgrading utility infrastructure to accommodate business expansion or new construction. More information can be found at www.shovelready.com. The company also has a suite of energy efficiency incentives available to customers.
In addition to Tonawanda, Unifrax considered several international locations to expand. “The outstanding performance record, existing production expertise and quality workforce all contributed to the decision to expand in Tonawanda and build new operations,” explained Duncan Yardley, Executive Vice President and COO. “In addition to National Grid, Unifrax has received the support of several important state and local agencies who offered competitive incentives that helped justify this major investment. They include The Erie County Industrial Development Agency (ECIDA) providing business incentives and sales tax exemptions and PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes); Empire State Development Corp. who granted Excelsior jobs programs; New York Power Authority who granted low-cost power and the NYSERDA Industrial & Process Efficiency Program (IPE),” added Yardley.
With more than 70 years of experience in fiber technology, Unifrax supplies many high profile automobile and commercial vehicle manufacturers. “Our emissions control products help our customers reduce pollution and contribute to improving the environment,” explains Paul Vallis, Vice President, Environmental Materials Technology. “Unifrax products were used in the first catalytic converter produced for General Motors in 1974. Today we are uniquely positioned to serve the global emissions control customer base with these two projects now complete and operational,” said Vallis.
Unifrax operates 26 manufacturing facilities in 13 countries around the world. The Tonawanda investments make Western New York our most substantial manufacturing presence. These assets are in addition to Emissions Control manufacturing operations we have in Europe, China, South Africa, South America, Japan and India.
About Unifrax: Greener, Cleaner, Safer
Unifrax develops and manufactures high performance specialty fibers and inorganic materials used in high-temperature industrial insulation, energy storage, filtration and fire protection applications. Our products are designed with the ultimate goal of saving energy, reducing pollution, and improving fire safety for people, buildings and equipment and delivering on our commitment to our customers of greener, cleaner, safer solutions for their application challenges. Visit our website: www.unifrax.com. For updates follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
About National Grid
National Grid (LSE: NG; NYSE: NGG) is an electricity, natural gas, and clean energy delivery company that supplies the energy for more than 20 million people through its networks in New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. It is the largest distributor of natural gas in the Northeast. National Grid also operates systems that deliver gas and electricity across Great Britain. National Grid is transforming its electricity and natural gas networks to support the 21st century digital economy with smarter, cleaner, and more resilient energy solutions. Read more about the innovative projects happening across our footprint in The Democratization of Energy, an eBook written by National Grid’s US president, Dean Seavers. For more information please visit our website: www.nationalgridus.com. You can also follow us on Twitter, watch us on YouTube, friend us on Facebook and find our photos on Instagram.