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Mike Cote's Business Editor's Notebook: Foxx Life Sciences needs more room to grow

SALEM -- Wanted: 100,000 square feet of industrial space for a manufacturer working overtime.

Foxx Life Sciences moved to its current Salem headquarters in 2014, leaving 5,000 square feet on the other side of town for three times that space in a building on Delaware Drive. Plenty of room for Taylor and his five employees.

Since then, Foxx has expanded to 55,000 square feet, built a clean room and took over space across the street to add more warehousing. Over the past year, the company has grown from 22 employees to 50 as demand for its products grows worldwide.

“We think we can only last here about a year — max, two years — and then we’re going to have to be looking for the next location,” CEO Tom Taylor said Thursday during a visit from a state delegation led by Business and Economic Affairs Commissioner Taylor Caswell. “Clearly, I want that to be in New Hampshire. Our whole team wants that to be in New Hampshire.”

Foxx makes filtration, fluid management and solvent waste products — bottles and flasks made of glass and plastic — for research, biotech and pharmaceutical use. Its customers include Lonza Biologics in Portsmouth.

“We have pretty high expectations. We want to be at $100 million (in sales) in the next 10 years,” Taylor said.

Foxx has added about 10 employees in the last two months alone, said Taylor, who has expanded his leadership team with other executives who have run their own businesses to help the company to ramp up to the next level. It’s a place Foxx is likely to get to soon: For five of the past six years, it has recorded an annual growth rate of more than 40 percent.

“The orders have outpaced the sales for nine of the past 11 months so our backlog continues to go up,” Taylor said. “And that’s one of our challenges because we’re trying to get more material in here to keep up with the orders.”

Foxx Life Sciences, tucked away in a small commercial park 30 miles north of Boston’s biotech hub, competes for business with multinational corporations. Taylor joked about how some of its customers over the years had the impression that Foxx was a much bigger operation — and might not have signed deals if they had known its true stature.

“We’re going up against a few multi-billion companies. Those brands have been in the marketplace for 50 to 70 years, where our brand is only 10 years old,” Taylor said. “When we started the company, we did a lot of private labeling — almost 70 percent of our business was private label with the idea of getting our product out there, making people aware of it through VWR, Fisher, Saint Gobain. We private labeled for about 12 different companies. Doing that really got our growth up there, the cash flow, because people loved our products.”

Foxx carved out a niche by finding ways to improve “old school” lab products the bigger players had not upgraded in years. Using focus groups, the company watched customers using the new designs and made tweaks as needed to the prototypes. Foxx’s first filter product, its most popular offering, has seven patents.

“Every single one of these has features and benefits that are unique compared to the normal product that’s out there,” Taylor said.

About 90 percent of what Foxx produces is made in North America, he said, compared to products that are often manufactured in Asia and marketed under private labels in the United States.

“These are our products, our patents, our tooling, and we do all the assembly here. We use molders, contract manufacturing companies, to mold parts for us, but its our tooling,” Taylor said.

Foxx’s modest size makes it easier for the company to respond to custom product requests. Its corporate competitors generally increase their scope by acquiring smaller companies, a phenomenon Taylor said has accelerated over the past five years.

“Once you become multi-billion dollar, the innovation becomes very difficult for them. They have to acquire innovation,” Taylor. “They’re buying whole companies, and then rolling them in.”

So far, Foxx has rebuffed offers to be acquired by those multi-billion dollar companies. Taylor says he’s not ready to sell his soul. He also has eschewed venture capital — maybe because there was a time when everyone he approached for funding said no. He’s hoping Foxx can improve its order backlog by instituting some efficiencies.

“If we get more efficient that could save us a lot on the cash flow and things like that,” Taylor said. “The whole next six months is all about being way more efficient.”

That’s good news for Walter Martin, vice president of finance and human resources, who is hoping to relive the kind of wild ride he remembers from nearly 40 years ago, when he worked for New Balance in the athletic shoe’s company’s early days in Boston.

“There were 14 of us in that whole company at the time. And this feels just like New Balance,” Martin said. “We couldn’t get enough stuff out the door. We couldn’t get enough people. We had enormous backlog.”

Mike Cote is the business editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader. Contact him at mcote@unionleader.com or 206-7724.



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