Niagara Gazette

June 13, 2013

Sentient set on Falls -- even if it has to wait a few years

By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — A high-tech company has officially announced its move to Western New York and revealed plans to expand to Niagara Falls.

Sentient Science, a company that has developed software that simulates the testing of various mechanical components, officially announced plans to be headquartered in Western New York in the Butler Mansion — a historic home on Delaware Avenue in a section of the city known as "mansion row," a property owned by the the UB Foundation, a private foundation affiliated with the University at Buffalo.

The company had originally planned to locate in the historic Schoellkopf Hall in DeVeaux Woods State Park, but processes related to the use of park land by businesses and the company's desire to make the move quickly meant they needed to find an alternate space to get up and running.

Ward Thomas, Sentient's president, said the company hopes to move some employees into the building in the Falls in the next three to four years.

Thomas, who bought a house in the city's DeVeaux neighborhood, said the company's first commitment is to satisfying its customers and that, so long as that works out, the company's research department will move into the office space along the Niagara Gorge.

"Who wouldn't want to be in that beautiful building?" Thomas said. "It's a key part of our business plan."

The company employs 10 people now, but will invest $10.5 million in the region and hire 86 new full-time employees, according to a press release issued by the company.

Mayor Paul Dyster said Schoellkopf Hall has been abandoned for many years and will require extensive work to bring back into a suitable condition.

"It's a beautiful building, but to bring it up to scratch, not just for occupancy, but for wiring for the type of work that they're doing, is a big task," he said.

Dyster said the DeVeaux neighborhood also offers great housing options for researchers, who value living close to their work as they sometimes work long hours.

"They could live and work in a very high quality of life," Dyster said. "The kids could play in little league and you could watch them play ball out the window. You also have immediate access to the Niagara River Gorge."

Contact reporter Justin Sondel at 282-2311, ext. 2257