A young, Pennsylvania-based biotechnology company named MatriCal Inc. says it has all but decided to move to Spokane, probably by the end of this year.
The company, which is located just outside of Philadelphia but also has small manufacturing operations in nearby Delaware and in Los Angeles, has been studying a host of possible West Coast cities to which to move its headquarters and consolidate its operations, says its managing partner, Kevin Oldenburg.
Spokane is No. 1 on our list, says Oldenburg, who founded the company along with a silent partner about 18 months ago. In fact, theres a 99 percent chance that well move to Spokane by the end of the year.
Currently, MatriCal employs just eight people and expects sales this year of $1.5 million. Some of its products, however, have hit the market only recently, and Oldenburg expects the startups growth to swell in the next couple of years. He says he expects the company to employ 15 people by the end of this year and 50 by the end of next year. Based on recent orders and industry data, MatriCals sales could soar to $5 million to $10 million next year, he says.
Oldenburg co-founded MatriCal last year, after leaving his position as director of biomolecular screening and lead discovery at DuPont Pharmaceuticals Co. He says that while at DuPont, his work led to the award of several U.S. patents that DuPont later decided not to commercialize. He says he was able to buy the rights to those patents from DuPont when he left the company, and since has secured a couple more through MatriCal.
The company has three product lines. One line consists of special tubes, plates, and other plastic parts that pharmaceutical researchers use to analyze compounds in the process of discovering new drugs. MatriCal currently offers 30 different products in that line.
The second line includes what are called compound storage units, which are up to room-sized storage facilities in which compounds are stored in pharmaceutical labs. Oldenburg says such units, which MatriCal only recently began marketing, sell for between $500,000 and $1 million each. It recently installed one in a lab for Pfizer Inc.
The third product line currently is in testing, and for now consists of whats called a high-throughput, high-speed thermal cycler, which is used in conjunction with DNA gene sequencing. The devices are small enough to fit on a desktop and likely will sell for between $26,000 and $32,000.
Oldenburg says the company began looking for a new location after it became clear that as demand for its products grew, it would need to have all of its employees and manufacturing capabilities in one place. It currently leases small amounts of industrial space in Delaware and in Los Angeles, where the companys other co-founder resides. Oldenburg declines to name the other co-founder because the man is fulfilling an employment agreement with another company before joining MatriCal early next year.
Most of MatriCals employees are engineers, and the company uses contract manufacturers to make the components for its products, which it assembles itself. MatriCal would continue to rely on contract manufacturers if it moved to Spokane, but would benefit from having all of its employees and assembly space in one location, Oldenburg says.
Initially, MatriCal hopes to lease about 2,000 square feet of space in the Spokane Intercollegiate Research and Technology Institute, located just east of downtown. Oldenburg says that space would serve as a good stopgap while MatriCal gets used to Spokane and looks for a permanent home here. He says the company likely will need between 10,000 and 15,000 square feet of space by the end of next year if demand for its products grow.
He says the company began its search for a new home in California, but found the cost of industrial space and housing to be too expensive. It then looked at Eugene and Portland, Ore., as well as the Seattle area, but, says Oldenburg, The climate wasnt right for us there. We just dont like that much rain.
He says that his partner, who grew up in Spokane, then suggested looking here. I said, Isnt Spokane out in the middle of nowhere? he recalls, but then they visited Spokane and found it to have what they needed, he says.
The universities looked good, the city is thriving, the infrastructure is there for what we need to do, and the prices are low, says Oldenburg. We decided it was a no-brainer.
He says that when he told his engineers that the company was considering a move to Spokane, they said, No way, were not going. But after they investigated the city on the Internet and discovered what the home prices are here, For what theyre being paid, they can buy some of the more expensive homes in Spokane, Oldenburg says.
He adds, I think if some of my colleagues knew about Spokane, they would be moving to Spokane. Spokane could really attract people if they set their minds to it.
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