The Medical Device Industry in Memphis is Moving Mountains

According to the Greater Memphis Chamber more than 70,000 people work in the life science industry in the Memphis area.  However, most of the local residents aren’t even aware of the bounty of technical jobs that exist there.  Some in the industry are hoping to change that.  “Many of the students don’t necessarily know what kinds of careers are ahead for them if they focus on math and science in middle and high school”, said the Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering’s executive director, Harold Wingood.  But its mentoring program with Memphis medical device maker Smith & Nephew is helping to light the way.

“It’s not just engineers that make the bioscience sector move,” said Gibson “Sunny” Morris with the Mid-South Community College’s Arkansas Delta Training & Education Consortium.  “You can have all the engineers you want, but if you don’t have production workers to make that plant run, it’s not going to be very effective,” Morris said. To that end, his school offers an array of advanced manufacturing programs to help students learn to weld and run machines, among other things.

Also, a work group of medical device companies, university groups and the Bartlett Area Chamber of Commerce are working on a possibly $4 million facility with the up-to-date equipment used in medical device manufacturing to train locals on the specific skills they need to work in the industry.

So, perhaps the mountain is moving to Mohammed instead of Mohammed having to go to the mountain.


Is It Better to be On Your Own or in a Conglomerate?

I came across an interesting short blurb written by Maria Fontonazza entitled “How to Succeed in an Emerging Market” in which she lists what types of markets a medical device company needs in order to be successful.  She lists things we have talked about many times on our blog:

  •  A trained workforce.
  • Engineering skill that is supported by strong universities.
  • Access to risk capital.
  • A strong clinical and physician network.

What I found especially interesting was the fact that that she mentioned one of the challenges to gaining ground in some emerging markets is the cultural stigma around failing. She quotes Glen Giovannetti, Ernst & Young’s global life sciences center leader (Boston) who says, “It impedes entrepreneurship because it takes a bold person to leave an academic or corporate job at a successful company and take that risk to go out on their own.  From my own view, that is why you see new ideas and new businesses occur in conglomerate-type settings versus entrepreneurs out on their own.”

Hmmm… certainly something to consider.





















Indiana’s Life Sciences are Progressing and Growing

BioCrossroads recently did a report that tracked the progress of Indiana’s life sciences. The results indicate “a decade of substantial growth and measurable progress across a wide range of nationally significant indicators”.

For example, the report notes that by 2009, Indiana’s life sciences exports totaled $7.4 billion, ranking the third highest in the United States, behind only California and Texas.  The state has the third highest life sciences employment concentration* nationally, and has seen a 21% increase in life sciences employment, adding more than 8,800 new jobs to the industry since 2002. More than 50,000 workers at 825 companies comprise four life sciences sub-sectors: medical devices and equipment, drugs and pharmaceuticals, research, testing and medical laboratories, and agricultural feedstock and chemicals.  Indiana’s health information technology sector contributes an additional 2,500 workers and 72 companies.

According to BioCrossroads, this report underscores the state’s national rankings as a life sciences leader in the areas of exports, employment concentration, job growth and FDA filings.

As they say on the Indiana Beach commercial, “There’s more than corn in Indiana”.

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South Africa Goes Mobile

In South Africa, there is no shortage of diversity. Immigrants, natives, city-dwellers and tribal members share a landscape that ranges from cosmopolitan to provincial. However, even in rural areas where basic infrastructure may be lacking, people can now stay connected to family and keep up on global events through their cellphones. Thus, the mobile technology boom has led to a leap-frog effect on communication.

Now, taking advantage of this mobile infrastructure, South Africa has started to roll out a series of new projects aimed at improving access and lessening the burden on the health system.

  • Cell-life, a project involved with the government’s HIV testing campaign, using donated phones
  • eThekwini – a S. African Dept of Health endeavor to use cellphones in the monitoring and management of Tuberculosis patients
  • Patient data collection via cellphone by S. African-based research company, Mobenzi.

I must confess, I never would have thought of South Africa as a place that would have a “mobile health technology boom”, but I am pleased to see that my narrow mindedness is not a reality and that South Africans may soon be using mobile technology to improve their health system.

I also couldn’t help but notice that most of the technologies being developed in South Africa utilize “basic” cellphones. This is because, while most South Africans have cellphones, only a limited number have smartphones.  This makes me feel like there is still hope for my “basic cellphone carrying” self.  If there are technologies being developed that utilize “my kind,”  perhaps I can hold out from purchasing, and thus having to learn how to use, a smartphone for awhile longer.

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Life Sciences in the Midwest

A new contract sterilization company locating near Warsaw hopes to capitalize on the existing strength of the “Orthopedic Capital of the World,” while also expanding into other areas. Canada-based Iotron Industries says Columbia City, located in the agricultural heartland between Warsaw and Fort Wayne, offers the perfect geography for its three-prong growth strategy to increase its business in medical devices, commercial defense and agribusiness.

The $15 million facility in Columbia City is the company’s first U.S. operation and will split the distance between two major industry clusters: Warsaw’s orthopedic sector and Fort Wayne’s commercial defense industry, in which plastics and composites are used in aircraft and aerospace applications.

Indianapolis-based Medical Animatics, a 3D animation company, is making a foray into the game business. The company will develop a game for kids ages 6-12 to help them learn safe behaviors at home, in their neighborhoods, at school or at a park. Medical Animatics will develop the game for Ohio-based Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Health games designed to be both educational and enjoyable are being developed by two other companies with Indiana ties—Bloomington-based Wisdom Tools LLC and Indianapolis-based Gabriel Entertainment, as well as by growing numbers of developers around the country. Medical Animatics also develops 3D animated instructional and informational materials for the health care, higher education and sports industries.

Northern Indiana’s Manchester College plans to begin work this summer on its new $18 million pharmacy school. School spokeswoman Jeri Kornegay said Thursday that a ground-breaking for the 75,000-square-foot building in Fort Wayne is expected early this summer, possibly in June. Until the building is complete in July 2012, the college’s School of Pharmacy will continue to occupy space at Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne, about 30 miles east of North Manchester. The project is supported by a $35 million grant from Lilly Endowment that’s the largest gift in the college’s history. While pharmacy schools have opened on a rapid pace around the nation in recent years, Indiana is one of 18 states with a shortage of pharmacists. Manchester’s will be the third in Indiana offering doctorates in pharmacy, joining schools at Butler University in Indianapolis and Purdue University in West Lafayette.

Indianapolis-based medical device maker NICO Corporation announced at the American Association of Neurological Society (AANS) annual meeting that it has received CE Mark approval for its automated minimally invasive brain tumor removal device, the NICO Myriad™. The approval allows NICO to sell the Myriad system in the 27 countries that make up the European Union. The device has been commercially available in the United States since 2009 with more than 1,000 procedures performed with adults and children, sometimes in cases that would have previously been considered inoperable.

On a sad note, Bill Cook, founder of the Bloomington-based medical equipment manufacturer Cook Group Inc., passed away this past week.  He was 80 years old.  Cook built Cook Group Inc. into a worldwide conglomerate, with 42 companies under its umbrella. The Cook Group employs about 10,000 worldwide with sales estimated at more than $1.5 billion.  Cook’s company is one of the largest employers in Central Indiana, with about 3,000 workers in the Bloomington area.

Getting Ready to Kick Off Big Ideas Competition

Creo Quality is getting ready to kick off its Big Ideas Competition for 2011 on April 15. This is a contest for anyone who has a business/product/technology idea that would help improve Morgan County.  Each participant submits their idea and a panel of judges reviews the submissions.  The winners receive cash prizes to help start their business, as well as access to business mentors and resources to help learn about business ownership and entrepreneurship. It also gives sponsors a chance to invest in their community by donating money that will go towards helping new businesses.

We are excited about this opportunity to improve the business and economic climate of our county and are looking forward the innovative ideas our contestants will come up with.

Look for more information in upcoming posts.

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Creo Quality Is Working With Greater Kokomo

I recently alluded to Creo Quality’s upcoming engagements with a couple of economic development organizations.  I’m thrilled to report that the first of these is now underway.

Creo Quality is working with Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance to perform a strategic assessment on the community’s abilities to pursue life science opportunities. Read the press release featured on Inside Indiana Business.

Kokomo has a long history tied to the automotive industry. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, we all have seen the decline in the automotive industry. And the town of Kokomo has been especially hard hit.

We applaud Jeb Conrad and Greater Kokomo for having enough vision and foresite to explore other options. We make no promises but will be able to assess whether the community should explore and pursue life science opportunities.

Once we have the results, we’ll be sure to share some of our findings with you.

Helping Communities Pursue Life Sciences

Perhaps this post is a little premature. However, Creo Quality is excited about 2011. We have a variety of projects lined up for the new year already.

We are working with a handful of inventors and entrepreneurs, helping them take their ideas to the next stage. I love working with inventors who believe their ideas will change the world.

I’m really looking forward to 2011 for another reason. We will be working with two central Indiana communities to explore opportunities within the life science industry. We expect to start working with the first of these communities in January.

2011 will be a year for Creo Quality to demonstrate the depth and breadth of our services to help both early stage companies and communities. We will show how sound strategic principles are applicable in both spaces.

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Communities Applying Sound Strategic Principles

During the past two years, Creo Quality has been approached by a number of struggling communities who are interested in improving their economic situations. While in the past, communities who have approached CQ were interested in diving in to something without a strategic action plan, recent endeavors seem different. In particular, we have been approached by a community who wants CQ to help them identify their strengths and opportunities to target opportunities to leverage their competitive advantages and core competencies. While the project is still pending, it has been extremely encouraging to work with a community and economic development officials who have an interest in applying sound strategic principles to their growth plans.

We recently read a story in the IBJ about the city of Kokomo and its Mayor. At one point, Kokomo was ranked as having the highest average wages and is now at the bottom of the list. Now, it’s a battle of the budgets… moving trash cans to one side of the street, closing the city’s day care, etc. The biggest pitfall is that Howard County is not retaining the earnings of its best-paid workers! 20% of Howard County’s workforce lives outside Howard county and this 20% earns 30% of the income generated in the county. Kokomo and Howard County must attract more well-paid workers to live there and attract bigger companies to employ them and their Mayor is working on just that.

This, too, is encouraging to see where a little bit of strategy is being applied to help revitalize Kokomo’s downtown.

The i6 Challenge

The IURTC is taking the lead in preparing a grant application for a new program from several federal agencies led by the Economic Development Administration, called the i6 Challenge. This grant is a new $12 million innovation competition administered by the Economic Development Administration (EDA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce, in partnership with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF).  EDA will award up to $1 million to each of six winning teams with the most innovative ideas to drive technology commercialization and entrepreneurship in their regions.  NIH and NSF will award a total of up to $6M in additional funding to their Small Business Innovation Research grantees associated with winning teams.

i6 Challenge Goals: to accelerate technology commercialization and new venture formation as a driver for economic growth and new job creation.

One of the grant requirements is to leverage regional strengths. We feel one of Indiana’s strengths is in the willingness of community individuals and businesses to get involved in innovative solutions to statewide challenges. We would like for the companies that are members of INpact and the medical device community to play a role in bringing this program to fruition.

Application Deadline: Mid-July

If you do decide to get involved, we will only need a one page letter of participation to submit with the grant. We encourage entrepreneurs, investors, universities, foundations, and non-profits to participate in the i6 Challenge.

For more information, please go to

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Economic Dev Corps Should Pay More Attention to Community Foundations

Last week, Mike Hicks wrote  column about how lucky Indiana is to have so many community foundations and how they help our economy. Here is what we took away from that article.

Indiana has many things going for it and the expansive network of community foundations is among the most important, in our opinion. Indiana has more than 90 community foundations throughout the state. And unlike other organizations, the community foundations focus their efforts on better understanding how to impact their local economies and improve the quality of life for their residents.

Community foundations are able to focus on the community specific grants that larger organizations cannot. Here are a few advantages community foundations have over larger organizations because they are close to the community they serve:

  • they understand those they support, so potentially, those who do good work versus those who write good grants can get more funding.
  • they fill the gap between publicly and privately provided services – they know where the unmet needs are.
  • they act as a lifeguard for their communities by bridging funding for orgs that face potential short-term financial problems.

So, what better partnership could the IEDC and other economic development associations/organizations have than with their local community foundations? We would argue that Economic Development Corps. that are focused on how to boost and strengthen their local communities/economies need to rethink their partnerships with their local community foundations.

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May 11, 2010 – Creating Connections: The Importance of Building Business Needs

Creating Connections: The Importance of Building Business Networks

Tuesday May 11, 2010, 8:00A to 4:30P
Purdue University – West Lafayette, Indiana

Purdue University is pleased to collaborate with universities, colleges, national manufacturing associations, and economic development agencies in hosting manufacturing summits. The annual Advancing Manufacturing Summit, held each spring on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus, brings industry, government, and academic leaders to Purdue to address emerging global manufacturing economic and technology issues. Regional summits are developed in close collaboration with regional partners to ensure topics and concerns of local interest are emphasized at the event.

Click here for more information.

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April 1, 2010 – Venture Club of Indiana Luncheon

April 1st Venture Club of Indiana Luncheon

Legislative Update: How will what’s happening impact your business?

Please join the Venture Club’s monthly luncheon on April 1, 2010 to hear a wrap up of the recently completed Indiana legislative session and how it impacts business.  On the heels of the session you will hear views and insights from the trenches.

The recent session was rough and tumble and was further complicated by the State’s depressed revenue forecasts and the Nation’s economic condition.  Major bills affecting business were introduced and up for grabs.  Hear the inside story of how it all turned out and what you can expect.

Click HERE to register.

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The New Rural Paradigm

I had a chance to hear Dr. Mark Drabenstott speak at the recent North Central Indiana WIRED celebration luncheon in Kokomo, IN. Some key points relayed by Dr. Drabenstott:

  • Rural America continues to lose ground in the global economic race.
  • Rural communities must move past commodities-based economies.
  • Rural communities need to move beyond “Friday night basketball / football rivalries” and think regionally to establish critical mass.

The North Central Indiana WIRED initiative is an early example of a region attempting to do just what Drabenstott suggests.

During the past few years, I’ve had a chance to meet and interact with several economic development professionals. I’m amazed at how many neighboring towns and counties perceive they are in competition with one another. As Dr. Drabenstott emphasized, county lines and townships were established for an 18th century economy.

Rural communities need a new paradigm to survive and succeed.

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Can A Pro Football Team Boost Economic Development?

While watching the Indianapolis Colts go to 14 – 0 (Go Colts!), there was a short piece at half time with Harry Connick, Jr. about the New Orleans Saints (also undefeated at 13 – 0).

__media_a40b40b035554dab87060301b9ba2738ashx(photo from New Orleans Saints website)

Mr. Connick was talking about how the great season that the Saints are having is helping a New Orleans resurgence post Katrina. Do you think a pro football team (or any sports franchise) cause boost economic development for a community?

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