For all the talk of West Michigan becoming a hub for medical device manufacturing, Rose Technologies’ founder Todd Grimm said he doesn’t think the region has made it to that level just yet.
“If you went to (manufacturers in) California and Minnesota and ask them what they think of the medical device companies in West Michigan, they’d say, ‘Who’s there?’” he said, noting the region is more associated with pharmaceuticals than medical devices.
But one of Rose Technologies’ customers, Apollo Endosurgery Inc. of Austin, Texas, was familiar with West Michigan’s medical device manufacturing capabilities because of the “big presence” Medtronic had in the region.
Beyond that, Charlie Dean, R&D director at Apollo, said Michigan has a good reputation in the industry as an affordable state for manufacturing.
“Most people like me that do outsource manufacturing know Michigan as one of the cheapest states to do work in. It’s smart and cheap,” Dean said. “There are good universities, people and infrastructure, but the low cost of living makes it more competitive. It’s probably one of the most competitive states to do contract-based manufacturing.”
Nationwide, the medical device manufacturing industry employs some 400,000, generates $25 billion in payroll, and pays 40-percent higher salaries than the national average, according to the Medical Device Manufacturers Association.
Grimm acknowledges several West Michigan companies like his continue to work in medical device manufacturing. The West Michigan Medical Device Consortium has 23 members, for example, although Rose Technologies is not involved with the group anymore. But to take the region’s supply chain to the next level, the region really must attract an OEM to relocate here, he said.
“To really grow this region, we need an OEM. We need to go buy an OEM,” Grimm said. “If these (OEMs) aren’t making 70-80 percent margins, they don’t want their divisions. Go buy it and move it here. Then you’ll have a hub. Doing it the way we’re doing it … is going to take forever. Go buy something. If you want to develop this, that’s the way to do it.”
But does Grimm expect that to happen?
“Probably not,” he said. “That’s the most logical way to me, but probably not.”