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Why Medtronic Chose Florida to Train Its Future Customers

May 14, 2014
Medtronic Surgical Technologies added a training facility to its Jacksonville, Fla. headquarter operations in part so that customers can see how the products are made while being trained on how to use them.

Sometimes it’s not enough to just produce your product, you must actively engage your potential customers on how to use it.

That’s the issue that Medtronic Surgical Technologies faces. As the doctors who use their products and solutions for surgical application for neuro/spine, cranial and orthopedics; ear, nose and throat; and surgical oncology have the ability to choose the brand of instruments they prefer, Medtronic wants to make sure the doctors feel comfortable with the products.

Last December the company expanded its facility in Jacksonville, Fla. adding a 10,000-square-foot auditorium with a 4,000-square-foot product research and development lab along with another 3,000-square-foot customer training lab that cost $14 million to build.  The expansion is expected to create 175 full-time jobs by 2015.

“The fact that our training facility is at the same location as our manufacturing operations is a great advantage for our doctors and surgeons as they can walk over to our manufacturing floor and see the level of quality around the products they are using,” says Mark Fletcher, president, Medtronic Surgical Technologies. This was a key factor in deciding between adding onto the Florida facility or going to another location where the company has operations. Having this link between production and end user was essential.

The medical device field is quite collaborative in that companies have a particularly strong relationship with their customers, in this case surgical doctors from around the world. The ideas for products, updates and improvements come from the customers.

“Our customers help us develop next generation products based on what features they need to do their jobs better,” says Fletcher.

The collaboration between the company and its customers is similar to the collaboration that the company has with the city of Jacksonville. The company opened its Jacksonville facility in 1978 and currently has about 750 employees.

“We have had a very close relationship with Medtronic Surgical Technologies for many years,” explains Jerry Mallot, president of JAXUSA Partnership, an economic development organization. “They are an essential part of the fabric of our community; from helping other companies evaluate our city for potential relocation as well as participating in social organizations.”

While the city appreciates the support from the company, the company has benefitted from not only the resources any community would offer to its businesses, but the greater value comes from the loyal workforce.

“We have employees who have worked for us for 30 years,” says Fletcher. “Relatives of employees work for us and feel a strong sense of pride in the type of products we produce.” Fletcher quoted the mission statement which was created over 60 years ago by the founder of Medtronic (IW 1000/286), Earl E. Bakken, in order to explain the source of pride employees feel in the company. "The mission is to alleviate pain, restore health and extend life. "

The mission of this company has a particular appeal to the generation of Millennials for whom social responsibility is often a requirement of the employers they choose to work for. Medtronic Surgical Technologies works closely with area high school students bringing them into the facility for a first-hand view. Fletcher says some students decide to go into medicine after the visit, but luckily a number go on to work for Medtronic Surgical Technologies.

Medtronic Surgical Technologies is a part of a strong life sciences sector that calls Jacksonville, Fla. home. According to the Center for Global Health and Healthcare Diplomacy, one in every six employees in the region works in the health care and biosciences sector. The annual economic impact is $23.6 billion with 94,000 people employed in this sector.

Indications are that this growth will continue. Last year J&J VISTAKON, which is the largest manufacturers of contact lenses, invested $218 million to expand its facilities and boost the companies’ workforce to 2,000.

Increasing the life sciences workforce is something that Jacksonville is prepared to address. “We have a broad band of trained workers in the health care field,” says Mallot. “Furthermore we have a pipeline available through a community college system that can tailor training to meet future needs.”

With workforce being the pivotal point upon which manufacturers are making decisions about where to locate/expand, a large part of the success in both retaining and attracting a future workforce is in the commitment of companies, such as Medtronic Surgical Technologies’, which has made Jacksonville its headquarters.

As Fletcher says, “It’s home.”

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