By Stan Welch
Anderson County landed yet another major economic development catch this week, as Arthrex, a pioneer in the field of arthroscopic medicine, as well as a major developer and manufacturer of orthobiological products, announced its decision to expand into South Carolina.
The company, which obtained more than a thousand patents for its products just last year, was founded by Reinhold Schmieding in 1986, in the kitchen of his Munich, Germany apartment.
He began to explore the possibility of using small imaging equipment to reduce the size of surgical incisions, and to reduce the trauma inflicted on patients, as well as shortening recovery time.
Thirty one years later, the company, still wholly owned by Schmieding, has two campuses and will soon break ground for the third.
That campus will be located on two hundred acres purchased from the county and located in the Sandy Springs industrial park established by the county two years ago.
The campus will include both production facilities for the multitude of products and technologies that the company produces, as well as research and development facilities. More than a thousand jobs will be created over the next five years, and a capital investment of almost seventy million dollars will be made.
The company also houses a strong educational element, bringing in surgeons and other health care providers to learn how to implant the various devices, and use the various imaging technology. Many of the innovations and inventions originated in the area of sports medicine and were later applied to more conventional cases.
A crowd of some five hundred educators, legislators, politicians and public officials and other dignitaries was on hand for the announcement Monday at the Anderson Civic Center.
Governor Henry McMaster was a bit more than fashionably late, allowing County Councilman Tom Allen to steal the show with his imaginary telephone conversation with country music legend Willie Nelson.
Apparently, Nelson called asking about a job with the new company, because he had heard that they make joints. To uproarious laughter, Allen explained to Nelson that the kind of joints Arthrex makes are designed to make the human body feel better. “What’s that, Willie? Yes, I guess the same could be said of the kind of joint you’re talking about.” The call continued for a couple of minutes more in a similar vein.
Speaker after speaker after speaker touted Arthrex as a game changer, a completely new direction in manufacturing in the Upstate. State Representative and Chairman of the House Ways and Means committee Brian White, lauded the change of direction. “This is an incredibly clean industry. This is the kind of company you seek a career with. It will diversify the local economy tremendously, and diversity is essential in today’s world.”
A county staffer who visited the Florida facility, and speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Journal that he had been to similar facilities where conditions were so clean that you could eat off the floor. But he said this was the first place he had ever seen where you could eat off the lawn out front.
Several speakers also stressed the role of the area’s universities and technical college in attracting Arthrex to the area. Presidents Booth (TCTC), Whitaker (Anderson University) and Clements (Clemson University) all spoke about their eagerness to become involved with such a global leader in the medical field. The company’s products are shipped to more than a hundred countries around the world.
Governor McMaster expanded on that idea, reminding the people that South Carolina has three great research universities – Clemson, USC, and USMC. “So many companies and industries are moving to this state because they see things that we take for granted. This is a place where brainpower and collaboration meet, and the results can be extraordinary. Modern manufacturing has reached a point where a laptop is a more common sight on the plant floor than a toolbox is. And the beauty of it is that the best is yet to come in South Carolina.”
By Stan Welch