"It's a good sector for the state," NAI Hunneman president F.Michael DiGiano tells GlobeSt.com in releasing the inaugural NAIHunneman Medical Device Real Estate Index compiled by his locallybased real estate services firm during the past year. The 10million sf is occupied by the top 200 medical devices firms asrated by the Massachusetts Medical Device ManufacturersAssociation.

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The amount of space absorbed has risen 4.9% since the firstquarter of 2005 when the total was 9.55 million sf. BostonScientific leads the pack at 1.1 million sf, mostly in its Natickcampus on Route 9, followed by 747,000 sf in Andover leased toPhillips Medical Systems. Other six-figure space consumers rankedin the top 10 include Cytyc, Instrumentation Laboratory,PerkinElmer and Tyco Healthcare. The per-employee average occupancyis 283 sf.

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About 20% of the space is in buildings owned by the medicaldevices firms, and 57% of the space involved is located along theRoute 128 belt. The mix was 42% office, 36% flex/research and 20%industrial, relays the index. "They are very adaptable, andlandlords like that flexibility and communities like the differentuses," says DiGiano, who explains that such firms tend to be lessmigratory than others because of their need to retain a specializedworkforce, and not just on the engineering side. The 10th largestuser of space, Straumann AG, is a Swiss-based dental implant firmthat took 170,000 sf at Minuteman Park in Andover in 2003. A keyreason was the state's abundance of jewelry craftsmen familiar withprecious metals used in implants, says DiGiano, whose firm helpedStraumann find the space.

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Of 20 medical devices companies that relocated during the indexsurvey period, just two moved from Route 128 to Interstate 495despite sharply lower rental rates. "They tend to look at thecommuting patterns of their employees," DiGiano says. "That prettymuch drives their space search."

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The index breaks down rental rates being paid throughout theregion, and DiGiano says he hopes it can also help firms identifywhere fellow companies are clustered. That is another factor indetermining where such firms wan to operate, although DiGiano sayspricing considerations may ultimately have to come into play as thedivergence of rates between Interstate 495 and Route 128 becomemore pronounced. Only a few large blocks of contiguous space areavailable closer in to Boston as the market recovers, says DiGiano."They may have to expand their search" he says, simply due to adearth of options.

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Although not a new industry to Massachusetts, with DiGianorecalling Analog Devices looking for space at a business park hewas operating in the 1980s, medical devices do seem to be gainingin recognition as an economic force, he says. "There's no questionit is receiving more attention," he says, likely due to the higherprofile of life sciences in general. Firms such as Genzyme areclouding the lines between biotechnology and medical hardwarethrough mergers and new products, adds DiGiano, further enhancingthe profile going forward.

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