By Mike Dano | Sep 02, 2013
Innovation and expansion are on tap for Boulder's Mountainside Medical.
In the late 1980s, Peter Neidecker took over his family's business, National Wire and Stamping. The company manufactured a wide range of metal objects for clients including the Gates Rubber Company and Samsonite, but was probably best known for manufacturing the "ski ticket wicket" -- the wire holder that is used to attach ski tickets to your jacket. (Neidecker's dad, Peter Neidecker Sr., invented it.)
But when Neidecker attended a manufacturing trade show, he inadvertently fell into a much different industry: medical components. Neidecker came across an electrosurgical tool known as a "Bovie Knife" and realized there was a much better way to make the product than the machined status quo: wire forming and stamping it. Neidecker developed the process with his colleagues and patented it.
"Within two years we were the majority manufacturer of that product in the world," says Neidecker. He founded a new company, InstruMed, in 1991 to build millions of those new and improved Bovie Knives, along with a wide range of other medical components.
After a venture capital group folded InstruMed into a band of other companies in 1999, Neidecker started MedSource, which he took public in 2001. However, Neidecker's entrepreneurial streak came to a halt during the dot-com crash, when he found himself laid off with two years of pay. During that time, Neidecker hatched Mountainside Medical, which he and his wife Susan launched with the money she had accumulated in the real estate market. "Any entrepreneur needs a strong and supportive spouse, and Susan is that," says Neidecker.
In March 2006, the couple opened Mountainside Medical's first manufacturing plant in Boulder with two employees. Neidecker says the company chose Boulder partly because most of its clients were there, but subsequently discovered that the city was surprisingly welcoming to its medical manufacturing business and city officials helped the company get off the ground in a region where real estate is notoriously difficult to obtain. "The City of Boulder was incredibly supportive," he says.
Neidecker says Mountainside Medical received more aid from the city of Boulder than the state of Colorado because the company's wages -- geared toward manufacturing -- didn't rise to the level where the state could kick in assistance. Further, Neidecker said Boulder has a deep pool of high-tech talent, partially due to its proximity to the Colorado School of Mines and the University of Colorado.
Mountainside Medical started operations in a room it rented in part of a larger manufacturing facility, but the company eventually took over the entire 22,000-square foot building. Today, Mountainside Medical also counts a 12,000-square foot manufacturing facility in Louisville and a prototype-building operation in an annex of the Boulder facility. The company's Boulder plant focuses on surgical products and its Louisville plant centers on orthopedic and neurological equipment; the prototype studio is used to help meet the needs of clients and ensure a smooth transition to wide-scale manufacturing. "That's pretty fun," says Neidecker of the prototyping process.
Neidecker says Mountainside Medical recorded $240,000 in revenues in its first year of operation, a number that has grown to $18 million at the end of last year. "We've had fairly strong growth," he says. The company's customers today include the top 10 medical device manufacturers in the world.
Challenges: Neidecker says regulatory issues -- including new protocols from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration -- have created extra paperwork for Mountainside Medical. He also said the medical device tax in the new Affordable Care Act, which carries a 2.3 percent top line toll, could affect the company's customers.
Opportunities: The company continues to find new opportunities due to investments in manufacturing technologies. "We are seeing that the technologies that we're bringing to the market give us a lot of opportunities to do business with companies in other markets," says Neidecker.
Needs: As business goes global, Neidecker says Mountainside Medical needs to keep pace. "Our customers manufacture their products locally in emerging markets and they need local suppliers to support them," he says. "We want to be among their local suppliers."