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Ann Arbor life sciences company SoloHill Engineering grows, branches out by Nathan Bomey | Michigan Business Review Thursday December 11, 2008, 5:00 AM Credit: Robert Ramey SoloHill co-founders Dave Solomon (forefront) and William Hillegas. SoloHill Engineering, a largely under-the-radar Ann Arbor life sciences company, has no sales people. But sales are still growing. The 24-year-old company's unconventional approach to product sales - scientists double as sales people - is paying off. The firm's CEO and co-founder, Dave Solomon, expects revenue growth to hit 15 percent to 25 percent in 2009. SoloHill's complex microcarriers - developed and manufactured at its Pittsfield Township facility on Varsity Drive - are gaining a foothold in the pharmaceutical industry. But the company recently added IT giant Intel as a client after its scientists demonstrated that the company's precision chemicals can be used in the refined process control needed for the production of advanced microchips. "We're branching out into related fields using existing expertise," Solomon said. The microcarriers - which look like white powder when stored together in a container - contribute to the manufacturing of vaccines. SoloHill's microcarriers are used in cell culture to produce veterinary vaccines to treat diseases like feline leukemia and equine influenza. They are also used in applications such as human thyroid diagnostics. The company's products are also used in clinical trials for cell therapies. SoloHill has 21 employees, up from 10 two years ago, said President Tim Solomon, Dave's son, who joined the company six years ago. The firm recently hired a few ex-Pfizer employees after the pharmaceutical giant announced in January 2007 that it would close its 2-million-square foot Ann Arbor operation, displacing more than 2,100 workers. "We were growing right when Pfizer was downsizing," Tim Solomon said. The growth comes despite the fact that the company relies exclusively on its research staff and a limited Web strategy to market its products. Company officials said that a few years ago they hired a vice president for sales, but the impact on the bottom line was minimal. That executive is no longer with the company. SoloHill co-founder William Hillegas, executive vice president and chief scientific officer, said the company has had more success allowing its scientists to cultivate relationships with potential clients and convince them of the viability of SoloHill's technology. "It's a real high-tech, long-term sale," Hillegas said. SoloHill's existence is partly reflective of the value of cheap life sciences space in a business community. In its first years as a company, the company "struggled for quite a few years" but survived in part because it took advantage of incubator space. The firm - which has a long-standing relationship with the Bank of Ann Arbor - first operated at a business incubator at 912 N. Main St. before moving to a University of Michigan incubator in its early years. Contact Nathan Bomey at (734) 302-1725 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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