Rochester Medical expansion means dozens of new jobs

STEWARTVILLE — A Stewartville manufacturer says it will build a $10 million to $12 million complex and add 50 to 60 new jobs.

Jim Conway, CEO and president of catheter maker Rochester Medical Corp., says the 54,000-square-foot complex will include an automated production line, clean-room packaging facilities, offices and warehouse space.

The expansion is expected to increase production by about 1 million catheters, and the company anticipates adding 50 to 60 employees to its Stewartville work force of about 250. Rochester Medical has about 400 employees worldwide.

The new building will be near Rochester Medical's current facility on the hill above Pizza Ranch, overlooking U.S. 63. Conway says it will be built on a field long slated for expansion. Company officials are waiting for bids from contractors but hope to have the project under way this fall.

Rochester Medical updated its manufacturing lines this spring, which increased production by 50 percent.


The firm, which sells about two-thirds of its products outside of the United States, posted its best-ever earnings in May and a record $15.25 million in sales. It wrapped up its fourth quarter at the end of September, and the 2012 earnings are expected to be released by the end of this month.

The expansion is driven by a new project that is picking up speed.

"The main reason we want to get started right now is a new catheter technology that we are super excited about," Conway says. "We didn't know this was coming. This has come up in the past seven or eight months."

While he is keeping the technical details under wraps for now, this new development is described as "very significant," and Rochester Medical is anxious to get it to the market.

The company historically has focused on unique innovations vs. "me-too" products. This week it released a new type of male external catheter with a special adhesive that allows moisture to be wicked away through its silicone sheath. It's the first of its kind on the market.

"That's the only way we are able to compete with the multi-billion-dollar companies that are our competitors," Conway says.

He says Rochester Medical's unconventional approach to research and design has fueled its success. Instead of a separate R&D department, it uses small teams made up of people from all areas, like research, manufacturing, packaging and marketing, to work on projects. That approach brings a variety of viewpoints together to develop a new product and a path to take the concept to market.

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