Device makers congregate here


Stryker Corp., which employs more than 3,500 workers in southwest Michigan, is expanding its medical products division. Courtesy Stryker Corp.

West Michigan has become a hub for medical device manufacturing companies.

There are 29 medical device manufacturing companies in the region that create surgical equipment and medical appliances, among other things. They employ 20 percent of the industry’s professionals in Michigan, according to Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI), a labor market analytics firm.

Andria Romkema, digital marketing manager at The Right Place Inc., a local economic development organization, said the medical device manufacturing industry often is ignored.

“This industry flies under the radar, really,” she said. “The life science industry, medical industry in West Michigan is one of the fastest growing in the Midwest for sure.”

EMSI stated that between 2013 and 2017, there was a 7 percent increase in job growth in the region, which is bigger than the national rate of 4.8 percent. There are 2,462 jobs that include engineers and technicians in West Michigan.

One of the most notable decisions that reflects the industry’s job growth in the region was Medbio’s announcement in September of plans to expand its operations.

According to The Right Place, the Grand Rapids-based manufacturing company is investing $3.5 million to expand in the Cascade area. Medbio specializes in creating injection molding, which it assembles and packages to its clients throughout the U.S., Europe and Central America.

The company employees 185 professionals, according to EMSI, and with the expansion, Medbio is expected to create 43 jobs. It will purchase between 20 and 30 new injection molding machines as part of the expansion.

“Medbio continues to be one of West Michigan’s most successful medical contract manufacturers,” said Eric Icard, senior business development manager for The Right Place. “West Michigan hosts the highest concentration of medical device manufacturers in the state.”

Kalamazoo-based Stryker also is planning to expand. The company, which manufactures medical and surgical equipment for orthopedics and neurotechnology, employs 3,500 people throughout southwest Michigan, according to a Stryker spokesperson.

“We are expanding our medical products division and building a new state-of-the-art instrument facility that will result in the recruitment of new employees over the next several years,” the Stryker spokesperson said.

The growth of the industry in this region has a lot to do with multiple medical facilities and the economic benefits that are in West Michigan.

“The Kalamazoo area offers a great quality of life and cost of living,” the Stryker spokesperson said. “Many of Stryker’s employees and their families are here, it’s a diverse community with a noted arts culture and good schools, and it’s close to the Homer Stryker Medical Center at Western Michigan University.”

In an effort to continue the growth of the West Michigan medical device manufacturing industry, The Right Place has established MiDevice, an organization made up of 28 medical device manufacturers, including Autocam Medical, Grand Rapids Foam Technologies and Medbio. The organization’s aim is to speed the growth and development of medical devices by emphasizing and encouraging collaboration among members to meet overall product lifecycle and supply chain needs, according to The Right Place.

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