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Writing a new chapter for a Honeoye Falls firm

Edwin Petrazzolo, president and CEO of MicroPen Technologies Corp., likes to think of his company as a small business with big ambitions.

"I don’t know what constitutes a small business these days," says Petrazzolo, 64. "There are cultural aspects of our company that are steeped in small business, but if you look at our agenda, our appetite for business and the markets we serve, we don’t seem small."

MicroPen uses a unique technology to design, develop and manufacture high-precision resistors and medical devices. The technology at the Honeoye Falls company involves a precision-dispensing technique that can place a thick metallic film on virtually any substance, allowing sensors to be printed directly on products for improved efficiency.

MicroPen has two divisions: MicroPen Medical, which specializes in printing functional materials onto medical devices, and Ohmcraft, which creates custom high-voltage resistors for military, medical, power supply and other markets.

Petrazzolo says revenue at MicroPen remained flat during much of the recession. However, the company stayed profitable.

As the economy has improved, Micro Pen’s revenues have started to pick up. Petrazzolo says MicroPen saw revenue growth of nearly 5 percent in 2012 and anticipates growth of 6 percent in 2013. The company has some 75 employees at its 45,000-square-foot facility.

Stephen Baine, a board member and adviser at MicroPen, says much of the company’s growth can be attributed to Petrazzolo, who has led the firm since 2003.

"Ed has been the point guy on the key ideas that have driven growth at this company," Baine says. "Our sales have more than doubled since he joined the company. The founders of MicroPen built a nice company. Ed has stepped in and taken the business to the next level."

A native of Brooklyn, Petrazzolo has nearly 40 years of experience in the technology manufacturing industry. He took his first job in the industry after earning his master’s degree from Boston College, the school he attended after serving in the Vietnam War.

Going digital
Petrazzolo says he was on the verge of accepting an offer to work for the paper division of Procter & Gamble Co. when his graduate school adviser suggested he interview at an emerging computer manufacturing company called Digital Equipment Corp. in Massachusetts.

"My adviser kept talking about this electronics boom that was going on and suggested it might be a good fit for me," Petrazzolo recalls. "I went to my interview at DEC, and the guy said everything I wanted to hear. It was the perfect fit I was looking for."

Petrazzolo joined DEC in 1974. He worked his way up to manufacturing manager.

DEC put Petrazzolo in charge of opening new manufacturing plants on the West Coast. When DEC opened a new video and computer terminal manufacturing plant in Arizona, Petrazzolo relocated to Phoenix.

"I figured if I was going to move, I was going to move to somewhere completely different from where I was," says Petrazzolo. "Phoenix was about as different as you could get from Boston."

He spent 20 years with DEC before deciding it was time for a change. In 1995, he founded Axon Technologies Corp.

The company was a technology creation and licensing company. It developed and commercialized programmable metallization cell technology, which aims to be a more efficient alternative to flash memory for computer information storage. Petrazzolo says he acquired the intellectual property for the technology from Arizona State University.
 
Petrazzolo spent five years growing Axon but eventually grew tired of the stress that came with continuous fundraising for the startup. In 2000, he sold his shares of the company and joined friends in running a mergers and acquisitions company.

One of that firm’s clients was Honeoye Falls-based resistor manufacturer Ohmcraft Inc., which was looking to sell its business. Ohmcraft had been around since 1992, using its MicroPen technology to develop and sell its own product line of high-voltage and high-value resistors.

The company hired Petrazzolo to look into potential buyers. However, after meeting Ohmcraft’s management team and learning about the company’s business, Petrazzolo came up with a different plan.

"The company’s technology was the most underutilized and underappreciated technology I’d seen," Petrazzolo recalls. "I told the board not to sell the company but turn it around and grow it by focusing on the medical devices industry."

Petrazzolo foresaw that the technology could be used for printing onto medical devices such as endotracheal tubes and balloon catheters, used in minimally invasive surgeries.

The only problem was that Ohmcraft did not have anyone who could lead the company in such a new venture. So in 2003 it hired Petrazzolo to lead the company into the future.

Petrazzolo made two major decisions when he joined Ohmcraft. First, he had the company stop selling its patented MicroPen technology to other companies that used it to develop their products. Ohmcraft would start creating those products on its own.

Second, Petrazzolo used profits from the company’s resistor business to fund its move into the medical device market in 2005.

The company received an early boost when it signed Boston Scientific Corp., a worldwide manufacturer and marketer of medical devices with more than $7 billion in annual revenues, as one of its first clients, he says.

In 2008, Ohmcraft became MicroPen Technologies. Petrazzolo said its MicroPen Medical division has been growing fast and currently accounts for 35 percent of MicroPen Technologies’ overall business.

In 2010, Petrazzolo led a management buyout of MicroPen Technologies, which he says helped boost growth and strengthen its leadership.

"Getting the management team married to the growth of the company was my way of optimizing the business and people’s careers," he says. "It’s been a tremendous factor in establishing the culture we have here."

Thus far, all of MicroPen’s growth has been organic. However, Petrazzolo has been looking into potential acquisitions.

"I think that’s a strong opportunity for growth," he says. "An acquisition would be to gain advanced equipment that would give us more capabilities for new products.

"But then you have to look at the potential of selling new those new products. Right now, we’re doing our due diligence and exploring opportunities."

New York City native
Though Petrazzolo has seen success in the Rochester area, he has not forgotten his roots. He lives in Rochester with his wife, Anne, but his native New York City remains close to his heart.

Petrazzolo visits the city often to see his father, Edwin Petrazzolo Sr., an 88-year-old World War II veteran. One of the younger Petrazzolo’s hobbies is studying the history of New York City, something he has been passionate about since watching filmmaker Ric Burns’ "New York: A Documentary Film" a few years ago.

Petrazzolo is also a big sports fan. He played baseball in college, and his father played minor league baseball in the 1940s for the New York Yankees organizations before being drafted into the Army. The younger Petrazzolo remains an avid fan of both the New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants, which played in New York City until 1958.

Baine, who has known Petrazzolo since college, says Petrazzolo’s team spirit can be seen in the way he manages his company.

"Ed’s greatest strength is that he is very loyal to his team," Baine says. "He’s a great supporter of his employees. We have almost 80 employees, and he knows all of them by their first name and their family members’ names."

Petrazzolo’s commitment to his employees also can be seen in what he says is his proudest achievement with MicroPen.

"We treaded water during the recession and didn’t lay anyone off," Petrazzolo says. "When you go through hard times, you can’t blink. You have to find ways to keep going.

"When you come out of something like this recession with your workforce intact, you’re going to gain market share. And that’s exactly what we’re doing."

Edwin Petrazzolo
Title: President and CEO, MicroPen Technologies Corp.
Age: 65
Education: B.A., history and economics, 1969, Holy Cross College, Massachusetts; M.A., 1974, Boston College
Home: Rochester
Family: Wife Anne; daughter Lisa, 38; sons Mark, 36, and Tom, 34
Interest: Family, golf, cooking, baseball, travel
Quote: "I believe this company deserves to grow, and I want to take the lid off on how to do it. The economy is getting brighter, and I want to take advantage of it."

6/7/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

 

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