To help kick-off the New Year, we recently sat down with Dr. Ray Stewart, founder and managing principal of Bay Materials, LLC, a leader in polymer R&D and product development, that serves companies within the medical device, orthodontic, food packaging, and consumer-product industries, among others.

Here’s his take on where the biomed industry is headed, what Fremont has to offer to biomed companies, and his predictions for 2016.

City of Fremont: Some of our readers may not be familiar with Bay Materials. What would you say are the “need-to-knows”?

Ray Stewart: Bay Materials is a materials science-based polymer R&D and product development company providing contract R&D services to high-tech companies in the Bay Area and nationally. We specialize in helping clients rapidly and cost-effectively develop new products that contain a “polymer” or “plastics” component. Some examples include the highly specialized thermoplastic materials used to produce the Invisalign® brand of invisible orthodontic braces, temperature-triggered materials for products like “Pop-Up” cooking timers, medical polyurethanes for products like medical splints, optical coatings and encapsulates for products like LED light bulbs, and a wide range of other materials — many of which are items used in everyday life.

Fremont: Bay Materials recently relocated to Fremont, can you share any insights into the move?

RS: We relocated to Fremont in 2015 in order to consolidate operations into a custom-designed facility that would serve as the perfect space for us. Fremont has a great industrial base throughout the City and provides us with ready access to a wide range of specialty manufacturers and services providers — it’s all one big network.

Fremont: Are there any recent challenges you and other companies in this network have had to overcome?

RS: The biggest challenge we’ve seen the past few years is the change in funding sources for early-stage companies that are subject to FDA regulations and longer development cycles — something that’s typical in the biomed industry. To cope, companies are outsourcing efforts that are not as key to their near-term milestones so that they are able to run leaner.

Fremont: Do some of these challenges still hold true? What sort of growth has the industry experienced in the past year?

RS: With the Great Recession firmly behind us and the U.S. economy now improving at a steady rate, the biomed and related industries have started to once again grow at a rapid rate. We are seeing a corresponding growth in hiring, especially locally — right here in Fremont. We predict this trend will continue throughout 2016 and into the foreseeable future. The ability to hire locally is especially important, so local governments need to focus as much attention as possible on helping to meet that need.

Fremont: Besides support from local government, are there any factors that are pivotal to capitalizing on this expected growth?

RS: Facility startup, permitting, and the ability to start operations quickly are key factors. Looking out longer term, we expect that there will be a much larger need for trained and highly specialized employees who are locally based. The combination of long commute times and high housing prices is making staffing more difficult, so these are definitely considerations moving forward.