What’s next for Warsaw’s orthopedic industry?
By Lauren Caggiano | Input Fort Wayne
As the headquarters for two of the world’s four largest orthopedic medical device companies and home to a host of related firms, Warsaw is known as the “Orthopedic Capital of the World.”
It's a nexus of talent development, talent attraction, and innovation, and at the center of this thriving regional industry is OrthoWorx.
Formed in 2009 with initial funding from the Lilly Endowment Inc., OrthoWorx is a non-profit that plays a critical role not only in the orthopedic industry and Warsaw, but also in Kosciusko County and the greater northeast Indiana region.
Its job is to make sure that Warsaw's orthopedic companies continue to thrive in northeast Indiana because their employees and the regional community largely depend on their success for future generations.
According to Executive Director Brad Bishop, who came from a career in the industry, this is what makes OrthoWorx “not a traditional nonprofit.”
Its mission, advancing the cause of the orthopedic industry, is one driven largely by economics.
“The (orthopedic) industry is the main economic driver (in the region),” Bishop says, “so there needs to be a focus on growing companies and expanding the supply chain.”
The numbers help to frame the story. According to a report from OrthoWorx, the county’s orthopedics manufacturers employ approximately 6,800 workers, representing nearly one in every four jobs in the county.
The industry is also a boon to the state’s average income per capita. According to that same report, the average annual wage for the county’s medical device workers is more than $10,000 greater than the state or national averages.
Beyond the dollars and cents, Bishop says their talent development and attraction initiatives are related to enhancing and maintaining the quality of life and place in Kosciusko County.
Innovation involves connecting with academic and industry partners to create an environment desirable for startups. And sometimes that means connecting with the entrepreneurs and problem solvers, themselves.
Through its AcceLINX™ initiative, OrthoWorx is providing industry-specific support to select inventors and entrepreneurs looking to enhance their prospects for business success.
Along with entrepreneurs, Bishop and his team have identified students as a potential source of future talent, too.
To that end, OrthoWorx works with K-12 schools, career/technical schools, and universities to prepare the next generation of leaders in the orthopedic industry from within regional schools.
“We funded a study of local school systems,” Bishop says.
Based on the results of that study, Orthoworx sees the need for STEM education across the region, so they're helping to fund training, mobile learning, and other initiatives to fill the gap.
In doing so, they have supported the first STEM certification at Warsaw Community Schools; partnered with Warsaw Community Schools Corporation to expand and enhance operations at the Washington Elementary STEM Academy; and provided funding for a STEM Coach position, additional teacher, professional development, as well as equipment and supplies acquisition.
"We’ve raised the bar in STEM education in our area," Bishop says.
Looking to the future, he sees OrthoWorx having a continued focus on workforce development in northeast Indiana, focusing on internship programs.
“We’ve done a lot, but still there’s a lot (of work) to be done,” he says.