By David Yarger
Wednesday morning, local officials and first responders gathered at Empire Emergency Apparatus, 3995 Lockport Road, to break ground on a new 10,000-square-foot expansion in the Town of Niagara.
Empire currently manufacturers emergency response vehicles for first responders all over New York, including the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office, and departments in parts of Pennsylvania and Ohio.
On the company’s website, it said, “Empire Emergency is the trusted provider of highly customized response vehicles designed to ensure the effectiveness and safety of the men and women who protect and serve our communities. Our passion for quality, innovation and service enables you to do your job efficiently with the knowledge that the specialized equipment you rely on has been expertly installed and inspected with meticulous attention to detail. ‘Solutions that Matter’ reflects Empire’s philosophy of holding ourselves to the strictest quality standards and our relentless commitment to unparalleled service.”
Local officials at the event included Michael Casale, commissioner of the Niagara County Department of Economic Development; Michael McLaughlin, Empire Emergency Apparatus president; Leonard Skrill, New York State Homes and Community assistant commissioner; Niagara County Sheriff James Voutour; David Godfrey, Niagara County legislator; and Lee Wallace, Town of Niagara supervisor.
All six took time to speak at the groundbreaking and offer their excitement to see Empire expand its facilities in Niagara County.
Casale said, “The Niagara County Legislature is very serious about meeting with as many Niagara County companies as we possibly can to get the lay of the land, to learn more about our companies, where they were five years ago, where they are today and where they envision themselves five years from now. … We’re so happy that, working with all our partners at the state and locally here, we can work with Empire Emergency Apparatus and do a great project like this.”
McLaughlin, with his wife, Kathleen, shared his excitement to ceremony attendees and talked about how he’s seen his company grow over time.
“Without her, this couldn’t be possible, and without the great employees that we have here. We created this company in 2006. Our goal was to have a company that would meet the needs of all the first-responders throughout New York and beyond to give them the vehicle, the apparatus they need to do their job.
“Our biggest point is quality. They depend on us. These folks do their job every day, day in and day out. They don’t need to second-guess the quality of the apparatus that they’re running with, the vehicles they depend on to do their job. … We’re proud to serve those who serve us,” McLaughlin said.
He added, “With this grant and all the incentives that New York state has given to remain here in the Town of Niagara in this community, we are going to add 16 jobs at the minimum. … We wouldn’t want to be anywhere else than here.
“When we originally bought this building, Kathleen and I walked around it and thought, ‘My goodness, how are we going to fill 13,000 square feet?’ Well now we’re adding another 10,000 square feet. And I’m sure it won’t be long until we’ll be adding again.”
McLaughlin said his company has produced vehicles for first-response groups in Niagara Falls for the NCSO, Brockport, and for the New York Police Department and Fire Department of New York.
Voutour said, with Empire Emergency Apparatus, he knows his deputies and he are safe in the equipment provided to them.
“We have hundreds of vendors, and I tell my staff everyday, when we select a vendor for something, we look in Niagara County first. … To have this in our backyard – Empire, who’s worked on our cars for years and I trust to build the car that I drive – is just a hidden treasure in Niagara County,” Voutour said. “When you look at the cars inside the shop and the cars out here, you can see that the top officials of New York City are bringing their cars here to be outfitted for emergency services. You know we have something special in the Town of Niagara. … To have this in our backyard is something special, and to be able to trust Mike and his crew so that we can put together cars that are safe for my officers and my deputies and everything that we do in emergency services in Niagara County really is truly a treasure here.”
Skrill added, “What this represents is strong vote of confidence in the future of the Town of Niagara and Niagara County. This is a significant investment that retains (and) create jobs that will strengthen families and the local economy. … Projects like this don’t just happen. They’re a culmination of many hours of hard work among the various and dedicated stakeholders.”
Godfrey mentioned his experience as a first-responder and the importance of a group like Empire.
“The work they do here is important to each and every one of us, not just our first-responders, our sheriff, our firefighters. I’ve been a firefighter and EMS for many years myself, and I know the value of good, reliable equipment. And this company produces that kind of equipment. This is truly (a) life-saving business right here in Niagara County. We’re so proud to have them here to produce such a product that services our people,” Godfrey said.
Wallace was the final speaker to add remarks. He mentioned how it’s coincidental that the facility is located in what used to be the old home for Town of Niagara Active Hose Fire Co.
Additionally, he said he was happy to see the company continue to advance in the town.
“I want to thank Mike and his staff for their commitment to the Town of Niagara,” Wallace said. “I told him we were behind him 100 percent. The Town of Niagara is behind all of our local businesses. For this business to stay in our town and expand is one of the most exciting things that’s happened to us in a long, long time. … The Town of Niagara is a business-friendly community, and we will do what we can for our businesses and for those who want to expand in our town.”
The ceremony finished up with Wallace, Skrill and the McLaughlins putting the shovels into the ground to begin the expansion of Empire Emergency Apparatus.
Town of Niagara Supervisor Lee Wallace speaks to the media and groundbreaking attendees as Niagara County Legislator David Godfrey watches.
Niagara County Sheriff James Voutour addresses the crowd. (Photos by David Yarger)