Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include new information.
By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – It wasn’t a premonition, but Craig Snow sure saw it coming.
On Wednesday night, Oct. 6, the first-term state house representative from Warsaw said in an interview that he was worried one of the orthopedic companies in Kosciusko County might choose to relocate its operations.
A day later, it was confirmed that Medtronic, a behemoth in the global health care industry, plans to phase out its operations on its plant along US 30 by 2024.
Repeated attempts to talk with anyone from the company in Warsaw or Medtronic headquarters in Minnesota have not worked. Two company officials gave InkFreeNews an email for a marketing person, but an auto-reply says he’s out of the office this week.
Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce President Rob Parker confirmed the company’s announcement Thursday, Oct. 7, after speaking to a Medtronic employee.
Parker said all employees will be offered a chance to relocate.
Rumors about Medtronic began buzzing around Warsaw Wednesday.
At the GOP fish fry in Warsaw that night, Snow told a reporter he has been working in recent weeks with officials in Indianapolis, including Gov. Eric Holcomb, about developing some kind of support system to help retain and attract orthopedic firms that are part of what is known as the Orthopedic Capital of the World.
“I’d like to see the state invest in Kosciusko County for the sake of medical devices. I don’t want Warsaw to lose the title of Orthopedic Capital of the world … I’m afraid one of these (manufacturers) decide to pull up stakes and leave, that could really hurt us,” Snow said Wednesday.
Snow was then asked about Medtronic and said he had heard the same rumor, but knew nothing more.
On Friday, Oct. 8, Snow said he had numerous discussions Thursday about what could be done in the future.
“I’m concerned. I think it’s time to look at the industry,” Snow said.
Parker expressed disappointment with the decision but said the community can rebound.
“I strongly believe Kosciusko is still the best place for an orthopedic company to invest and to thrive in. We’re just really fortunate that we have a strong economy where I think anyone with good skillsets will be able to get a great job,” Parker said.
Parker said he supports the concept and the efforts by Snow.
“It’s really about getting investment back into the community that, at the state level, we haven’t done enough of to ensure the orthopedic capital stays the orthopedic capital,” Parker said.
Mayor Joe Thallemer said he learned of the closure late Thursday afternoon and that the city has not had a close connection with local company officials, which has made it more difficult to understand what’s happening with the company.
He said their greatest concern is for the workers.
The city will assist those employees and their families, working with local economic development officials (KEDCO) and workforce partners, to provide transition and employment services locally, Thallemer said in a prepared statement issued Friday afternoon.
“Our community is very proud of the quality and skill of our local workforce,” said Thallemer. “When something like this happens, our first priority is to support those workers and their families in that transition. Given that this will occur over the next few years, hopefully, that extra time will allow a smoother, more favorable transition for those dedicated employees.”
Thallemer speculated that the Warsaw facility did not “fit into their global plans.”
“In their small communique, they were appreciative of our workforce here, but it was a board decision made somewhere else,” he said. “That’s the hard part about the global economy is that these things can and do happen.”
Medtronic operates in 140 countries, employs over 104,950 people and is viewed as the largest medical device company in the world.
The Warsaw plant was involved in spinal and biologics, Medtronic’s second-largest business.
Medtronic became a local player when it acquired Sofmore Danek in 1993. In 2000, the company constructed its US 30 plant.
At one point the company employed more than 600 workers in Warsaw, but that number is now believed to be around 300.
Medtronic owns the 150,000-square foot building along US 30, Thallemer said.
Thallemer said the city has asked the company to consider using the building in the future for other purposes and will entertain efforts to help fill the future void in the city’s Tech Park.
He said it’s a “good building in a good location.”
The departure comes at a time of expansion in the local orthopedic community.
Nextremity Solutions and Wish Bone Medical in Warsaw and Paragon in Pierceton have all announced major expansions in the past year.
Thallemer agreed the community is in a good position to absorb any employers who choose not to relocate with the company.
“It certainly is a blow. The company’s been around for a while.”