By Alan Rosenhoch, BNE Business Development Manager
Headquartered right here in Buffalo, NY, Graphic Controls is a global corporation with manufacturing operations and sales offices in the USA, Canada, Belgium, Germany, France and the UK. With its Medical Division, Graphic Controls is the leading manufacturer of medical recording chart paper, offering the widest assortment of chart papers for all hospital departments – from cardiology to the blood bank. They have recently introduced a new line of patient monitoring supplies and an Emergency Medicine product line. Graphic Controls recently acquired an operation in Germany that specializes in standard and custom filtration products in the laboratory/diagnostic and pharmaceutical space. They continue to expand that business in Europe and are introducing those products into North America.
Mr. Hoffman has been with Graphic Controls since 2001, overseeing various aspects of the business and as vice president for the last three years. He holds a BS Engineering degree and a MBA from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He also attended the Darden graduate School of Business Administration. Mr. Hoffman actively participates in the regional Medtech organization and in various events at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. His personal time is well spent with his wife and two young daughters.
I had the opportunity to ask Mr. Hoffman a few questions:
Q. You have just announced a major expansion of your medical manufacturing division at your Buffalo headquarters location. Tell me a bit about what this expansion entails.
A. We have added staff, constructed a clean room within our Buffalo manufacturing facility and invested in additional production equipment to dramatically increase capacity for our filter business, which specializes in laboratory and pharmaceutical applications. Customer demand had caused us to run well over 100% capacity in our German manufacturing facility last year. Our Buffalo cleanroom provides a remedy for this capacity issue as well as enabling better service for the North American market.
Q. Graphic Controls has locations all around the world; what made Buffalo the ideal place for this significant investment?
A. Graphic Controls has a long tradition in the Buffalo area dating back the early 1900’s when it was located in the Larkin building. We have made a concerted effort to establish Buffalo as our world-wide headquarters and flagship manufacturing plant because of this long time presence. Our employees continue to provide us with a competitive advantage and we have a very good mix of new and experienced staff. Average years of service for our employees is 16 years, and most notably in recent years we have been recognizing employees who have worked here for over 40 years.
Q. When did Graphic Controls enter the medical arena? How has your participation in this industry changed over the years?
A. We are what I like to call a new-old medical company. Prior to the acquisition of Graphic Controls by Tyco Healthcare in 1998, we had a significant presence in medical devices specializing in disposables/consumables. The Tyco integration took the medical business out of Buffalo and left behind our industrial division. A few years after our buy back from Tyco in 2004 led by our CEO, Sam Heleba, we began to reinvent ourselves as a medical company. The oldest part of the medical business is patient monitoring charts that we are now printing again in our Buffalo facility. Aside from medical charts we continue to look to re-invent our business in the area of life sciences consumables and disposables. We have recently launched a line of Emergency Medicine devices and supplies geared towards ambulance services and trauma centers, and of course our filtration line. We are expanding the Buffalo manufacturing facility to accommodate its introduction into the North American market.
Q. Overall, what do you think are Buffalo Niagara’s greatest strengths and assets as they relate to the Life Sciences/Medical Device industry?
A. In recent years with the development of the downtown medical corridor and the renewed interest in entrepreneurship in Life Sciences the region has become much more exciting. Our close proximity to the medical campus is a great asset and we look forward to access to new opportunities developing from that area.
Q. The medical sector of your company has experienced some major growth over the past three years; to what factors do you attribute this success?
A. We have grown significantly since our return to the medical market in 2008 and we continually strive to foster an entrepreneurial environment. As most know, it isn’t easy to grow a business, but our employees and management team continue to learn, adapt and change in our pursuit of growth. We have also been lucky to be associated with great investors who have shared our vision to grow. While we have made our fair share of missteps, as every company does, in all we have been able to measure the percent growth of our medical division every year well into the double digits.
Q. Do you export to the Canadian market? If so, how does Buffalo’s location on the US/Canada border affect this international business?
A. Yes, we export to the Canadian market and are also incorporated in Canada. We seamlessly ship across the border everyday accessing most points in Ontario within one to two business days. Our proximity to the Canadian border has allowed us to service all of Canada at a very high level and it continues to be one of our best markets.
Q. What is your outlook for the growth of the Life Sciences industry, in Buffalo Niagara over the next 5-10 years?
A. In a period of what we all have come to know as economic uncertainty and add the dynamic nature of healthcare reform in the US we are measured but optimistic. We have that we can grow our medical business rapidly and we look forward to continued expansion.
“My life works in Buffalo Niagara because as a native Western New Yorker I enjoy creating new business opportunities in my home town.” – Brandon Hoffman