FL: Bradenton Business Plans $10-Million Investment, 283 New Employees

5 Oct, 2010

Natural Prosthetic Dental Lab Inc. expands, launches “digital revolution of dentistry”

Natural Prosthetic Dental Lab Inc., a 26-year-old Bradenton company, announced today it will expand its facility and hire 283 employees over the next five years to support demand for digitally produced dental restorations. The announcement was made by NPDL President and Chief Operating Officer Eric Grimes, who said the company has teamed with global technology giant 3M to establish a revolutionary digital technology pathway that cuts production time and costs, allowing NPDL to move work back to the United States from China.

“NPDL is on the leading edge of ushering in the digital revolution of dentistry,” said Grimes, who estimates the capital investment for the project at $10 million. “We have spent nearly two years working with 3M on the technology pathway that is now operational, and we have established a business model that will allow us to resell the scanning devices and become a training provider for digital dentistry in the United States.”

Like most dental labs, NPDL has made dental prosthetics – crowns, bridges, implant restorations and removable prosthetics – using dental impressions provided by dentists. The traditional impression process requires a tray of impression material that has to set up in the patient’s mouth. Creating the prosthetics is often done overseas with cheaper labor, Grimes said. With the new digital technology, NPDL can afford to bring manufacturing back to Bradenton.

NPDL will train dentists to use a digital scanner to map out a patient’s dental structure. The scan is sent electronically to NPDL where the digital information is processed. NPDL then fabricates the restoration to the doctor’s prescription. The digital process is faster and more precise than traditional methods, Grimes said.

Manufacturing dental prosthetics is a $60-billion dollar industry worldwide, Grimes estimated. The largest lab in the United States has less than a 2 percent share of the market. Grimes and partners David Jensen, Dennis Cooley and Steven Pinto expect NPDL to grow five to 10 times its current size within three years.

“The only way to compete with overseas cheap labor is with technology,” Grimes said. “We’ve been working with 3M for years, since they are a leader in dental materials, and we saw the writing on the wall. Within the decade, digital dentistry will be the standard. We want to lead that wave and grab market share. Before we even announced the expansion, we had achieved our three-year sales goal. The equipment is set up and operating, but we are in very tight space.”

NPDL plans to break ground this fall on a new 15,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in East Bradenton. The expansion will allow the business to consolidate other local operations at one site, he said. The new building could be ready by spring 2011. The Riverside Real Estate Co. and NDC Construction Co. are assisting with the project.

“The Manatee Economic Development Council (EDC) and Manatee County Government have been tremendously helpful in our achieving this expansion,” Grimes said. “The EDC helped us apply for a county incentive grant, and we will use the county’s rapid response permitting to get the facility up and running so we can add more employees.”

“It’s exciting to assist a local company that is poised to take such a giant leap in its industry,” said Eric Basinger, EDC executive director. “Our next step is assisting with the facility permitting and employee recruitment. NPDL also is forming a partnership with a local training institution to create a pipeline of students that are trained in the new technology.” NPDL declined to name which institutions are in the running for that role.

The Board of Manatee County Commissioners approved a performance-based incentive for NPDL of up to $283,000 over five years, based on the company’s hiring 283 new employees at an average wage that is 115 percent of the county average.

“I understand that NPDL’s president/COO is a sixth-generation Floridian who was born and raised in Bradenton, said Ed Hunzeker, Manatee County administrator. “This kind of local success story reinforces the county’s commitment to providing the right assistance to help retain and grow Manatee County businesses.”


About the EDC
The Economic Development Council, a division of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, develops and implements programs to attract new high-impact businesses and to assist in the retention and growth of targeted existing businesses in Manatee County. Information: www.ManateeEDC.com.