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BUCHANAN, NY-Lafarge North America has decided it will not only keep its gypsum drywall manufacturing operations here, but will spend $75 million to upgrade and double the capacity of its facility.

Company officials say that the new production line will produce 650 million sf of gypsum wallboard annually to meet the needs of its Northeast customers. The renovation is expected to begin mid-2005 and be completed a year later.

In August, the firm went before the Westchester County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) which approved an inducement to provide the Herndon, VA-based firm with approximately $19.6 million in real estate, sales and mortgage tax benefits. In addition, New York State’s Empire State Development Corp. is also providing the company with some incentives in connection with its capital investment at its Buchanan plant.

Lafarge North America had been mulling whether to upgrade the Buchanan plant or make improvements to its drywall manufacturing facility in Newark, NJ. Several months ago, Gary Molchan, director of environmental safety and loss control for Lafarge North America, said the New Jersey plant upgrade would cost approximately $68 million to complete. He noted that the incentives given by the Westchester County IDA and New York State were critical in making the Buchanan project competitive with the proposed renovation program at is Newark facility.

The company will be expanding its existing 188,730-sf Buchanan plant at 350 Broadway to 298,000 sf. The plant, which employs approximately 97 workers, was built in the 1960s and was acquired by Lafarge in 1996. The facility has not been upgraded since its original construction. The company stated that the “positive business environment” and the incentives provided by the Westchester County IDA, Empire State Development Corp., and the Westchester County Public Utilities Service Agency were factors in its decision to upgrade and expand the Buchanan plant.

In addition to its Buchanan and Newark plants, the company operates gypsum drywall plants in Silver Grove, KY, Palatka, FL and Corner Brook in Newfoundland. In addition, Lafarge has a joint compound plant that operates out of Chambly, Quebec.

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