[caption id="attachment_36636" align="alignleft" width="360" caption="Labcon operates from a 125,000 square foot facility on Lakeville Highway in Petaluma"][/caption]

PETALUMA -- Labcon North America wins in the Technology-Growth category for expansion in all directions: products, customers, staff, quarters and green practices.

The maker of precision plastics recently purchased the 125,000-square-foot Petaluma building it moved into seven years ago, convincing its Beaumont, Texas-based parent company, Helena Laboratories, that it should stay here. The purchase underscores Labcon's commitment to remain in Sonoma County, according to its President Jim Happ.

Labcon North America Inc.

Address: 3700 Lakeville Highway, Petaluma 94954

Phone: 800-227-1466

Website: www.labcon.com

Employees: 240

Since moving north from Marin County in 2003, the 240-empoyee company has grown its product line to 1,300 finished goods, selling through 200 distributors world wide to customers such as Amgen, Perkin Elmer, Millipore and Monsanto.

Labcon also recently completed a major energy conservation project, reducing energy use by 25 percent even while increasing production two and a half times.

The measures included replacing hydraulic machines with super-efficient electric molding machines, which use 60 percent less power and are far better suited to the production of medical supplies.

Labcon just finished installing an 800kw rooftop solar system that provides 30 percent of its electricity.

"On summer afternoons when rates are the highest we are generating about 20 percent more than we consume," said Mr. Happ.

Bowing to a move in North America and Europe toward earth-friendly disposable lab products, Labcon worked with bioplastics pioneer Metabolix to develop a form of biodegradable plastic grown in the cells of reengineered plants.

"We can make biodegradable medical packaging that's so strong it can be steam-sterilized up to 10 times, and yet break down completely in industrial composting facility in just a few months," said Mr. Happ.

The world-wide market for lab disposables, Labcon's traditional product, is now at $850 million. Analysts predict that bioplastics could capture 20 percent of the global market in less than five years. At same time petroleum-based products are becoming more costly to produce, signaling sustained growth for forward-looking companies like Labcon.

Labcon doesn't disclose revenues, but Mr. Happ said they grew 25 percent in 2010 and are on track for 13-17 percent growth in 2011.

This year the company signed with a large distributor for its disposabiles in China, where the market for biodegradables hasn't yet developed.

"Within five years we'll probably have our own manufacturing operation there in addition to the one in Sonoma County," said Mr. Happ. "We wanted to buy our building first."

In May, Labcon was among 27 companies nationwide to receive the prestigious President's "E" Award for U.S. Exporters.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke presented Labcon with the award during a ceremony held at the Commerce Department headquarters in Washington, D.C. The "E" Awards are the highest recognition any U.S. entity may receive for making a "significant contribution to the expansion of U.S. exports."

"Exports are a key driver of America's economic recovery," said Secretary Locke.  "President Obama's National Export Initiative, which aims to double U.S. exports by 2015 in support of several million American jobs, is a robust, forward-looking trade agenda with an emphasis on domestic job growth.  Labcon North America is being honored today for making significant contributions toward fulfilling that agenda."

Criteria for the award, started by President Kennedy in 1961, are four years of successive export growth, rising percentage of export sales to total sales and demonstration of an innovative international marketing plan that led to the increase in exports.

"With our emphasis on sustainability in packaging and reduced carbon content, we have created an attractive alternative to competitive products based solely on price," Mr. Happ said.