Col. City welcomes Blue M. Medical

COLUMBIA CITY — An entrepreneur is planning to renovate a vacant Columbia City building to create 25 new jobs by 2016.Bill Smith is launching Blue M Medical, LLC, joining several other Whitley County companies who announced job creation and investment plans in 2013 — Micropulse, Inc., Red Star Contract Manufacturing, Inc. and Sound Ideas.Blue M Medical is a manufacturer of custom medical devices, which will locate its operations in Columbia City.Smith plans to renovate the former medical office building, located on North Oak Street, to supply stainless steel instrumentation for the orthopedic, spin, trauma and sports medicine medical device markets across the U.S.Smith, along with several members of the Whitley County Economic Development Corporation (EDC), were present at Tuesday’s City Council meeting to tie up loose ends for funding, and the city appeared to welcome Blue M Medical with open arms.The council approved a tax abatement for the building, and the city also made an agreement with Smith for a USDA loan through the electric department, the first of its kind in the state.The USDA will issue the loan to Columbia City, which will in turn loan the $104,000 to Blue M Medical with a loan-servicing fee.“It’s a great tool for Columbia City to use,” said Lori Shipman of the EDC. “In this case, we’re getting a vacant building back on the utility and tax rolls and bringing good jobs to the community.”The city is the first municipality in the state, possibly in the U.S., to go through with this particular USDA loan.“I’ve said it in the past, we have to be creative when it comes to economic development,” Columbia City Mayor Ryan Daniel said. “We are open and inviting to new businesses. “We are thankful Blue M Medical is locating the company’s operations in our community, and we appreciate the work of all the economic development partners that worked on this project.”The EDC offered Blue M Medical up to $250,000 in conditional tax credits based on the company’s job creation plans. The tax credits are performance-based, meaning until Indiana residents are hired, the company is not eligible to claim the incentives.The company plans to hire four employees in the first year, but later expand its business into engineering.Smith said his orthopedic business is different than the large companies in Warsaw. “The ones I will be making are unique and special,” Smith said. “I’m working with a community in Germany that has done this for the last 70 years. I will work with a customer in need to provide a custom instrument to meet their needs.”Alan Tio, president of the Whitley County EDC, is excited for an entrepreneur to start his business locally. “We want to provide the support system and network for entrepreneurs to be successful,” Tio said. “I appreciate the support from the city. I’m looking forward to seeing this business succeed.”Smith is active in the EDC’s Small Business & Entrepreneurship Initiative, working with SBEI team member Steve Franks in the Lean Startup-based SBEI GreenLight program, participating in the recent session of the Kauffman Institute’s Ice House Entrepreneurship Program, and joining the newly opened EDC Outpost co-working facility.