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FFF Enterprises making biotech waves in thriving Southwest California

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FFF Enterprises has become a leading provider of human plasma products, vaccines and clinical trial drugs by offering a secure distribution network, responding to the marketplace and keeping its customers happy.

FFF's model is so effective that it became the nation's largest distributor of flu vaccines during the 2005-2006 flu season. FFF, among a growing number of biotech and technology firms that have put down roots in a fast growing region known as Southwest California, employs 166 and last year posted sales of $659 million, up from about $550 million a year earlier.

Company officials believe future growth will be fueled in part by FFF's closeness to San Diego's Biotech Beach, one of the nation's leading biotech and medical research clusters. FFF provides valuable services to nascent biotech companies that are seeking regulatory approval for wonder drugs and biomedical devices of the future.

"Because of our proximity to Biotech Beach we have developed business arrangements with emerging biotech companies in San Diego," said Patrick M. Schmidt, chief executive of Temecula-based FFF Enterprises. "We'd like to think that they have one of world's top and secure distribution channels on their doorstep."

When FFF Enterprises entered the biopharmaceuticals market in 1988, the distribution channel was rampant with unstable pricing, ill-managed shortages and unpredictable product allocation.

In response, FFF developed a secure distribution system that helped stabilize pricing and supply and guaranteed the integrity for every vial of product. A secure distribution system is necessary to prevent the spread of counterfeit and tampered drugs.

FFF is one of the most trusted distributors of biopharmaceuticals, plasma products and vaccines in the nation, serving more than 80 percent of U.S. hospitals.

FFF headquarters, which is one hour north of San Diego, is part of a region that is fast developing the technological and educational resources to support a growing concentration of biotech companies and their suppliers.

For out of state vendors looking to better serve the more than 200 biotech companies in San Diego, Southwest California is as good a place as any to be.

Like real estate, the biotech business is all about location and being in the right place at the right time.

"Clusters of existing and emerging science-based technologies are crucial factors in shaping the economic winners and losers of the first half of the 21st century," according to a study by the Milken Institute, a Santa Monica-based think tank.

San Diego's life sciences industry is responsible for 55,600 jobs and $5.8 billion in income.

Southwest California boasts an available pool of skilled labor familiar with clean room policies, affordable real estate, innovative financing, special business zones and easy access to other key Southern California markets and a resident infrastructure to accommodate research and entrepreneurial activity associated with stem cell research.

One of Southwest California's biggest selling points is its skilled work force. One-quarter of its residents hold bachelor's degrees and more than 35 percent are professionals and managers.

The built-in pool of homegrown workers has allowed large companies such as FFF, Guidant and Chemicon International to prosper.

"If you are going to locate a biotech company here, we already have people who live here who are knowledgeable," said Bob Larson, who was vice president of operations at Guidant's sprawling 575,000-square-foot plant in Temecula until he retired in 2000. "All of the disciplines in the biotech industry are resident in the Guidant facility," which employs more than 3,000.

Submitted by Southwest California Economic Alliance

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