La Vista-based Streck Inc. has grown steadily, bumping up its far-ranging workforce of scientists to salesmen to shipping clerks by about 60% in the past decade.
But as the global biotech company approached its 50th year, it needed a major piece of equipment to keep up with mounting demand. Not just any piece, either. Business called for a tailor-made, fast-moving machine that fills lab vials. Millions of them.
It was too big a fit for the current headquarters, so Streck is building a new $18 million facility nearby that will span 78,000 square feet.
In addition to providing a home for the 65-foot-long automated fill machine, the plant rising south of 117th and Harrison Streets contains needed administrative office and warehouse space. It will expand Streck’s footprint by about 40%.
“We never thought we’d be at this point — 400 people at this site,” Chief Executive Connie Ryan said of the current corporate base at 7002 S. 109th St. “We don’t have anywhere for people to park.”
Streck’s expansion onto the nearby 10 acres (about seven blocks from its main campus) is just one of numerous construction projects across metro Omaha that continue to churn, even as other industries have slowed or skidded to a halt because of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The additional Streck plant is expected to be ready in 2021, about the same time as its specially designed machine.
Meanwhile, at the company’s current digs, it’s also all hands on deck. Unless someone is sick, they’re expected to report to work. Ryan said continuity is important for the business, which provides medical diagnostic products, blood collection tubes and more to over 13,000 labs in 65 countries around the world.
“We believe we have to deliver,” she said. “We can’t stop.”
Indeed, Streck services could be in further demand as COVID-19 progresses. The company has been tapped to produce an ingredient needed to transport coronavirus test swabs to appropriate labs and facilities. Ryan said she got a call last week from a national industry representative reaching out for help to fill a void left by an Italian provider whose operations are hampered.
“We’re hoping we can play a role in helping to bring this to an end,” she said.
Also related to the virus, Ryan said, Streck is working on a request to create more hand sanitizer for hospitals. She said the company has huge vats and other appropriate equipment and hopes to find a necessary ingredient that would complete the process.
As Streck expands its reach worldwide, and its physical presence locally, Ryan hopes also to raise awareness of the company founded in 1971 by her dad, Wayne Ryan.
A Ph.D. biochemist with an innovative spirit, the late Wayne Ryan started Streck in a building that used to be a bar across from Gorat’s steak house in central Omaha. He wanted to turn his patented discoveries, including a blood preservative, into a business. And he named it with the initials of his kids and wife.
Now the enterprise holds more than 40 patents on more than 20 products, making testing and reagent materials for big instrument manufacturers such as Abbott, Siemens and Sysmex.
Connie Ryan, who rose through the ranks, becoming president in 1992 and chief executive in 2013, declined to disclose sales figures for the private company, but said its revenue has doubled since 10 years ago.
She said she’s focused on growth, despite pressures of an ongoing legal dispute pitting her against her siblings. Last summer, a Sarpy County district judge said Streck had undervalued the amount Wayne Ryan was entitled to for his share of the business, and ordered the company to pay his estate more than $720 million.
The judge said he agreed with an expert who in 2014 placed the company’s value at $893 million.
Streck has appealed. Connie Ryan said the company, meanwhile, has continued to “hold it together.” She said her dad’s estate (he died in 2017) eventually will be paid a price for his shares.
“We can handle that,” she said. “It’s not going to destroy our business.”
At least 10 new hires are to come on board with the new L-shaped facility under construction on 10 of the 30 acres the company purchased a few years back. The current 200,000-square-foot headquarters, which has been remodeled and enlarged during its 20 years, will continue to house operations as well.
Streck leadership expects about 5% annual growth in the workforce in the next several years. Positions range from scientists with multiple degrees to high school graduates in packaging and shipping departments.
So far, employee recruitment hasn’t been difficult, said Ryan, who added that the company has scooped up several professionals from local companies that have downsized.
But a company aim is to raise its community profile to prepare for growth. Ryan, who also serves on the boards of the Omaha Community Foundation and Habitat for Humanity, said Streck employees are encouraged to get more involved in their community, and are allowed work time to volunteer.
“We have a responsibility not only to our company but the community,” Ryan said. “We do valuable, important work and want to bring about more awareness of Streck.”