Twinsburg -- Championing small business as the driving force behind state and national economic recovery, Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel visited VisiMax Technologies Feb. 22 to talk job growth and technology-driven industries.
Mandel toured the 7,500-square-foot facility at 9177 Dutton Dr. and sat down with company officials to gain perspective into one of the many Ohio small businesses that he said are contributing to the economic growth of Ohio and the United States.
"If there's going to be an American economic recovery and an Ohio economic recovery, it's going to be businesses like yours more so than the large corporations in Ohio and the country," Mandel said. "It's businesses like this that can help lead Ohio's comeback, especially with manufacturing. There's such a talented and well-trained workforce in Ohio ... it's one of the under-told stories."
VisiMax, which has operated in Twinsburg since 2000, specializes in reflective and anti-deflective coatings for lenses and other optical technologies. Its product applications include military and defense equipment, LCD displays, 3-D projectors and more. The company employs a staff of about 20, though employment is fluid depending on demand, which sales director Chris Murphy said is growing.
Murphy said Mandel's office has been helpful to his company by offering the GrowNow loan program, which Mandel promoted during his visit. The GrowNow program brokers investments for small businesses and helps those businesses reduce their interest rates.
"It's exciting," Murphy said. "We have benefited from the loan program GrowNow that his office has spearheaded. It is a way for businesses to reduce their interest rate on borrowed capital. We borrowed money a year and half ago to purchase a new coating machine. It effectively reduced our interest rate from five percent to two percent."
Businesses interested in applying for the GrowNow program can do so at www.grownow.ohio.gov. Only Ohio-based businesses with 150 employees or fewer are eligible.
Mandel discussed the "exodus of intellectual capital," or foreign students learning hard sciences and other valuable trades from American universities and taking their skills back to their home countries.
"We need to do a better job of keeping that talent here," Mandel said.
To remain competitive with developing countries and emerging powers, Mandel said Ohio needs to grow manufacturing capabilities and create jobs. Small, localized operations like VisiMax are the key to this goal, Mandel said.
"I think the extent to which Ohio recovers economically will be determined by the strength of small businesses, especially those with manufacturing space," Mandel said. "In order to be strong as a state and a country, we need to make things. If we become a complete service economy, we'll be weak economically and militarily."
A Northeast Ohio native, Mandel said he was interested in getting acquainted with VisiMax's operations due to its innovative services and skilled, local workforce.
"I was born and raised in Northeast Ohio and I think it's important to recognize and celebrate companies who are putting food on the table for lots of families," Mandel said. "This is an example of how leveraging technology and the intellectual force and hard work of citizens in this area can really grow our economy."
Mandel, A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, added that he appreciated the potential military applications of VisiMax's products.
"It's eye-opening how attention to detail is so important to a business like this and it's obvious the employees here are highly skilled because what they're making every day is such an important application," Mandel said. "I think it's great to see American businesses helping the research and development of weapon systems that help the war fighter on the ground."
Following the tour, VisiMax CEO Brian Murphy said he was glad to host the treasurer, who he said showed a healthy concern for Ohio businesses.
"I think it is important for elected officials to understand what businesses are doing and the kind of pressures they face," he said. "So I think that the presence of the treasurer here helps us appreciate that he is taking interest in businesses and our business in particular.
"I think that we [in Ohio] benefit from having a set of administrators and elected officials who are concerned about the superiority of business and I think that's important," Brian Murphy added. "I am grateful that we have programs like [GrowNow] in place to help businesses like ours."