Former employees of the Occidental Chemical Corp. technology
center on Grand Island that was headed for shutdown have formed
a new company that has revived the location.
IsleChem, a chemical research and development company led by
Chief Executive Officer Charles Rader, bought the Long Road
site's land, building and equipment from OxyChem. The new
company employs 35 people, nearly all of whom used to work for
Earlier this year, OxyChem announced plans to shut the site
in a cost-cutting move and eliminate its 40 remaining jobs. The
center employed 275 people at its peak.
Rader and two other principals, Edward Rowe and Dale Kunze,
approached OxyChem about buying the site and keeping it alive.
The three each own one-third of IsleChem.
OxyChem had also considered demolishing the high-tech
building and selling the land, Rader said. "We looked like
a pretty viable alternative to that."
IsleChem bought the building and land for $375,000. Rader
declined to disclose the full value of the deal, which included
assets such as laboratory equipment.
On Wednesday, the Regional Development Corp. approved a
$500,000 line of credit for IsleChem. The RDC is a subsidiary of
the Erie County Industrial Development Agency.
IsleChem's scope of work includes contract research and
development, analytical services, sales and marketing
representation in the United States for foreign companies,
manufacturing of small-scale chemicals and "scale-up"
work on ideas that start out in a lab.
OxyChem is one of IsleChem's customers, Rader said.
The Grand Island building consists of 88,000 square feet -
much more space than IsleChem needs, so it's seeking tenants. It
already has one: Durez, which was occupying space there under a
previous arrangement with OxyChem.
Combined, IsleChem and Durez are using about 25 percent of
the building's space. Rader said IsleChem is close to signing
two other tenants, whom he declined to identify.
IsleChem has also met with University at Buffalo officials to
explore opportunities for working together, Rader said.
IsleChem officially began operations this month, but it
already has an experienced work force since it hired so many
former OxyChem employees, he said. Plus, the company expects to
tap into a base of "semi-retired" workers in the area
who want to stay involved on a contract basis.
The new company hopes to have doubled its employment two
years from now. Rader said he's not sure IsleChem will ever grow
to more than 100 employees, but he noted that its average salary
is $70,000 a year. "We're a knowledge-based
organization," he said.
Rader, a local native who started with Oxy in 1974, said it
was satisfying to bring back people who had worked for him at
the Grand Island center. "We're optimistic and having a lot
of fun," he said.