Berkshire event aims to connect local suppliers, medical manufacturers

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PITTSFIELD >> The Berkshire Innovation Center won't open until next year, but programming for its membership has already begun.

On Thursday, the center co-hosted an event at which representatives of the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council launched the MedTech Match program in the Berkshires.

The MedTech Match program matches companies that supply products to the medical device field with Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) that include industry heavyweights like Johnson & Johnson, Siemens Diagnostic, Medtronic and Philips Healthcare. Those companies are either located in Massachusetts or maintain offices here.

The event at Berkshire Community College was the first of three local meetings that will take place on the MedTech Match program, according to BIC project consultant Rod Jane.

Representatives of 19 local entities attended the 90 minute session, and 10 of them are members of the BIC. They filled out a survey that MassMEDIC will review with the medical device manufacturers. The manufacturers will then select five or six medical supply firms that are located in Western Massachusetts to pitch their products to them personally, according to Jane.

Founded in 1996, MassMEDIC is an organization of medical device manufacturers, suppliers and associated nonprofits in Massachusetts. With more than 350 members, it is the largest medical device association in the United States.

MassMEDIC President Tom Sommer and supply chain and contracting consultant Bruce Stanley provided tips on how to catch the attention of these national and international manufacturers.

"Here's what the OEMs have told me," Stanley said. "They don't want suppliers who are just trying to sell them something. They said, 'Bring me suppliers who can sell me something unique.' "

Berkshire County has a number of small companies, particularly plastics firms, that provide products to the medical device industry.

"We're offering an opportunity for companies from the Berkshires, Central Mass. and the New Bedford region an opportunity to work with MassMEDIC to increase their exposure to medical device manufacturers," said MassMEDIC President Tom Sommer, who is also a member of the BIC's board of directors.

"There are tremendous resources that are available in this region to the medical device industry," Sommer said, "It's a question of bringing together manufacturing capacities that are out here with the specific needs of the OEMs."

The BIC, which will be located at the William Stanley Business Park of the Berkshires, is expected to supply training and equipment for local companies that supply materials to the life sciences industry. The city of Pittsfield received state funding to build the 20,000-square-foot structure last year. It's not expected to open until July 2016.

"Even though the Berkshire Innovation Center won't be open for over a year from now we're starting the programs now," Jane said. "Part of the value to our members is that we're going to be organizing speaking programs every couple of months, and bring in real good speakers on topics of interest that are relevant to the manufacturing base out here and our member companies particularly the life sciences companies."

"Massachusetts has the second-largest cluster of medical device companies in the country," Jane said. "But only about half of their suppliers are from Massachusetts."

BIC board Chairman Stephen Boyd, the CEO of Boyd Technologies in Lee, was pleased with the turnout.

"I was excited about it as our first event," Boyd said. "It was nice to see such a nice diverse group of people and solid attendance. The information that was offered was germane and relevant to us as a supplier to the life sciences."

When the BIC officially formalized last year, 19 entities signed letters of intent expressing their desire to join the organization. Jane said 10 of those entities have since signed formal membership agreements.

"We had hoped to do at least four by the end of 2014," Jane said. "There's another handful we think are ready to join the center in the next few months."

Contact Tony Dobrowolski at 413-496-6224


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