TH Innovation Alliance client ready ‘to start taking off'

September 28, 2010

Two years after its launch by displaced employees of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, a Terre Haute business has outgrown its original location and within two more years may get too big for its current site, the company's president said.

"It's really going to start taking off," Brent Schludecker of Midwest Compliance Laboratories said of the chemical testing business he and four other former employees of Pfizer's Vigo plant started in September 2008.

The business has seen its client list from the pharmaceutical, dietary supplement and food industries grow to 25 companies and recently added a third full-time employee. The lab provides analytical and microbiological testing that companies need to ensure product quality and comply with federal regulations. Clients range from Clabber Girl, a more than 150-year-old Terre Haute food manufacturer, to new and established businesses as far away as California, Florida and New York.

"We set new sales records monthly," Schludecker said, noting that 80 percent of the lab's business comes from dietary supplement manufacturers who face new federal requirements. "All of them now have to make sure that what's on their label matches what's in their finished product."

Originally located in a converted office on Indiana 46, the business moved in May to Indiana State University's John T. Myers Technology Center, adjacent to the university's Center for Business Support and Economic Innovation.

The location not only provides plenty of space and ample electrical and plumbing connections, but also makes it easier to access the business expertise and other resources Indiana State provides, Schludecker said.

Midwest Compliance Labs is a client business of the Center for Business Support and of the Terre Haute Innovation Alliance, an economic development and education partnership between Indiana State, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, the city of Terre Haute and the Terre Haute Economic Development Corp.

"That's one of the key items that has made us successful," Schludecker said of the relationship with Indiana State and the Innovation Alliance, which used federal funds to help with the lab's start-up expenses. "The relationship with the Business Center and the support they have given us from the business side and assisting us in finding resources has been invaluable."

The Center for Business Support and Economic Innovation not only helped Midwest Compliance Labs find a facility from which to operate - twice - but also helped arrange private financing through a Terre Haute bank, identified sources of accounting and legal services "and all the other things that we weren't thinking about as a startup company," Schludecker said.

Indiana State, Rose-Hulman and Ivy Tech Community College-Wabash Valley also provide skilled student workers that have been essential to helping the business grow - especially since it was launched on a shoestring in the midst of the worst economic downturn in decades, he said.

"They've been huge," Schludecker said of student workers who serve primarily as laboratory analysts but who also provided a ready source of labor for the lab's two moves and helped research sources for low-cost equipment and furnishings.

"Midwest Compliance Laboratories is the quintessential company for what the Innovation Alliance is trying to accomplish," said Chris Pfaff, director of the Center for Business Support and Economic Innovation and ISU's liaison with the Innovation Alliance.

"We've got a group of dislocated workers in the local economy and instead of taking that next corporate move to wherever Pfizer would have asked them to go, they decided they were going to start something themselves. We had business faculty engaged with them on marketing plans and internships that ISU and Rose-Hulman have provided have been key to helping them get started and lowering their operating costs. We are helping grow jobs locally and we are also providing experiential learning opportunities for our students. MC Labs is an ideal company that has represented both of those goals well."

With the economy now looking a little brighter, and with continued demand by an aging American populace for dietary supplements, Schludecker is bracing the still small workforce at Midwest Compliance Labs for continued increases in its workload.

"This lab is getting ready to hit a point where we're going to see some pretty big growth. In fact, we've gone from having a few samples in the lab at a time to where we're starting to load up. It's really going to start taking off, he said.

But no matter how much growth the business sees, it will remain locally owned, Schludecker said.

"Midwest Compliance Labs will always be Terre Haute and stay away from any type of foreign investment. Our business plan is very explicit that we want this to be a Terre Haute business. Terre Haute will always be the headquarters."

Photos: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/955820979_ktd8n-L.jpg - Interns Tyler Fromm (seated), a 2010 Indiana State University graduate now attending the Indiana University School of Medicine-Terre Haute; Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology student Cari Harper (center); and Beth Lutz, co-founder of Midwest Compliance Labs, look over test results in the lab, located in ISU's John T. Myers Technology Center. (ISU/Tony Campbell)
http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/955815103_Vgjfw-L.jpg - Tyler Fromm, a 2010 Indiana State University graduate now attending the Indiana University School of Medicine-Terre Haute, is among student interns who have gained experiential learning at Midwest Compliance Laboratories, a client business of ISU's Center for Business Support and Economic Innovation and the Terre Haute Innovation Alliance. (ISU/Tony Campbell)

Contact: Brent Schludecker, president, Midwest Compliance Laboratories, 812-237-4426 or brent_schludecker@mclaboratories.com; Chris Pfaff, director, Center for Business Support and Economic Innovation, Indiana State University, 812-237-2530 or chris.pfaff@indstate.edu

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or dave.taylor@indstate.edu

Story Highlights

Two years after its launch by displaced employees of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, a Terre Haute business has outgrown its original location and within two years may get too big for its current site, the company president said.

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