by Susan Mikula Campbell
A ribbon was cut and speeches made as Viatran celebrated its official grand opening Monday at its new headquarters in Calamar's mixed-used Woodlands Corporate Center East in Wheatfield.
But the real story was in the proud, happy-to-be-here faces of Viatran's employees as they showed family members around their bright, spacious, 18,000 square-foot space in the 42,000 square-foot facility at 3829 Forest Parkway.
Viatran, a Dynisco company, is a worldwide leader in providing pressure and level sensors for areas such as oil and gas services, steel production, food and medical equipment, injection molding, die casting and chemical production. The company started in 1965 with three people in an old Buffalo garage. In addition to the new Wheatfield site, it has offices in Franklin, Mass., and in Malaysia. Viatran currently employs about 50 people and with the opening of the new facility, anticipates hiring an additional 25 people in the next three years.
Viatran was headquartered on Grand Island since the 1970s. Efforts by State Sen. George Maziarz, County Legislature Chairman Bill Ross, Department of Economic Development Chairman Henry Sloma and Executive Director Sam Ferraro of the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency were instrumental in procuring hydro power through Empower Niagara that helped lure Viatran to Niagara County, according to Calamar President Kenneth M. Franasiak.
George Fraas, Viatran general manager, said the company had outgrown its Grand Island space. Dynisco wanted them to move, but preferred that they stay in the Western New York area. A move elsewhere would likely mean the loss of many longtime employees and their know-how, Fraas said.
The new building is comfortable, light and airy and with the low-cost power, will mean savings for the company.
"It fits our needs to a T," Fraas said. "It provides us with a lot of flexibility."
All the employees seem happy with the move, but especially those who live in Niagara County, who no longer have to deal with the vagrancies of traffic and repairs on the Grand Island Bridges.
"I'm five minutes from my house, and it's a nice, new building," said Judy Trunzo, a production operator from Wheatfield.
There's no comparison with the old Grand Island facility, she said. "When it rained, the rain used to drip on us."
Bill Blazejewski of Town of Niagara, a Viatran quality assurance engineer who has been with the company almost 31 years, said most Viatran employees have been with the company for many years and regard themselves as a family.
"I really think we deserve a new building. We love it here," he said, adding that having a roof that doesn't leak and a lot of large windows that let the outside world inside makes a big difference. "Calamar did an excellent job on this building."