A celebration of manufacturing month in northern Arizona would not be complete without mentioning one of the most dominant sectors in this region – medical devices.
W.L. Gore and Associates leads the pack in this category, both in terms of product output and in employment. With roughly 2,300 associates, it is the largest private-sector employer in the region.
When it first came to Flagstaff in 1967, Gore’s focus was on electronics. That changed in the early 1970s when it developed its first vascular graft. Since then, the multiple campuses in Flagstaff have focused on a wide array of medical products, including stents, sutures and surgical meshes. The company estimates more than 45 million of its medical devices have been implanted worldwide.
W.L. Gore alumni have continued to build the sector by launching other medical device companies in our region.
In 1999, two former Gore associates started Machine Solutions, which has become a major provider of advanced equipment and services to the medical technology industry and an innovator in automating catheter and stent manufacturing.
In recent years, Machine Solutions has grown by acquiring complementary companies. After joining forces in 2012 with BW Forsyth Partners, the investment arm of global manufacturing and engineering consulting firm Barry-Wehmiller, Machine Solutions has acquired six other companies.
Meanwhile, one of its co-founders, Dan Kasprzyk, left the company to launch two more medical-related endeavors: Poba Medical, a developer and manufacturer of angioplasty style balloons and catheters, and Symple Surgical, which is developing new medical treatments using controlled microwave ablation.
In the United States alone, medical devices are a $156 billion industry. In northern Arizona, they have been a source of high-paying jobs and innovation that has been key to our economic vitality. And because our region has become a hub for the biosciences with these companies and others, we are confident we’ll be able to attract more of these types of businesses to the area in the future.