Capital News Service

of the Michigan State University School of Journalism

Kalamazoo small business prospers despite gloomy economic times

By CHANTAL COOK
Capital News Service

LANSING – Not many business success stories are hitting the press recently, but a small business in Kalamazoo is bucking the trend.

In 2009, Forensic Fluids Laboratories Inc. qualified as one of the Michigan 50 Companies to Watch.

The Kalamazoo business, founded in 2005, has seen its success skyrocket since winning recognition in the program, said President Bridget Lemberg.

When nominated, the company had five employees and $1.2 million in revenues.  Now, the business has quadrupled its employees and made $3 million last year, she said

Companies that are in interested the program must be privately held, for-profit, have six to 99 full-time employees and take in between $750,000 to $5 million in annual revenue or working capital from investors or grants.

Forensic Fluids is the only lab in the United States that tests oral fluids exclusively.  Laboratories from coast to coast and Canada send samples for the lab to test.

Saliva testing has been around for about eight years and can be used for DNA testing for paternity and criminal cases.

Lemberg said the business has advantages compared to other labs.

“Other forensic fluid labs across the nation will do both oral fluid or ask you to pee in a cup,” said Lemberg.  “We are the only lab that specializes in only oral fluid, which is more convenient for it is quicker, you can’t cheat on it and you can keep your clothes on.”

Small business success stories like that one don’t receive as much media coverage as the big business spiral due to the dark recession cloud hovering over the state, said Rob Fowler, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM).

“When you hear on the news that a big corporation laid off hundreds or thousands of employees, that’s a big deal.  But when you hear a small local business hired a handful of employees, it’s not as big of a story as the corporation laying off thousands of employees,” Fowler said.

SBAM along with co-sponsors, U.S. Small Business Administration, Edward Lowe Foundation, Michigan Economic Development Corp. and Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Center at Grand Valley State University, coordinates the Michigan Celebrates Small Business Event.

The annual event has been running for six years and recognizes small businesses and entrepreneurs.  SBAM Vice President of communications Michael Rogers said the event has seen great success.

“It’s important to the economy and shocking for some to see Michigan small businesses being successful in the cloudy economic cloud that been over the state,” Rogers said.

The winners for the 2010 Michigan 50 Companies to Watch will be announced April 29 in Lansing.

© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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