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Company Cashing in on the Clean Room boom

  Subscribe to FREE newsletter  Jul 30, 2010

Pharmacy technician Shaqu'la Hall works in the clean room at the pharmacy at UPMC St. Margaret.

Our one-time Smoky City is now building some of the cleanest rooms on the planet.

HWI Global, headquartered on South Side, designs and builds so-called clean rooms for hospital pharmacies, laboratories and medical device manufacturing facilities.

They specialize in customized aseptic rooms used for pharmaceutical compounding, with a client list that includes the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, The Cleveland Clinic, Mount Sinai Medical Center and Duke University, as well as pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and fluoropolymer products manufacturer W.L. Gore.

HWI's services include the mechanical, electrical, piping and plumbing, as well as architecture and overall design.

Incorporated less than six years ago, HWI, with 14 full-time employees, has found a niche as a full-service provider of what's known as customized clean rooms that are free of germs, bacteria and other contaminants. From blueprints to installation, they handle everything for jobs that typically run $350 to $500 per square foot, but can range from as low as $150 per square foot to more than $1,000 per square foot.

It also is a growing niche: HWI reports that revenues were $1.2 million in 2007, jumped to $5.2 million in 2008, held steady through this year's recession that required temporary pay cuts, and already approach $6 million in back orders for 2010. Earlier this year, they set up a satellite office in North Carolina's Research Triangle Park.

They're currently working toward completion on their biggest project yet, a 30,000-square-foot clean room in Puerto Rico for Angiotech Pharmaceuticals that's expected to be completed in January. Locally HWI has built clean rooms at UPMC St. Margaret and UPMC Braddock.

HWI, the brainchild of Deric and Heather Haddad, is an acronym for Haddad-Wylie (Mrs. Haddad's maiden name) Industries. She grew up in Brookline; he's a native of Bakersfield, Calif. They met while he was attending a business conference in San Francisco, not far from where she was teaching school, and married in 1999 in Green Tree. The couple and their three children now reside in Elizabeth Township.

"I just love it here," he said.

Mr. Haddad, 42, who once worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood, learned the clean room business while working various jobs for clean room-related companies in Silicon Valley, including construction of clean rooms for semiconductor assembly. He eventually became a project manager at specialty contractor Performance Contracting Inc., where he oversaw clean room projects for the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory's National Ignition Facility and other technology labs.

With his wide-ranging experience with clean room technology and installation, Mr. Haddad has combined the full-service approach with HWI's unique PVC laminate molds and parts to develop a system they have trademarked as Bio-Gard.

"I learned how to build it, how to design it and manufacture it for turnkey completion on a smaller scale," Mr. Haddad said.

"We determine their performance criteria and design and build the whole thing."

Competitors typically want to handle only one aspect of a clean room job, he said, such as the design or construction or distribution, and most other companies don't want to bother with small jobs.

"We can do what everyone else does individually, or we can do all of it," said Mr. Haddad.

Demand for clean rooms has grown since 2004 when federally mandated regulations went into effect setting high standards for facilities that manufacture or compound sterile products.

By Steve Twedt, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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