An area nonprofit that is a world leader in tissue grafts plans $50M expansion, 200 new jobs

July 19, 2018
The Community Tissue Services Center in Kettering is the largest such center in the world in terms of tissue graft distribution, said Christopher Graham, the center’s executive director of business development. The center is able to process and transform an average of 125 grants from each donor, up from about 50 grafts a few years ago. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF

The Community Tissue Services Center is about to double the size of its operations in Kettering and plans to add 200 employees in the next four years, the center’s leaders said Wednesday.

The center already distributes more tissue grafts than any other facility in the world, operators say, and the planned $50 million expansion is an effort to strengthen the center’s place locally and globally.

The current facility at 2900 College Drive is about 94,000 square feet, said David Smith, chief executive of Community Tissue Services and its sister organization, the Community Blood Center. The expansion will add another 120,000 to 130,000 square feet of new space on adjoining properties, all on about 50 acres in Kettering’s Miami Valley Research Park.

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“We’re going to more than double,” said Christopher Graham, the center’s executive director of business development.

The Community Blood Center in downtown Dayton at 349 S. Main St. will not be impacted by the plans, Graham and Smith said. That facility is 110,000 square feet and has approximately 300 employees.

Blood services are about 18 percent of the center’s revenue, but they remain important.

“Blood services are right where they need to be, among our largest customers,” Smith said.

The entire operation has about 600 employees total in Dayton, Kettering and across the nation.

The Kettering building has 14 ISO-class “clean rooms,” rooms that are thousands of times cleaner than a hospital operating room, Smith said. The new building will have 16 clean rooms. The downtown Dayton building still has eight clean rooms.

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Both current and new buildings will be joined by a new road, with the new building having a separate parking lot. There will be an array of upgrades to make the combined buildings more efficient, such as generating steam from a central location to run sterilizers and upgrading electrical capacity.

A projected 18 months of construction could begin with a groundbreaking as early as late next month or September, Graham and Smith said.

“It won’t take too long for us to get in there and start operating,” Graham said.

When the expansion is complete, the two centers will have a total of 38 clean rooms for sterile and precise manufacturing of tissue and burn skin grafts. The center’s operators say they are also the world’s largest not-for-profit provider of burn skin.

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The current building opened in March 2011, representing a $27 million investment for the building and an investment of about $1.5 million beyond that for land.

But even back then, immersed in the fast-growing arena of tissue grafts, Smith said a need for additional space could be seen.

“We’ve been growing all along” he said. “Every year in tissue services, we’ve been growing rather rapidly.”

The expansion will allow the center to solidify its place as a manufacturer, moving beyond tissue banking into medical devices — for other businesses and the center itself — as well as biologics and even pharmaceuticals.

“I think that the sky is the limit in terms of where you can go with this,” Smith said. “There is such rapid development in academia, in the universities, and also public and private companies.”

The growth may continue like this long into the future, which makes a new facility like this necessary.

“We’re a manufacturer that supports the health care industry,” Smith said. “What you see here, there are more similarities to other manufacturers than there are to hospitals.”

Employees here are aware that they are working with a “gift,” Smith said.

More than half of the U.S. population — 52 percent — is registered as tissue, eye and organ donors, primarily through renewal of drivers licenses. The Kettering center averages about 125 grafts that can be “processed and transformed” from a single donor, up from about 50 grafts a few years ago.

Said Graham, “That’s allowing us to transform a lot of lives.”

Construction of the center’s new facility will be overseen by construction partner Shook Construction.