high-growth medical device company is finding the right prescription for expansion in Mesa, Ariz.
Ulthera, which makes ultrasound devices for face-lifts and neck-lifts, is moving from 12,000 sq. ft. (1,115 sq. m.) of space into a new 32,000-sq.-ft. (2,973-sq.-m.) headquarters in Mesa, a booming Phoenix suburb.
“We have around 60 employees now in Arizona, and this expansion will enable us to grow to 100 workers,” says Stacie Mallen, vice president of human resources for Ulthera. “We will add head count next year as we grow to support the organization.”
The expansion, originally announced last February, will also enable Ulthera to consolidate manufacturing operations — which currently take place in California and Pennsylvania — in Mesa.
Ulthera was spun out of a Mesa-based incubator in 2006 and has since enjoyed rapid growth. “We are a venture capital-backed startup company,” says Matt Likens, president and CEO. “We are on our way to $60 million in sales this year, up from $40 million last year and $18 million the year before.”
Bill Fender, vice president of operations for Ulthera, says that “there are many advantages to being located in the Phoenix area. The Sky Harbor Airport is a big advantage. We host a lot of customer events in our headquarters here, and the location plays well from that perspective. From a facilities perspective, this is a competitive marketplace for people looking to expand their businesses in the area. We were looking for a new headquarters and new manufacturing facility last year, and we were offered a lot of different options for expanding our operations. Availability of space was a key factor here.”
So was access to a quality work force. “From a labor standpoint, we have to be competitive with other medical device companies for talent,” says Mallen. “Our benefits have to be competitive. Culturally, we must have a very attractive environment for our workers. Ultimately, for the right individual, this is an incredible opportunity for someone in the Phoenix market.”
The company’s relocation to 1840 South Stapley Drive was facilitated by economic development incentives. Assistance from the Arizona Commerce Authority’s Arizona Competes Fund, along with help from the City of Mesa and the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, helped seal the deal, company officials said.
“We received a lot of support here locally,” says Fender. “We worked with the economic development department of the City of Mesa. They put us in touch with a lot of resources. They aligned us with available properties in the city. They showed us sites that were qualified to receive incentives. They were very proactive. They rolled out the red carpet for us in order to keep us in Mesa.”
Fender notes that Ulthera must achieve certain milestones for hiring and capital investment over three years in order to qualify for ACA incentives.
“The East Valley Institute of Technology was also a very helpful resource,” adds Fender. “They helped us leverage partnerships in the community.”
Access to university talent helps too, notes Mallen. “We do have quite a few graduates of Arizona State, University of Arizona and Northern Arizona here,” she says. “We also employ long-term interns from these schools.”
Since announcing its expansion, Ulthera has continued to enjoy other indicators of growth, including new market access granted in Mexico and Brazil; a new patent; and FDA clearance validating its system’s use in non-invasively lifting lax tissue on the neck and under the chin (its first clearance, for above the brow, was granted in 2009.)
“This clearance for the neck and under the chin is just one in a series of many new clinical indications we are pursuing in the years ahead,” Likens said in October.