Northeast Indiana counties succeed in medical device manufacturing

January 1st, 2017

By Elizabeth Engler Modic | Today's Medical Developments

Just a few hours west from Cleveland, Ohio, the drive to Fort Wayne, Indiana, led me past working farms and wind farms until crossing into Northeast Indiana, and that’s where my trip to learn about the region’s bustling medical manufacturing sector began.

Eleven counties make up the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership – Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, Kosciukso, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells, and Whitley – where medical device manufacturing is large. Located in this multi-county region is “The Orthopedic Capital,” Warsaw, Indiana, which is recognized for its concentration of OEMs and contract manufacturers focused on the production of implants, from hips and knees to screws, plates, and more.

Starting with a welcome and overview of the region was John Sampson, president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership. While Fort Wayne won’t ever be as large as Indianapolis, bringing these 11 counties together under a partnership allows businesses to grow and collaborate while being supported by more resources than one county alone could offer.

Businesses are eager to locate to this region because of the talented workforce, quality of life, and economic support, Sampson says. However, maintaining that workforce can be challenging at times since 6 of the 11 counties have unemployment of less than 4%. One way the partnership is working to grow the regional workforce to keep up with demand is through a vast network of educational opportunities – and it should be noted that while medical manufacturing is the leading market here, Indiana boasts strong manufacturing in aerospace, motor vehicles, and electronics.

Education support for talented workers comes from:

  • Eight science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs at New Tech Schools
  • Ivy Tech Community College’s Orthopedic Quality Standards and Technical Skills Certificate Program for students interested in advanced manufacturing skills development
  • Trine University’s undergraduate design engineering technology, chemical, and bioprocess engineering program and graduate biomedical engineering and biomaterials program
  • Indiana Tech’s undergraduate program in biomedical engineering
  • Grace College’s graduate program in orthopedic regulatory and clinical affairs

Collaboration abounds

After hearing from Sampson on the area and industry, Brad Bishop, executive director of OrthoWorx Inc. gave additional insight. OrthoWorx is a non-profit initiative that works strategically and collaboratively with the orthopedic industry throughout the region to help ensure a strong medical device community – and the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership has teamed up with OrthoWorx to continue supporting the region. It seems to be working as Northeast Indiana medical device companies are market share leaders in the $45 billion worldwide orthopedic and biologics industry and these companies had sales of more than $12 billion in 2012 (most recent numbers available from the Partnership).

The success this region is having also can be attributed to these organizations taking a deep look at what they have and what’s missing within the overall industry supply chain, and then go to work to attract those missing pieces of the puzzle. They did just that when British Columbia, Canada-based Iotron Industries decided to open their first U.S. facility in Columbia City. Iotron offers electron beam technology to modify the physical, chemical, molecular, and biological properties of materials and products, a process used with medical devices but one that also has applications in sectors such as aerospace & defense, food, and agriculture.

While I was able to visit Iotron back in 2012, this visit offered a look at a few different medical device contract manufacturers. Now, while each company has its own unique story, they all echoed the same confidence in location, noting that Northeast Indiana is the place to be if you’re in medical device manufacturing – orthopedics to be specific.