BUFFALO, N.Y. (March 30, 11:25 a.m. ET) — In just eight years, the Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park — home to a CertainTeed Corp. fence, railing and decking plant — has made a remarkable transformation from a reclaimed brownfields area to an industrial site that includes a waterfront park for hiking, biking and fishing.
“The park opened last fall and it is quite an attraction,” said Peter Cammarata, president of the Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park, in a telephone interview.
What is amazing about the transformation is that the area was the site of Hanna Furnace, a smelter of pig iron from 1903 to 1982. After that, it was vacant for about 25 years, contaminated with slag from its former tenant.
That changed in 2004 when Valley Forge, Pa.-based CertainTeed decided to open a 250,000 square foot facility there, moving a plant from nearby Cheektowaga, N.Y.
The decision caused a stir because a number of groups, including the Citizens Environmental Coalition, which opposed the move.
However, CertainTeed convinced state and local officials that they were the right tenant.
“We haven't heard anything in the last seven years and they've fit in nicely with the community,” Cammarata said.
The Citizens Environmental Coalition did not return calls for comment.
Now, two other companies – Sonwil Distribution Inc., a third party logistics company, and Cobey Inc., which builds piping packages for oil and gas and petrochemical industries, are on site. Cammarata said Sonwil has a 300,000 square foot building and is planning a second facility, while Cobey occupies 90,000 square feet.
He said that CertainTeed was instrumental in the setup and maintenance of a park association to maintain the common areas around the industrial park. They even planted 1,000 trees.
The Ship Canal Common opened in November, 2011, as a 22 acre waterfront park. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation contributed $6 million, creating a park with a bridge over the canal. So, the entire area is much more appealing.
CertainTeed, which said that it had kept a tight focus on environmentally responsible operations since 2004, recently achieved International Organization of Standardization 14001 certification. The status is gained when a company minimizes its environmental impact and concentrates on improving its environmental performance.
“I'm excited about our ISO 14001 certification because it shows the passion that our employees have for reducing our environmental footprint” said Joe Begansky, CertainTeed Buffalo's plant manager in a news release.
He went on to say that the employees have been active in recycling and in looking to operate efficiently and with less waste.
The plant was recognized by its parent Cie St. Gobain of Paris with an Excellence in Energy Efficiency award for reducing energy use by 12.5 percent in 2011.
Among the steps it took last year was installing energy efficient T5 fluorescent bulbs and motion sensors to shut off lights when rooms were empty. It uses 100 percent hydropower and a closed loop water system that saves 372 million gallons of water a year.