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Magnum Magnetics proves its stick-to-it-iveness within the marketplace

The flashy businesses may get the most buzz. But sometimes it's the simple, everyday product or service offered consistently and dependably over decades that creates the best prospects for long-term growth and success.

Magnum Magnetics, based in Marietta, is one of those businesses. The privately owned company, founded in 1991 manufactures high-quality, flexible magnetic products for a variety of commercial and retail uses.

Among the company's most common customers are commercial printers who create everything from magnetic ads and menu boards to nameplates and refrigerator magnets sold business-to-business or directly to consumers.

"We are the leading manufacturer of flexible magnets in the U.S.," says Joe Stout, company Director of Marketing and product development. "We both manufacture and develop products for the market."

Some of Magnum Magnetics more popular materials are those that can be used in printers. The company sells sheets that can be used in offset, screenprint, flexo, inkjet, and digital printers. The company also sells NatureMag™ Magnets that can be manufactured using up to 85 percent preconsumer recycled materials.

Magnum Magnetics' client base is international and the company has grown over the years to meet demand. The company started out with a 10,000 sq.-foot-facility in Marietta, where the company HQ is still located. Following several expansions, it now operates out of two facilities, with the second one in Caldwell, totaling 160,000 sq. ft.

So what's the secret behind that growth?

"I would say our focus on customer service and quality has led to our growth, and our ability to develop products that solve problems that customers have," Stout says.

Source: Joe Stout, Magnum Magnetics
Writer: Feoshia Henderson


Polar Products makes those in the hotseat a little cooler

The next time you find yourself getting a little hot under the collar, you might want to consider a cooling system from Akron-based manufacturer Polar Products, Inc.

From hospital operating rooms to the war-torn streets of Afghanistan and Iraq, Polar cooling systems help people perform better in warm environments by lowering body temperature, the company says. Body-cooling vests let surgeons and U.S. troops operate more effectively and in greater comfort. Polar's systems have even protected the sensitive electronics found in unmanned spy submarines while they were moving by ship in tropical climates.

But of the myriad of applications, William Graessle, president and owner, says his company derives the most satisfaction from improving the quality of life for those diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the vast majority of whom develop an intolerance to heat.

"We manufacture a number of body-cooling systems, vests, neck wraps, and other things that allow people with MS to get out and see a Little League Game, go to Disney World, or just go outside with their kids," says Graessle. "It's fun working with people you truly help."

Besides the body-cooling systems, Polar designs and manufactures hot and cold therapy products to relieve pain and discomfort. But the body-cooling systems -- which are also used by police, racecar drivers, and mascots -- are the most exciting part of the business, says Graessle.

Sales have increased an average of 20 percent annually for the last three years, and four jobs were added last year, bringing the number of employees to about 20. The company hopes to add three more positions this year.

Graessle says he was excited when he received an inquiry for body-cooling vests from a Finish general in the field. His excitement diminished somewhat when he learned the whole Finish contingent numbered only 80 troops . . . make that 80 "cool" troops.

Established in 1984, Polar Products, Inc. was acquired by Graessle in 2000.

Source: William Graessle, Polar Products
Writer: Patrick G. Mahoney


Engineered Mobile Solutions part of the future of Cincinnati manufacturing

Engineered Mobile Solutions Inc., a custom trailer and shelter manufacturer, is the first company to move into the old Ford Transmission Plant in Batavia that shuttered in the summer of 2008.

This growing Southwestern Ohio startup was founded in the fall of 2007, just a few short months before the shutdown. Engineers An Nguyen, Bryce Johnson and Lee Ton started the company, which designs and builds trailers, shelters and mobile facilities for the military, broadcast and commercial markets.

"As engineers we started the company as a way to continue working directly with our customers in the industry that we enjoy. We are passionate about designing and manufacturing the best product for our customers," the founders explain on their web site.

The company represents what leaders in Batavia believe will be the future of manufacturing across Greater Cincinnati and Ohio. Engineered Mobile Solutions has 25 employees but expects to grow organically along with the company itself.

The company has leased 58,000 square feet with an option for 27,000 more. Employees are currently making the move into the new space, located just down the street from its current location.

County officials didn't let the building sit empty long. Shortly after Ford left, the county looked for redevelopment opportunities. With incentives offered by The Ohio Department of Development, California-based Industrial Realty Group purchased and redeveloped the large 1.8-million-sq.-ft. space, preparing it for multiple uses. Last year the University of Cincinnati leased 81,000 square feet for its new UC east campus.

"We looked at numerous buildings in the area. None were the complete package that we needed. IRG, the building owner, offered us the flexibility and reasonable lease rate we needed to move forward with our growth plans in Clermont County," says Johnson, company CEO.

Source: Clermont County Economic Development
Writer: Feoshia Henderson

You can follow Feoshia on twitter @feoshiawrites


Rapid Charge Technologies: The fastest charge in the west?

Rapid Charge Technologies, LLC says its patented technology can charge off-the-shelf batteries in minutes.

The Cleveland-based company, formed last year, is a subsidiary of Potential Difference, Inc. (PDI), Nevada, which designed and built an all-electric car with a top speed over 100 mph and a range of 140 miles. The Acura TL body and chassis has an all-electric drive train powered by 40-kilowatt hours of lithium ion batteries, rechargeable in about three hours.

Results verified by the University of Akron show recharge times as low as 31 minutes for lead acid batteries and 19 minutes for relatively inexpensive lithium ion phosphate batteries in all-electric and hybrid automobiles. RCT is formalizing its go-to-market strategy and identifying potential partners and alliances.

A $2 billion firm, with one third of the forklift market, has evaluated RCT's test data and agreed to test the technology. A distributor for a leading fast-food chain and a battery manufacturer have also agreed to a test.

PDI received a $500,000 U. S. Department of Energy Fiscal 2011 Appropriations grant for work to be done (in part) at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. In July of 2009, RCT received a $25,000 grant from the Lorain County Community College Innovation Fund to develop the initial prototype in collaboration with the University of Akron. PDI received $85,000 for further development and testing from North Coast Opportunities.

At the moment Elliott Small, Jr., president and founder, says he is the only full-time employee, with everyone else being "some kind of a contractor."

"We expect that before the end of 2011 we should have orders for the [forklift] chargers, with hiring beginning toward the end of the year," says Small.

Source: Elliott C. Small, Jr., Rapid Charge Technologies
Writer: Patrick G. Mahoney


CL Solutions taking care of nastiest environmental problems

Some of the nastiest environmental problems have the smallest solutions.

In the case of chemical spills -- particularly where solvents used in dry cleaning or as industrial degreasing agents, and fuel spills where hydrocarbons contaminate water or soil -- a Cincinnati company is making its name offering one of the smallest and most effective solutions.

Cincinnati-based CL Solutions, founded in 1999 out of a local environmental consultancy, is pioneering the use of tiny one-celled microbes to fight contamination. Over millions of years, the naturally occurring microbes have developed the ability to not only survive in contaminated environments, but thrive in them.

"You always read about biologists going all over the world and investigating how various plants and animals can be used to develop medicines," explains Mike Saul, CL Solution's vice president. "Microbiologists do the same thing, though they've found these tiny microbes that break down contaminants. They feed on them."

Behind them, they leave a clean, reclaimed environment, converting the contaminants into harmless, naturally recyclable by-products. They also do the job quicker than conventional methods, completing the job in a matter of weeks or months, rather than years.

To date, Saul says, CL Solutions has been responsible for more than 300 clean-ups across the country. The company's biggest success has been in Denver, where rifle scope and binocular producer Redfield Inc. suffered a huge chlorinated solvent contamination. After a decade of studies and other clean-up attempts, Redfield turned to CL Solutions.

"It was a huge plume, contaminating miles of land and affecting groundwater," says Saul. "There were residential areas included in that plume, and we were able to help protect those residents from the contamination. That's probably the project that we're most proud of."

Source: Mike Saul, CL Solutions
Writer: Dave Malaska


Lauren Innovations links organizations with first responders

Several years ago Ben Fierman, a former consultant, saw an opportunity to leverage what he felt was an outstanding safety and security component to a client's health and wellness application. The client, a physician, had no plans to market it so Fierman took his idea to Lauren International in New Philadelphia.

Today Fierman is president of Lauren Innovations.

The company's flagship product, NaviGate, is an Internet-based emergency response system designed as a link between the client and first responders. It provides immediate, critical information needed to make decisions on how to respond to an emergency and a central platform for organizations and first responders to access information and collaborate on decisions. The product also provides incident management, learning management, document management and emergency operations functionality.

Fierman says NaviGate, which has received Safety Act designation from the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security and is considered qualified anti-terrorism technology, is such a diverse, integrated application that it really has no "head-to-head" competition.

"We're in both development and the market place at the same time," says Fierman. "As a startup company with an emerging technology, we see growth every week."

Innovations has seven direct employees, and Fierman expects that number will at least double in the next six to 12 months. The company plans to add personnel in programming and development, in marketing and public relations, and in sales and sales support.

Fierman say NaviGate has had the most success in higher education, healthcare, and public venues such as high-density retail (shopping malls).

Source: Bennett Fierman, Lauren Innovations
Writer: Patrick Mahoney

Tech Town infuses new life, new jobs, into old Dayton auto plant

Infusing new life into an obsolete auto factory campus, Dayton's 40-acre Tech Town technology park has become a hub for young start-up companies and big names in the aerospace industry who cluster in the region because of Wright Patterson Air Force Base and the research it attracts.

"It's quickly becoming a national center for sensing technology," says Larrell Walters, director of IDCAST (Institute for the Development and Commercialization of Advanced Sensor Technology), one of the first tenants in Tech Town.

IDCAST has created 280 jobs in its 42 months of operations, says Walters, and it has attracted many young companies to the area who are active in advanced sensing technology.

Another job and research magnet for Tech Town is the Dayton RFID Convergence Center, a radio-frequency identification incubator that has helped generate more than 50 new jobs since it opened a year ago, says Steve Nutt, vice president of CityWide Development Corp., which manages Dayton's development strategy.

"When they started they had applications from as far away as Australia and New Zealand," says Nutt of the RFID incubator. "Just one year after opening they have 12 new businesses located here."

Besides IDCAST and RFID, Tech Town is home to 29 companies, from two-person start-ups to big names like Boeing and General Dynamics. Eight universities are also among the tenants.

Tech Town gives them the ability to collaborate and provides ready access to the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base and the University of Dayton Research Institute, with roughly 700 full-time researchers.

Source: Larrell Walters, IDCAST, and Steve Nutt, CityWide Development Corp.
Writer: Val Prevish

Orbital Research grows fast after shift in focus

In the early '90s companies in need of material-exposure experiments in space came to Bob Schmidt, the founder of Orbital Research Inc. Schmidt's company would arrange to fly the samples on board the NASA space shuttles.

"Our logo shows a globe with a shuttle flying around it," says Fred Lisy, Orbital president since 1997. "Our goal was to give those new materials systems some pedigree by exposing them to the harsh environment of low Earth orbit . . . We don't do that anymore."

After nine successful shuttle experiments, NASA lost its funding for the program. Schmidt then shifted his focus to Cleveland Medical Devices, leaving Lisy in charge of Orbital.

These days, Orbital's core technologies are aerodynamic controls and microdevices for the aerospace, defense, transportation, medical, and wind turbine industries. Inc. Magazine and the Weatherhead School of Management have recognized the fast-growing company.

The company develops miniature control actuation systems (MCAS) for attitude and flight control for air vehicle platforms. The systems enhance maneuverability, range, and in-flight course corrections while minimizing size, weight, and cost. They have been deployed on hit-to-kill projectiles, fixed-wing vehicles, UAVs and Slender Bodies for enhanced vehicle control.

"I work on everything from unmanned air vehicles, roughly six inches by six inches by 12 inches, to medical monitoring systems to combat obesity, and weapons steering systems for munitions ranging in size from 40mm to 155mm rounds," Lisy says.

Orbital received $175,000 from the state through the Ohio Third Frontier's Research Commercialization Grant Program and raised over $1 million in matching funds. The product is a FDA approved disposable dry Electrocardiograph (ECG) Recording Electrode that requires little or no skin-surface preparation.

Orbital has 23 employees with annual sales of about 3 million dollars, but expects significant growth.

Source: Fred Lisy, Orbital Research
Writer: Patrick Mahoney


ZIN rockets to prominence as NASA partner

ZIN Technologies traces its roots back to 1957, the days of the Cold War and the great "Space Race" between the U.S. and the former USSR. Back then, the company provided aerospace design and fabrication services to NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics), the forerunner of NASA. Then, in 1961, ZIN received its first NASA contracts -- and has never looked back.

Today, the Cleveland company specializes in man-rated, space-flight hardware design, development, fabrication and operations. The company has developed more than 133 payloads, which have logged thousands of hours in-orbit. Zin also transfers its advanced engineering service and products, developed for space flight, to other specialized markets such as aeronautics and medicine.

"We are one of a few small businesses with the expertise and core competencies to provide space flight hardware from development through operations," says Carlos Grodsinsky, vice president of technology.

While ZIN made its name in outer space, the company recently has gone where it had not gone before: the biomedical industry. ZIN partnered with the Cleveland Clinic to form ZIN Medical, a remote patient management company. Ohio Third Frontier funding helped the company commercialize its services and ZIN is currently seeking venture capital financing.

"We are commercializing remote physiologic health-monitoring technology that we jointly developed for the tracking and management of astronaut crews in-orbit," says Grodsinsky.

Over the past few years the company has boasted double-digit growth and increased its headcount to about 200. ZIN expects continued growth in 2011.

Source: Carlos Grodsinsky, ZIN Technologies.
Writer: Patrick Mahoney


Plum Brook runway could create 2,000 jobs in Ohio aerospace industry

The NASA Glenn Research Center's Plum Brook Station in Sandusky already is a big deal when it comes to testing satellite components before launch. It could become an even bigger deal if the federal government agrees to provide $60 million in stimulus money to fund roads and a 9,000-foot runway there.

The new landing strip is proposed as a way to give satellite and aerospace companies better access to Plum Brook's space chamber, a 100-foot wide, 122-foot high facility that mimics the vacuum and cold temperatures of space. But proponents say the runway would have lasting economic benefits for the entire northeast Ohio region by enticing aerospace companies to set down roots there.

For every NASA job created by the runway, an estimated five non-NASA jobs would be created -- nearly 2,000 in all, according to an economic impact study conducted last year by Bowling Green State University's Center for Regional Development. And that doesn't count almost 800 temporary construction jobs.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is now considering Ohio's application for $60 million in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery money. Submitted by the Ohio Department of Transportation at the request of the Erie County Board of Commissioners, that total represents $31 million for the runway and $29 million for road improvements, says David Stringer, Plum Brook's director.

The runway is needed, Stringer says, to allow soft, slow landings of sensitive instruments aboard large aircraft.

"If you don't 'gentle' satellites in and out, they can break," Stringer says.

Currently, instruments destined for Plum Brook have come via airports in Mansfield and Cleveland. But those instruments have been of a more rugged variety, Stringer says -- for example, the air bags that bounced across the Mars landscape before releasing rovers Spirit and Opportunity.

A new runway would allow fragile components like optics to be tested in Ohio prior to launch -- a vital concern for sensitive systems like the Hubble Space Telescope.

Source: David Stringer, NASA, and Bowling Green State University
Writer: Gene Monteith


Fatted calf, watch out: Here comes Nutrigras

Wendell Turner is no newcomer to the food service business, starting in 1981 in supplies and equipment and, later, as a packager and distributor of foods. In 1990, he discovered a gap in the ethnic foods arena and founded Heritage Fare, a successful, Atlanta-based packager and distributor of down-home Southern cooking.

Despite his previous successes, Turner was always looking for more volume.

"That's what led us to the Garrett Morgan program through NASA," he says. And that's how Cleveland-based HF Food Technologies was born.

The NASA program, which helps small businesses identify new technologies for commercialization, alerted him to a US Department of Agriculture-developed product that replaces existing fats with a substitute called Fantesk -- a mixture of starch, water, and one or more oily substances.

The value? The substitute can replace unhealthy fats in meats, pastries and other foods while preserving flavor, mouthfeel and reducing fat for consumers.

Now licensed by Turner's HF Food Technologies under the name Nutrigras, the substitute has made its way into the marketplace. Assisted with an initial $250,000 investment from JumpStart, HF Food Technologies is working "primarily with beef, pork and more recently bakery products," Turner says.

"If you could take a ground sirloin steak, you could take 15 percent of the meat block out and replace it with 15 percent of the Nutrigras," Turner explains. "And in bakery products, we've shown reductions of up to 80 percent in butterfat."

Turner, who is CEO of both HF Food Technologies and Heritage Fare, says the product is being sold through distributors and "we have a number of restaurants that are using the product. And we just received one of the most important certifications for us -- the Ohio Department of Agriculture."

HF Food Technologies is located in mid-town Cleveland, was formed in 2005 and currently has five employees.

Source: Wendell Turner, HF Food Technologies
Writer: Gene Monteith


UC student's firefighting innovation targeted to urban slums, poverty-stricken areas

From the spark of an idea, Noel Gauthier hopes to release a firestorm in the fight against world poverty and its risks.

Gauthier, a graduate student in the University of Cincinnati's industrial design program, took a homework assignment a step further, resulting in FireStop, a low-cost, environmentally responsible fire extinguisher to fight fires in urban slums around the world.

"Our assignment was to create a more ergonomic fire extinguisher," Gauthier says, "but as I looked into it, in most places these days there are sprinkler systems and fire retardant materials. In those places, you don't need a fire extinguisher. So I started to look at where extinguishers are needed."

He soon figured out that low-income housing with dense populations, especially in poorer countries, is where they needed extinguishers the most and set about developing a low-cost solution instead.

FireStop is a one-button system that is made of easily manufactured plastic parts and a cardboard tube, filled with a simple fire retardant compound. Gauthier figures each extinguisher would take $1 to make.

Along with being affordable, Gauthier says he wanted to make FireStop so simple that populations protected by it could also manufacture the extinguisher, eventually turning it into an exportable product and helping fight poverty that's part of the problem to start with.

Others soon saw the value of Gauthier's idea. Last year, FireStop took the $5,000 third prize in the commercialization category of Cincinnati Innovates, a contest to recognize entrepreneurial ideas. Also, the local law firm of Taft, Stettinius and Hollister aided Gauthier by filing FireStop's patent application on a pro bono basis.

Gauthier and his team are working on the final engineering specs for FireStop, which he hopes will be ready to start production by spring. In the meantime, while he's finishing his degree, he's also launched his own design firm, UMi Design and Development. And he's set his sights on FireStop's successor similarly simple-design alternatives to expensive medical devices.

Source: Noel L. Gauthier, UMi Design and Development
Writer: Dave Malaska


University Heights company offers blue light special for insomnia, grogginess

Get the winter blues? Have trouble waking up in the morning or falling asleep at night?

You may not be getting enough blue light -- or, you may be getting too much. Lowbluelights.com, a company formed five years ago as a spinoff from research conducted at John Carroll University, says it has products for all of those situations.

Richard L. Hansler, co-owner of Lowbluelights.com and director of the Lighting Innovations Institute at John Carroll, says the power of blue light came to, um, light in 2001 when scientists discovered that the blue part of the spectrum can affect the production of melatonin -- a hormone that helps you sleep.

Hansler, a retired veteran of the lighting industry, says the company was formed after he was approached to develop an LED light to treat seasonal affective disorder, or SAD -- a sometimes debilitating bout of winter depression. There is some medical evidence that exposure to blue light can help lessen the problem, he explains.

Likewise, blue light can suppress melatonin, causing a person exposed to the light in the evening to have trouble falling asleep -- just as it can help erase grogginess in the morning, he says. There is circumstancial evidence that melatonin suppresses some forms of cancer, Hansler says. To those ends, the company sells a host of products to either boost more blue light or filter it out.

Lowbluelights.com's most recent product, a filter placed over the screen of the iPad, was launched after some users complained of insomnia after using the iPad, Hansler says. The company's most popular products, however, are glasses worn before bedtime to filter out blue light, allowing the natural production of melatonin.

The company has three employees and is headquartered in University Heights.

Source: Richard Hansler, Lowbluelights.com
Writer: Gene Monteith

Toledo's MicroDevices grows on strength of advanced materials used in tiny devices

Chris Melkonian, the CEO and founder of Midwest MicroDevices, says if you don't know too much about micro-electro mechanical systems, that's OK. He thinks you will soon enough.

The downtown-Toledo-based company has continued to grow at a steady pace since its founding in 2004. Melkonian says Midwest's niche is a new and emerging MEMs market, focusing on unusual materials and incredibly tiny wafers but the company can just about do it all.

There are a dozen employees at Midwest MicroDevices. Most of them suit up head-to-toe in a "bunny suit" in what's known as a clean room. These employees work on devices often smaller than a human hair (think miniscule sensor of a car's airbag).

"You won't find too many companies doing the kind of hi-tech work we're doing here in Northwest Ohio," Melkonian says. "I am very proud of that."

The company has received a healthy dose of support from area and state institutions. Melkonian and Co. are graduates of the Regional Growth Partnership, which offered support, marketing and financing. The Ohio Department of Development provided an Ohio Innovation Loan to the company. The University of Toledo's Science, Technology and Innovation Enterprises have also partnered with the startup. "We've gotten a lot of support from University of Toledo," he says. "We collaborate with professors, we select students for internships and we hire graduates."

Melkonian says he hopes to considerably ramp up business in the next couple of years, adding two more shifts and as many as 10 skilled positions.

"I started a startup company at possibly one of the worst times you can," he says. "If the economy can start to turn around, and as we add more business, we'll definitely have a real jump in employees."

Source: Chris Melkonian, Midwest MicroDevices 
Writer: Colin McEwen

Sensus leverages what's good in food for good of consumer

Sensus President Dan Wampler put his Ph.D. from The Ohio State University and a 15-year career in the flavor industry into his own company, which extracts flavors, colors and health properties from natural products for use in food and drinks.

Wampler founded Sensus in 1999 with the goal of delivering high-quality natural flavor ingredients and health benefits from natural products to the food and beverage industry. The Hamilton-based company pulls flavor from raw materials like coffee, tea herbs and tomatoes to deliver extracts, concentrates and essences that other companies use in their products. Sensus employs 35 people in manufacturing, research and development and quality control.

Sensus works with leading tomato ingredient processor The Morning Star Company in Woodland, California to provide industry leading tomato essences.

Sensus is currently working on a joint project with Ohio State and Wyandot Inc. in Marion. The trio is working on a snack chip that will use a purple corn extract made from Ohio-grown corn. It would be a full-grain corn meal snack that is purple in color.

"We want to develop the corn so it can be grown in Ohio and it can be put into a healthful snack. There is a big demand by consumers who still want to snack but want snacks with more health benefits," Wampler says. "It's a research project that we hope leads to commercial product."

Source: Dan Wampler, Sensus
Writer: Feoshia Henderson

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