For one of the largest, and fastest growing, medical supply firms in Florida, new facilities are part of the long-term strategy.
There's no such thing as a head start in Bob Simpson's business.
In today's world of real-time ordering and delivery, the job of the CEO and president of Fort Myers-based LeeSar & Cooperative Services of Florida is to ensure everything from surgical instruments to nuclear medicine supplies gets to medical professionals throughout Southwest Florida and as far away as Huntsville, Ala., on time.
Small wonder he keeps the region's construction contractors on speed dial.
The nonprofit LeeSar, created in 1998 to deliver goods and services to Lee Health and Sarasota Memorial Healthcare System, built a 200,000-square-foot service center at 7070 Winkler Ave. not quite four years ago. It has already run out of space.
“The amount of volume going through there has superseded our ability to handle it,” says Simpson, who joined LeeSar-CSF in 2002 and has grown it to a workforce of 500 and a logistics system that services 22 hospitals, 80 physicians' offices and day-surgery clinics, as well as emergency medical services and fire departments from Collier Charlotte counties.
Growth has been 18% to 20% annually, with “no end in sight,” says Simpson. LeeSar will soon add three more entities to its client list: a medical complex going up in Estero; the Gulf Coast Medical Center expansion; and the new Golisano Children's Hospital.
So it was a relief for Simpson to see the arrival of DeAngelis Diamond's tilt-up concrete construction crew in late February. Less than a week after the crew showed up at the Winkler Avenue construction site, next to LeeSar-CSF's service center, construction crews had walls in place for an 85,000-square-foot distribution center with 50-foot-high ceilings.
In five days, crane operators lifted into place 8 million pounds of concrete panels for the $20 million structure. “Since then we've started installing the structural steel,” says Joel Burlingame, project manager for general contractor DeAngelis Diamond of Naples.
“We're over halfway complete,” he says of the steel-structure work. DeAngelis Diamond expects to finish the building by late October.
He says the tilt-wall construction used in the new services center offers some savings on time and money. But the real payoff, he says, comes with the tilt-up's structural worthiness. “Down here because of the hurricanes and whatnot, it seems a pretty popular way to go,” he says.
Cost savings with tilt-wall are usually only achieved with buildings more than 50,000 square feet and heights of more than 30 feet, Burlingame adds.
“There's a lot more coordination on the front end involved when using concrete tilt-up panels,” he says, “but it does usually save time on the overall schedule when compared to other construction methods.”
Soon, new workers will arrive to begin outfitting the interior of what will be a fully automated system that relies on bar codes for storing and retrieving materials. They will also create a 20,000-square-foot area for robotic pharmaceutical compounding, pharmaceutical repackaging services, custom surgical pack manufacturing and EMS custom kits.
Another 6,000 square feet will be for sterilization and preparation of surgical kits, along with 3,000 square feet for repairs of surgical instruments and endoscopic scopes. Up next for LeeSar-CSF is an 80,000-square-foot pharmaceutical distribution center in Sarasota. The LeeSar-CSF board approved the project earlier this year. “We're looking for a site,” Simpson says.