BLUE EARTH - Express Diagnostics has caught a wave and, as a result, is growing by leaps and bounds.
The company manufactures drug tests for law enforcement, among others, said Gary Jueneman, vice president and general manager.
"We test for thirty-ish drugs," Jueneman said. "We've got over 900, close to 1,000 different configurations."
Becca Clarke, left, tests dip strips while Donna Doreneush prepares sponges for the indicators on another test at Express Diagnostics in Blue Earth. The company manufactures drug tests for law enforcement. Last year, it had 34 employees. Now it has 82.
All of the tests involve strips similar to diabetic testing strips, except these test for various drugs and adulterants (substances taken to mask the drugs). The kits are for organizations that test a lot of people, such as companies and law enforcement. The tests are not available in stores for home use.
"Our biggest customers are distributors who sell to the customers," Jueneman said. "Forty percent of what we make goes out of the country."
The business was relocated from California to Blue Earth in 2004 because CEO managing partner Paul Johnson lives in Blue Earth, Jueneman said.
"The better business climate, better work ethic and lower overhead all contributed to the move," Jueneman said.
Back then, the company had just one employee. Last year, Express Diagnostics had 34.
"Today, we have 82 employees," Jueneman said. "Around 50 percent [are from] Blue Earth or rural Blue Earth." The other half live within a 20- to 25-mile radius.
"This year, payroll is about $3 million, a lot of which is spent locally," Jueneman said.
The company also has hired locals to renovate the building at 1550 Industrial Drive to accommodate the increased workload and growing workforce.
"We've quadrupled office space," said Jueneman.
The business also has added a lunchroom with amenities, new bathrooms and a new lockerroom.
Express Diagnostics bought 4.5 acres across the street to build a parking lot so employees won't have to park up and down the street.
"We're proud of the fact in the last 15 to 16 months, we're going against the trend," Jueneman said. "Not many are [expanding] in this day and age. The business continues to grow up to 50 percent this year and we'll be adding employees."
Sales keep going up and Jueneman believes he knows why.
"Our employees are top-notch and strive to get the best product out to the customer they can. We're efficient at making the product and we fill orders quickly," he said, adding that Johnson "is very creative and always trying to think of new products."
Jueneman expects Express Diagnostics to keep expanding because of the increasing demand for drug tests.
"K2 Spice is a synthetic marijuana that, up to a year or two ago, was legal," Jueneman said. "It's 100 times more deadly than real marijuana. Now it's illegal."
So Express Diagnostics worked with scientists to develop antibodies to test for it.
"We're the first to market with that, about two months ago," Jueneman said.
Speed is needed to stay ahead of the competition.
"Ninety percent of our competition is China," Jueneman said. "We can't compete with them in price, but we exceed them in quality and service.
"Made in the USA is starting to mean something again," he said.