Leesburg location and private equity investment boost K2M’s growthApril 29, 2011 6:00 AM
by Joan Tupponce
The founders of Leesburg-based K2M Inc. named their company after the second-highest mountain on Earth, K2, because they realized their spinal device company would have an uphill climb against industry giants such as Johnson & Johnson. They’ve continued using geographical references in the products they sell.
“We have three Virginia names in our products: Potomac, Chesapeake and Natural Bridge,” says Eric Major, the company’s president and CEO.
K2M opened in Leesburg because Major considered the town’s location a critical crossroads. “We’ve found success here geographically because we can draw from an impressive talent base,” he says. “We have access to Washington, D.C., Maryland, Northern Virginia, Charlottesville, Winchester and West Virginia.”
The area also is close to three major airports, including Washington Dulles International, which the company uses for international travel. “We have everything here, from suburbia to the country,” Major says.
Major was one of the five co-founders of K2M in 2004 along with the company’s chief medical officer and chairman, Dr. John Kostuik, a former chief of spine surgery at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The company develops implants that surgeons use to treat complex spine pathologies. “Our specialty is scoliosis,” Major says. “We develop products that surgeons use all over the world to treat the most difficult cases of scoliosis.”
K2M’s product lines include spinal stabilization systems and minimally invasive surgery systems. “We have a full platform of products for the spine,” Major says.
Since its founding, the company has grown from five to 225 employees with approximately 180 working in the Leesburg corporate offices and manufacturing facility. “We have some employees throughout the United States and about 20 to 25 overseas,” Major says. “During the downturn, we have hired at a rapid rate.”
In August 2010, Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, a leading private equity firm, acquired the outstanding stock and became the majority shareholder of K2M. The investment gave K2M the opportunity to increase its business substantially by expanding its worldwide sales force and accelerating its emphasis on research and development.
The company’s low turnover rate, 3 percent during the past two years, is credited to a culture that promotes an entrepreneurial but team-focused mindset. “Our number one priority is the highest quality product and attention to service,” Major says. “Our customers get what they need on time, every time.”
Major is a huge proponent of Leesburg not only for its location for business but also for its resources. “The town has been good to us,” he says.
Leesburg’s historic downtown area has brick sidewalks and is packed with boutique shops and centuries-old architecture. Attractions include the Washington and Old Dominion hiking and biking trail and Dodona Manor (The George C. Marshall International Center), which was the residence of Gen. George C. Marshall. In addition to serving as chief of staff of the U.S. Army, Marshall was secretary of state and secretary of defense. Another popular stop is 19th century Oatlands. Once a plantation, Oatlands, a National Trust Historic Site and a National Historic Landmark, was home to Mr. and Mrs. William Corcoran Eustis, affluent Washingtonians.
The town’s economy
Established in 1758, Leesburg serves as Loudoun County’s seat of government. Major employers in the town include Inova Loudoun Hospital, the Federal Aviation Administration, Wegmans grocery store and Costco. George Mason University Enterprise Center opened a temporary location in the town while awaiting construction of the Leesburg Business Incubator. Projected completion is summer or early fall.
Loudoun County is home to a variety of industries, many of which are linked to information and communications technology. There’s Verisign, which provides communications and online commerce services, and NeuStar, which serves the global communications market. Employers in Loudoun with more than 1,000 employees include Loudoun County Public Schools, AOL, aerospace company Orbital Sciences Corp., United Airlines, and Verizon Business. In October 2010, Rockwell Collins (communication and aviation electronics solutions) broke ground on a 178,200-square-foot office and industrial complex at TransDulles. Projected completion is October.
Where to stay
When business guests come to town, Major steers them toward Lansdowne Resort, located near the wine country outside of Washington. The resort includes Spa Minerale and the Golf Club at Lansdowne with two championship 18-hole courses and a nine-hole short course. Two other favorites are Homewood Suites Leesburg and Hampton Inn Leesburg. “They are good partners with us,” Major says. “We use them all the time.”
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