Skytron, a family-owned and managed business founded in Grand Rapids in 1972, has turned itself into a global company that merited being named 2014 World Trader of the Year by the West Michigan World Trade Association.
But that wasn’t apparent to the CEO before the award was announced.
“We were surprised,” said David M. Mehney, CEO of Skytron, located in Cascade Township off Patterson Avenue SE on Corporate Exchange Boulevard.
Skytron is a major distributor of devices and products for the health care industry that are manufactured by more than 20 independent companies around the world, according to the Skytron website. Some of the finished products are assembled here by Skytron, but all are branded and marketed under the Skytron name — mostly in the United States and Canada. However, Skytron is expanding its sales and marketing efforts in Europe.
Skytron is best known in the global hospital industry for its operating room equipment, such as high-tech surgical lights, operating and examination tables, high-tech booms for suspending lights, cameras, and a wide variety of other types of operating room equipment, electronic integration systems (known simply as “integration” in the industry), and RFID technology for tracking equipment and procedures.
Being named a World Trader of the Year puts Skytron in the company of much larger West Michigan companies that have received the honor in recent years, including Wolverine Worldwide, Amway, Steelcase, X-Rite and Meijer.
“They are one of the companies that we hold in very high esteem,” said Kelly VandenBosch, president of the West Michigan World Trade Association.
The association “is all about supporting West Michigan companies as they embark on international trade, and Skytron has this long track record of breaking into markets” outside of the U.S., said VandenBosch.
He noted that Skytron was one of several “deserving” companies nominated this year.
The World Trader of the Year award recognizes a business, organization or individual in West Michigan that has demonstrated a commitment to international trade in the region. It is a major part of the annual World Trade Week events held in the first week of May.
Skytron was founded by David P. Mehney, father of the current CEO. Mehney started a previous business in 1966 — Kawasaki Midwest Motorcycles — which was the Midwest distributor for that successful Japanese motorcycle manufacturer. Mehney’s subsequent experience doing business with Japanese companies introduced him to an opportunity to introduce a new type of surgical light into the U.S. market, which marked the founding of Skytron.
The innovative surgical light, which could be focused on one spot, “quickly gained the favor of many surgeons and nurses in the United States” and led to more introductions of new products for American health care, according to the Skytron website.
Privately held, Skytron LLC now has operations throughout North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, plus representatives in Central America, South America and the Caribbean.
The company is “definitely a market leader in the (operating room) lights, the booms and the OR tables,” said Scott Bowman, the head of Skytron marketing.
Skytron has about 120 employees in West Michigan, according to Mehney. In North America, a total of about 450 people are employed by either Skytron or its distributorships.