Billionaire businessman Tom Golisano, whose history includes founding PayChex Inc. and ownership of the Buffalo Sabres, is making a "major investment" into a young Buffalo-based company.
Bak USA, which was launched under Governor Andrew Cuomo's StartUp NY program last July and opened inside the former Sheehan Memorial Hospital building last December, manufactures computer tablets.
Golisano's investment, which was not revealed in terms of dollars amount but was said to be 50 percent of the company, will allow Bak USA to grow its current workforce to 100 people within the next year, with further job creations anticipated in the future.
Company officials announced the investment at their downtown Buffalo headquarters Monday morning. Golisano was not present, but spoke to guests via telephone from Florida.
"The Bak family has some characteristics about it that are very appealing to an entrepreneur," Golisano said. "They have intensity, they have skill, and they have integrity."
Golisano stated he was equally impressed with their product, which he said had good features, is ready to deliver, is "priced right" and made domestically.
Among those who already own a Bak tablet is Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, who expressed his satisfaction with the product and hinted that more people within Erie County's workforce may soon be seen carrying them.
"I know a number of departments are looking at them," he said. "Some have already purchased, that use tablets. For example, our Department of Health. When they do health inspections they use tablets to record the information. Our Emergency Services use them, especially when we're communicating in a storm situation. This is great, because it's a combination tablet and phone."
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, who was in attendance, also expressed his praise for the product and recalled that his proposed 2015-16 budget for the City of Buffalo, unveiled last Friday, calls for the purchase of 500 tablets for the Say Yes to Education program. The purchases would be made following a competitive bidding process, he added.
The company's founders, the Bak family, have done business globally and made stops in Santa Barbara, California and Port Au Prince, Haiti before settling in Buffalo. JP Bak, who along with his wife Ulla and son Christian founded the company, say the STARTUP NY program is what made it possible for them to get started.
"Without his brave STARTUP NY program, we would not have been here in Buffalo," Bak said.
"It is a professional welcome to businesses in New York on all levels."
Governor Cuomo, like Golisano, was not present but spoke by telephone as part of the announcement. He praised this latest tale in what he called the Buffalo turnaround.
"When was the last time we heard about international entrepreneurs moving in to Buffalo?" Cuomo said. "Talk about the Buffalo turnaround and the Buffalo future, this says it in stereo."