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Food service stalwart Bettcher moving into biomedical sphere with $1 million Third Frontier award

From food service equipment and industrial cutting products to the world of bioscience innovation seems an unlikely leap for a business to make. But Birmingham-based Bettcher Industries is about to accomplish just that, awarded a $1 million Ohio Third Frontier grant to launch a new biomedical product line.

The grant, among $13 million announced on July 15, pairs Bettcher with Community Tissue Services, a Dayton non-profit tissue bank. The partners' $1 million will fund an initial 18-month project to launch Bettcher Medical Debridement Technologies, adapting current products for use in the biomedical field.

"We've been working with Community Tissue for about three years already, but in a very limited way" explains Bettcher president and COO Don Esch. "We recognized early on that a lot of our products were not entirely dissimilar from the kinds of things that were needed in their field. (The grant) is going to open a whole new world for us."

Founded as a machine shop in Cleveland in 1944, Bettcher has become an international business with offices in Switzerland, Brazil and China, among others, and sales to more than 50 countries worldwide. The company moved to Birmingham in the early 1970s, becoming a local landmark with its signature red-barn corporate headquarters just south of the Ohio Turnpike.

The new biomedical line will put existing products -- ranging from precision circular knives to pneumatic cutting tools -- to use in tissue and bone recovery. The powered circular knives already used in meat processing and taxidermy can also be used to harvest layers of skin for use in the treatment of burn patients. Meanwhile, other Bettcher products are ideally suited to harvesting bone and marrow for other transplant surgeries.

Initially, it will also mean 11 new jobs for Bettcher during the run of the 18-month launch, with the possibility of another 40-50 new jobs once the product line gains momentum, adds Esch.

"It's pretty sophisticated stuff, coming from a little red barn in the middle of a cornfield in Ohio," he chuckles.

Source: Don Esch, Bettcher Industries
Writer: Dave Malaska
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