Since 1990, Austin Air has been manufacturing air purifiers right here in Buffalo.
"Austin Air was established in 1990 by Richard Taylor, in Buffalo," said Austin Air's Mike Domon. "We've been in our current location, which is the old Trico plant on Elk Street since 2000."
Austin Air makes two sizes of air purifiers that can each be outfitted with a number of different HEPA filters to clean the air in a room or small home. Today the company claims to have the largest air cleaner manufacturing facility in the world, where from filter to forming, everything is made in-house. It wasn't always that way though.
"In the early '90s when we first started, obviously as a start-up company, you don't have the capital or the resources to do every stage of the manufacturing, so there were certain times where we couldn't have everything done in-house," Domon said. A lot has changed since that time. Not only does Austin Air manufacture the steel that constructs their air purifiers, but also the special HEPA filter that goes inside them.
Domon says that when Austin began making air purifiers, they were one of just a few companies making the machines. It didn't take long for other manufacturers to join the fold, and soon places like Brookstone and Sharper Image, who had once sold Austin's purifiers, were putting out products of their own. While those companies have had varying success with their products, Austin Air's business continued to grow. Domon credits that to their increasing ability to make the products in-house, which allows for tight quality control.
"One of the big things that makes our units quite a bit different than a lot of the others is how we fold our HEPA paper. Our machine was built specifically for our product, so it's very unique to Austin Air, and that's something that in the past we weren't able to do in-house, we had to pay other companies to do those types of things."
HEAR THE EXTENDED INTERVIEW WITH MIKE DOMON
Once the final product is made and boxed, it gets shipped out from their Buffalo Factory to customers all over the world.
Made in China, bought in America. It's what most are used to seeing and hearing, but it's the opposite that happens at Austin Air. "Any time I tell people how much we actually ship to China, people love it. I have trucks coming here two or three times a week to pick up stuff to ship to China, and every time the truck driver wants to know where it's going. They're like 'Really? It's going to China? I'm usually bringing stuff in from China.' It's pretty unusual."
Domon says the air purifiers made by Austin Air are becoming increasingly popular overseas, particularly in countries with poor air quality. For Austin Air, at least, US regulations have provided a boost as Domon says he believes people around the world, even in China, view health products like his that are manufactured in the US as superior to those made in countries with fewer regulations.
It's just one of many reasons Austin Air says they are proud to be made in Western New York.
"We could do things outside, we've had opportunities," Domon said. "We want to stay here, we want to keep people employed and want to continue to grow. There's ways to make things work in Buffalo, you've just got to get a little creative at times."