Kalexsyn breaks ground

  • Thursday, March 29, 2007
  • By Michelle Miron
In another victory for Kalamazoo's life-sciences segment, medicinal-chemistry firm Kalexsyn Inc. broke ground Wednesday morning on a new headquarters that will roughly triple its space. In the nearly four years since it was founded by two former Pharmacia Corp. researchers, Kalexsyn has increased sales by 180 percent, built a staff of 23 people and outgrown its original digs. Its new, 20,000-square-foot building is expected to cost $4.5 million and be occupied by November. But that's not to say the going has been easy for Kalexsyn's two founding scientists, who brought little business experience to the effort, President David Zimmermann said. Professing ``joy, pride, and humility,'' he attributed much of the firm's success to help from the state, investors, Southwest Michigan First, Western Michigan University and the local business community. He said people in other locations have told him that such a cooperative effort would never happen in their communities. ``There were scary times, absolutely,'' he said of the past four years. ``I've joked with Bob (co-founder Bob Gadwood) about keeping him away from the windows ... and we're on the second floor.'' The outdoor ceremony at the building site in the Business Technology and Research Park, on WMU's Parkview campus, was attended by about 40 people. Short speeches were given by Zimmermann, Gadwood, WMU Interim President Diether Haenicke, WMU Associate Vice President for Community Outreach Bob Miller, Southwest Michigan First Chief Executive Officer Ron Kitchens and John Wheeler, chief executive officer of the project's general contractor, the Rockford Cos. The new building will include state-of-the-art mechanical and technology systems, lab space, offices and the capacity for a staff of up to 70. It will replace the 7,000-square-foot space Kalexsyn has been renting for the past four years at the park's Southwest Michigan Innovation Center. Kalexsyn provides medicinal-chemistry services for clients involved in early pharmaceutical research. From 2004 to 2006, revenues increased 180 percent, to $2.8 million, according to Zimmermann, who said he expects sales of $3 million this year. ``As a nation and a planet, our future is in smart people,'' Kitchens said. ``And our niche in this community we know to be in life sciences. As long as we believe in this community, we can continue our 100-year legacy of life science.'' Wheeler said a prayer for the risk-takers of the world, and he and Haenicke praised the entrepreneurial vision of Kalexsyn's founders. ``It's scary to start these establishments, but the paybacks are huge,'' Wheeler said. ``(The founders') children's children will tell about their grandpas starting a company in a field in Kalamazoo, Mich.'' Kitchens and Haenicke also pointed to the success of the 137-acre Business Technology and Research Park, more than 80 percent of which is developed, under option or under construction. ``You can go to a lot of smart zones that are empty fields,'' Kitchens said. ``This is a true success in this state.''