Sacramento, Calif., area strives to be medical technology hub

Here's a nugget of hope, pulled out of a grim economy: Sacramento is carving out a niche in the promising field of medical technology.

Local entrepreneurs are using brainpower to create tools to treat disease, which in turn could create high-paying jobs.

There are at least 54 medical device firms headquartered in a nine-county area centered on the capital. An additional 19 companies have a substantial presence, according to MedStart, a nascent effort by the Sacramento Area Regional Technology Alliance to turn the region into a medical technology hub.

"We were amazed at how big of an existing industry we already had here," said Cary Adams, who helped launch MedStart two years ago.

From new stem cell therapies to tiny, umbrella-like devices that scoop stroke-causing clots out of blood vessels, local firms are part of a lucrative $123 billion national industry.

In 2006, the U.S. medical technology industry employed nearly 360,000 workers, generating $21.5 billion in salaries and producing $123 billion worth of products, according to the most recent data available from the Advanced Medical Technology Association.

The wave of aging baby boomers is driving growth in the overall health care segment, of which medical technology is a part. Health care is expected to account for nearly one in every five dollars spent in this country by 2020.

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