AVE MARIA — Construction of Arthrex’s new manufacturing plant off Oil Well Road is finished and the focus turns to installing millions of dollars worth of equipment for a July opening, company officials say.
The international medical device manufacturing company, headquartered in North Naples, received a certificate of occupancy Monday after 12 months of construction. The cost came in under $25 million, in line with projections, for the 190,000-square-foot building, said Andy Owen, Arthrex director of manufacturing.
Another $15 million to $20 million in equipment will be installed, which takes time for the complex manufacturing operation. Arthrex makes more than 7,500 surgical products, predominantly for minimally invasive orthopedic surgery, for international distribution.
The two-story, white manufacturing plant with a blue roof stands out because it sits alone on a stretch of rural Oil Well Road in eastern Collier County. The road was widened to accommodate growth but the recession stalled development.
Barron Collier Cos., a major landholder and developer of Ave Maria, donated 21 acres for the new plant to Arthrex. The company also received $2.2 million in financial incentives from county government for creating 300 to 500 high-technology jobs with an average salary of nearly $60,000.
“Arthrex is very pleased to expand its economic diversification investments to eastern Collier County with our new state-of-the-art surgical device and implant manufacturing facility near Ave Maria,” said Reinhold Schmieding, founder and president of Arthrex, in a statement. “The significant expansion project contributes to the growth and the stability of our business, provides our employees with enhanced local job security, and demonstrates Arthrex’s commitment to the future economic prosperity of Southwest Florida through additional job creation.”
A formal economic impact analysis wasn’t done, but Blake Gable, president of Barron Collier, said he is speaking with groups about opportunities in the area. He declined to say if anything is imminent.
“It will just be a matter of time,” Gable said. “Right now our main focus is making sure we get everything done in that area so Arthrex can open on time. That’s been our primary focus.”
Gable and Richard Akin, chief executive officer of the Immokalee-based Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida, are exploring the potential of a hospital in eastern Collier. A location hasn’t been disclosed. Gable said a second-phase analysis is under way and they are gathering input from physicians — and they’ve been supportive so far.
The Arthrex plant
The Arthrex plant’s ground floor is 166,000 square feet and there’s 30,000 square feet on the second floor. The plant will be 60 percent occupied by August with vacant space to accommodate growth, Owen said.
Rapid growth has been a hallmark of the privately held company, which is ranked among the top 200 private companies in the state by Florida Trend and was named in the top 5 in Southwest Florida last summer by Gulfshore Business.
Arthrex had 1,200 local employees a year ago at the plant’s groundbreaking, attended by Gov. Rick Scott, and today it has 1,479 employees. That includes 135 new employees hired for the new plant so far, Arthrex spokeswoman Lisa Gardiner said.
“This will be a fully functioning manufacturing facility, with jobs created at all support levels, ranging from facilities services to senior engineering and quality assurance management, and all salaries ranging from entry level to high wage,” she said.
During the building’s construction, there were nearly 200 workers on site daily for at least six months, said David Kovalik, project manager for the general contractor, DeAngelis Diamond Construction Inc.
Owen said overseeing the building’s construction was a pleasure for him, and the biggest project so far in his career.
“This is the premier manufacturing plant in the state and maybe in the U.S.,” he said, lauding the general contractor. “A building of this quality in 12 months — I’ve never heard of that.”
The first floor of the complex holds the molding, kit, assembly, packaging and sterilization departments, along with administrative offices, a library for Food and Drug Administration certification audits, a kitchen and cafeteria.
There are two 8,000-square-foot clean rooms, which are dust-free with special air filters and where workers wear gowns, which surpass the one 4,000-square-foot clean room at Arthrex’s current manufacturing plant on Creekside Boulevard in North Naples.
The new plant will operate with two 10-hour shifts for employees and there will be security on site, Owen said.
The kitchen is capable of preparing 2,000 meals a day but will not be serving that level. Arthrex provides lunch to employees, at no charge to them, and there will be a sous chef on site, similar to the Naples campus cafeteria. The plan at the new plant is a buffet, which is more environmentally friendly, Owen said.
The kitchen equipment is state of the art, and will open with six employees and a sous chef, Owen said.
“This is top-level hotel (style),” he said.