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PROMEDICA, TAMPA // Taking a team approach

It's the hidden side of hospitals that make local manufacturers thrive. Some specialize in surgical gowns; others, syringes.

For ProMedica, it's carts. Steel carts.

Last year, ProMedica, one of just a handful of medical manufacturers in Hillsborough County, saw its revenues jump by one-fifth to $3-million, says general manager Duff Lang.

Selling more carts is one thing. But ProMedica is planning for faster growth now that it has teamed up with another Tampa Bay medical company.

Together, ProMedica and Medical Technology Systems Inc. of Clearwater developed a cart that combines inventory controls and computers to help nurses track medications. Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children is putting the cart through its paces in a live hospital setting.

Working with other local manufacturers to design new products and testing them in local hospitals is one way the medical manufacturing industry has grown stronger, says William Castoro, director of the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Economic Development Council.

Does Lang agree?

"Absolutely," he says. "The design, the prototypes and the production can all be done right here."

For example, it took only two weeks from the first discussion with Medical Technology for ProMedica to produce the first working model of the cart. That, Lang says, would be impossible for clients that have fly engineers into town to look over a design change.

ProMedica was founded six years ago. It has thrived without using the few benefits that Hillsborough County gives manufacturers, such as vocational training. That's because its relatively small work force of about 60 people is made up of experienced welders. Lang says ProMedica doesn't need entry-level welders coming out of school.