Testing, testing

Inorganic Ventures expands in Christiansburg

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce

Linda and Paul Gaines were hesitant when David Enghauser of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership suggested Christiansburg as the new home of their company, Inorganic Ventures. Their attitudes changed, though, after they toured the area.
“We fell in love with the New River Valley,” Linda Gaines says. “It’s beautiful here. We loved the countryside. Paul is from Kentucky and it reminded him of where he was born and raised.”

The couple moved Inorganic’s headquarters from Lakewood, N.J., to Christiansburg in 2008. The 26-year-old small specialty chemical company manufactures analytical inorganic standards. “We sell the certified material that allows others to test water, metals and pharmaceuticals,” explains Michael Scott, the company’s executive vice president. “The certified reference material must be precise because results are being based on our standard.”

Paul Gaines, who holds a doctorate in general chemistry, partnered with Inorganic Ventures’ founder, Mitch Dolobowski, in 1989 and became the sole owner in 1997. The firm is the only company that specializes in inorganics alone, selling over a quarter of a million units each year.

In Christiansburg, it bought nearly 10 acres in the Falling Branch Industrial Park where it built a 25,000-square-foot manufacturing facility. Inorganic also has a distribution center in Spain. “Our plan [at our headquarters] is to be 100,000 square feet,” says Scott. “We’re adding the next 25,000 square feet in 2012.”

The company’s growth hit a pinnacle in 2010 when it grew 19.25 percent over 2009.

“People [always] have to test,” Scott says. “When the economy is bad, they don’t test as often.”

The certified reference material it manufactures and distributes around the world is housed in large containers that are broken down into bottles — everything from small 125 millimeter sizes up to 10 liters.

“One of the things we sell is pH buffers used in checking ocean water,” Scott says. “They can tell the status of hurricanes and tsunamis.”

Inorganic Ventures now employs about 50 people, but the company is in the process of adding more. “One of the big reasons we are here [in Christiansburg] is because of the universities that are close by,” Scott says. “Some of our jobs require a master’s degree and above. Here we have a good pool of employees.”

Linda Gaines is glad she and her husband chose Christiansburg for the company’s headquarters.  “We cannot say enough good things about the people in Virginia,” she says. “They were willing to help us with all kinds of things.”

Old-fashioned in its ambience with Victorian lamps, brick sidewalks and large shade trees, Christiansburg is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Cultural attractions include the Montgomery Museum and Lewis Miller Regional Art Center Inc. The museum features local artists as well as historical artifacts from Montgomery County. Its permanent art collection includes works by local artists. The town is preparing to open the new Christiansburg Aquatic Center in a partnership with Virginia Tech. It will be the site that will host Atlantic Coast Conference swim and diving meets. 

The town’s economy
Christiansburg is the fourth largest town in Virginia. Larger employers include Montgomery County; Hubbell Lighting Inc., which manufactures light fixtures; and EchoStar Advanced Technologies LLC, a satellite-dish provider. The area also is home to a manufacturing plant for Corning Inc., a manufacturer of specialty glass and ceramics. Many residents work at nearby Radford University and Virginia Tech.

Where to stay
The Inn at Virginia Tech, located on the university’s Blacksburg campus, is a favored stop for visitors. Other hotels include the Hampton Inn in Christiansburg and the Hilton Garden Center in Blacksburg.

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