Friday, December 19, 2008

Small Town...Big High Tech Cluster

Warsaw, IN (population 12,415) has always amazed me. This town in NE IN is 45 miles west of Ft. Wayne. It is a stand-alone town that is the county seat of Kosciusko County, a county that has 42% of its jobs in manufacturing (35th highest percentage in the USA), paying an average of $55,974. And, what has brought on this prosperity?

Warsaw bills itself as the “Orthopedic Capital of the World” and with three of the top five international orthopedic firms headquartered here, it’s easy to understand why no one disputes its claim. These three (Zimmer, DePuy and Biomet) collectively produce over $10 billion in sales, hold 65% of the worldwide knee replacement market and 60% of the worldwide hip replacement market, and employ over 7,000 people in Kosciusko County.

This unique cluster started when Revra DePuy married the local sheriff’s daughter, taking her back to MI. When she grew homesick for Warsaw, he moved his young family to the town. There he invented the fiber splint to set a fracture, quickly replacing the wooden barrel staves that had been used up to then.

Later, the national sales manager for DePuy’s company suggested to Revra’s widow that the company add aluminum splints to the product line. When she refused, J. O. Zimmer left the company and started Zimmer Holdings, now the largest employer in the county with 2,800 employees.

Later a Zimmer employee, Dane Miller, left that company to set up Biomet along with local investors.

Recently, when Zimmer announced plans to invest another $19 million to expand its foundry operations, adding another 100 local jobs, Richard Stair, VP of Global Operations and Logistics told Inside Indiana Business, “Warsaw really is a jewel in the state of Indiana. It’s impressive that in the city of Warsaw several of the largest orthopedic companies in the world are selling devices globally to help people live a better quality of life.”

It started in Warsaw. It continues to grow in Warsaw. Do you have any potential clusters that you could exploit to create a cluster like Warsaw has done?


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the profile of Warsaw and Orthopedics. It's a great town and a great business.

Anonymous said...

True, it is the orthopedic capital of the world. But the community is like the freakin' Twilight Zone. Pretty strange place, IMO.

Anonymous said...