December 2010

Teeth are a big, and growing, business in Manatee County

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Each adult human is supposed to have 32 of them, and they are big business in Manatee County.

Teeth — dentistry, that is — means jobs for Manatee County residents. From dental offices to prosthetic labs and orthodontic product manufacturers, the business of caring for the nation’s teeth has found a home in Manatee.

According to GBI Research, the U.S. dental market in 2009 was valued at $2.2 billion and is forecast to grow to reach $4.2 billion by 2016. The forecast for growth is closely tied to aging baby boomers, who will require more dental care as they age and are more likely to have the wherewithal to afford cosmetic dentistry.

Manatee County businesses are poised to capitalize on that surge.

Formed in 1991, Dental Care Alliance is one of the country’s largest dental support organizations with more than [NUMBER_OF_PRACTICES] affiliated dental practices in [NUMBER_OF_STATES] states. Dental Care Alliance offers dentists and dental professionals clinical autonomy, career satisfaction and growth opportunities by reducing day-to-day business management headaches and administrative hassles; allowing affiliated dentists to focus exclusively on providing the best clinical care to meet each of their individual patients’ needs.

DCA is growing and in January will move into a 13,000-square-foot building on the Manatee County side of Lakewood Ranch. Chief Operating Officer Mitch Olan says the company will add another dozen employees at the new headquarters before breaking ground on a second, 10,000-square-foot building on adjacent land.

“There is growing demand for what we do,” Olan said. “We reduce day-to-day management problems; consolidate the cost of supplies, marketing and services; and make it easy to stay up to date with the latest technologies.

“This allows dentists to enjoy their careers by focusing on patients, not backroom operations.”

Industry trends like outsourcing dental practice management will no doubt be of interest to students at the new School of Dental Medicine planned for Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine-Bradenton, or LECOM, in Lakewood Ranch. Professional accreditation is pending for the four-year program, which could open in 2012, according to Dr. Chet Evans, LECOM’s vice president for medical education and program development.

“Florida is in great need of dentists, with only two dental schools serving the entire state,” Evans said. “If approved, LECOM would be responding to that need by making a substantial commitment to Manatee County and Florida with a $52 million investment in facility, equipment and staff.”

Evans said the dental school will require up to 90 employees in its first four years of operation. “The faculty payroll alone will approach $7 million a year.”

The latest dentistry techniques and technologies will be available right on the students’ doorstep.

NatLabs makes implants and other dental prosthetics for dentists. The company has teamed with global technology giant 3M to establish a revolutionary digital technology pathway that cuts production time and costs.

Formerly known as Natural Prosthetic Dental Lab, NatLabs recently announced a $10 million expansion and plans to add 283 employees during the next five years to accommodate growth in its digital dentistry business. Since NatLabs announced its expansion in October, the company has added three employees and is interviewing more candidates, said COO Eric Grimes.

Another significant player in the local dental industry is Dentsply Raintree Essix Glenroe, which creates and manufactures dental devices. The company added 41 jobs locally from 2008 to 2010, and recently announced plans to launch a line of clear aligner orthodontic products.

Facilitating the growth of the dental cluster in Manatee County makes financial sense for our community. In partnership with Manatee County government, Suncoast Workforce and other agencies, the Manatee Economic Development Council is able to smooth the way for employers.

Says DCA’s Olan, “We deal with a lot of states and jurisdictions in our business. It is a pleasure to work with Manatee County and the EDC. The customer service is second to none.”

Growing companies with more good jobs. Now, that will make you smile!

Eric Basinger is executive director of the Manatee Economic Development Council, a division of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce. Reach him at (941) 748-4842, Extension 128, or at ericb@

Original article