By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register — MEDINA — The revitalization of the Olde Pickle Factory is a facet of a Medina-based private equity firm’s larger efforts to find and invest in innovative and emerging companies.
In the same building where he built Sigma International General Medical Apparatus from a small business to an industry-leading 750-employee manufacturer, Roger Hungerford is looking to apply a boost to projects that will benefit Medina and healthcare recipients across the nation.
Hungerford is the CEO and Chairman of Talis Equity, where he devoted his efforts after Baxter Healthcare completed its purchase of Sigma last year. The firm operates the 450,000 square foot Park Avenue complex and occupies an office on the second floor.
Hungerford said that 100 percent of the facility is in use — most of it as warehouse space. But a growing percentage is being used for manufacturing, business and doctor’s offices; more than 1,200 people will be employed within the multi-building complex once Claims Recovery Financial Services’ planned move to the site is finished.
That move was facilitated through rapid action that Talis provided for CRFS. Hungerford said he was pleased to bring the business’s culture to Medina.
“Jodi (Gaines, CRFS’s founder and CEO) is an expert in claims recovery, her time was better spent on her business,” Hungerford said of the process of creating a temporary space from a storage area. “She had to accept the site quickly, but she and I made an assessment (of one another). They have a loyalty and a great culture, it stems from her.”
That’s something he’s keen to continue investing in that type of company when it comes to adding to the Olde Pickle Factory.
“I’m not interested in people who are just motivated by making money. We want businesses who care about people,” Hungerford said, citing the goals of Park Avenue’s big employers. “Baxter is keenly concerned about providing safe medical devices for hospitals. Mizkan Americas and Associated Brands provide good-quality food products.
Hungerford said Talis is doing the same thing for emerging medical companies, with the goal of a major project each year.
A recently-closed technical transfer with the Cleveland Clinic will develop an artificial intelligence system that aggregates patient data in a bedside touchscreen system. The device would take patient histories and research about similar cases to prevent practices that adversely affect the health of patient’s post-operation.”
“We invest in medical technologies that go after higher purposes products and target healthcare outcomes that reduce deaths and costs,” Hungerford said. “We take an invention or research and add an operating expertise.”
A visit by Rep. Chris Collins to the Olde Pickle Factory last week provided a perfect showcase to how businesses like the ones that Hungerford wants are growing in western New York.
The business-minded congressman met with local business leaders Monday before returning to Washington, speaking with Baxter Healthcare executives before beginning on a tour of Baxter’s facilities.
The operation that Baxter has in Medina is a one-stop shop, which executives say allows for the best outcomes in a business that services hospitals across North America.
“All assembly, testing, shipping and service occurs here,” said Russell Fuller, the Senior Director of Baxter’s Medina Operations. “It’s a huge benefit to have it under one roof - solving problems and making improvements. We’re all here to reach the best solution.”
Collins marveled at the consistent productivity shown by the multitudes of workers building Sigma Spectrum medical infusion pumps on progressing assembly lines, and those testing and shipping the devices.
“We’re fortunate to draw from the communities between Buffalo and Rochester, it’s an incredible workforce, a testament to western New York,” Fuller said. “I’m proud of what we’ve done and to show what we can do - it’s good (for Collins) to see what’s happening in his backyard.”
Collins then viewed the first day of work at Claims Recovery Financial Service’s temporary secondary site, where fifty employees worked in a swiftly-decorated space. Then the tour came to an empty warehouse CRFS plans to move into next year, where the potential is as big as the cavernous hall.
“A growing business in an adapted building,” Collins said, smiling as he looked out into the space. “Does it get any better than that?”
With Hungerford’s vision and a site ready to grow new and emerging businesses — yes.