By Luke Steere
PEPPERELL -- Masy Systems Inc. has a cold future.
That's a good thing.
Last week the company held an open house for a new 6,200-cubic-foot Good Manufacturing Practices biorespository. Simply put, a big freezer. It is similar to a 2,700-cubic-foot facility that houses a six-door reach-in freezer unit that stores items at -115 degrees Celsius. Simply put, -175 degrees Fahrenheit.
Temperature aside, the only thing more telling about Masy Systems Inc. than its location was the crowd.
Pepperell is over an hour away from the Hub, a life-sciences cluster. And among the crowd of biopharma industry reps -- state Treasurer Steve Grossman, state Sen.
Masy is a company that uses all of this to grow.
"Buy in Lomar, buy in Pepperell, buy in Massachusetts," said Masy President and CEO Laurie Masiello, who began the company with her husband and Executive Vice President John Masiello, in 1997.
The project was made possible by a $2 million loan from North Middlesex Savings Bank, secured through the Treasurer Office's Small Business Banking Partnership program. Masy used the money to purchase another Lomar Park Unit and is now funding the installation of the biorepository.
Masy, said Grossman, reminded him of his own family business, a fourth-generation enterprise owned by his children.
"Companies like this one are the backbone of this commonwealth growing into a 21st-century economy," he said. "In two-and-a-half years, Masy has grown from 35 to 70 employees during one of the worst economic times -- that's extraordinary and I look forward to continuing our partnership."
Grossman said he developed the Small Business Banking Partnership program after discovering nearly 60 percent of Massachusetts capital had been invested in foreign banks, a method used to get high returns.
"Massachusetts money should be in Massachusetts banks to loan to Massachusetts businesses," he said.
Since the first loaning began nine months ago, the state has provided $253 million from 47 banks around the state, generating 1,600 new loans for small businesses.
Donoghue played an important part in getting banks in Lowell, a "gateway city," to join in on the program, Grossman said.
"Her commitment to the area is just extraordinary. Eileen's a very persuasive senator," he said.
"Nobody did this before him," said Donoghue of Grossman's program. "Small businesses are the backbone of the economy, and he is very modest about his efforts.
"I am proud to have Pepperell in my district and to see the governor standing to work in partnership with businesses."
Donoghue went on to present a citation from the House of Representatives on behalf of Rep. Shiela Harrington, who was absent.
Representing North Middlesex Savings Bank, Chief Operating Officer Walter Dwyer spoke about Masy's humble beginnings. At first, the company existed in the Masiello's garage, but soon grew to occupy every room in the house save the bedroom, then the jump to Lomar Park and, now, their status as a biopharma stalwart that "burned through $5 million that any number of companies might enjoy."
"We had a lot of interest in the program, but we looked in particular at Masy," Dwyer said. "As a buisness man and Pepperell resident, I know there are a lot of competing areas that would love to have that business, but don't have it.
"North Middlesex Savings Bank is pleased to be part of that story and plans to keep doing that."
That story is one of family. Sales Administrator Robyn Masiello is married to John and Laurie's son and Validation Project Leader Chris Masiello. Their younger son, Greg, is an IT and security supervisor, married to Jen, another sales administrator.
John's brother, Steve, is a purchasing manager and senior validation engineer and Bob Horgan, Laurie's brother, is the vice president of finance. Quality Assistant Sarah Deware is Robyn's sister.
The idea of family extends to accounting and sales, explained Laurie Masiello, who "gain the trust of our customers and the calibration, validation and service departments who provide professional-level equipment maintenance." And there is also Masy's customer service and quality-control group, making sure the operation is providing the best for their customers, she added.
"We live close by; you can't keep us away," said biorepository Manager John Coolidge.
Coolidge was guiding tours through the existing freezer facility. Coolidge said he used to work in industries like nuclear energy, where "you simply can't have failure." At Masy, he said, he brings that same ethos -- the freezers are triple backed up and the company is solely dedicated on the storage aspect.
"Shut down your freezers, make more labspace, we'll take care of the storage," he said.
Steve Masiello cited a recent incident at McLean Hospital in Belmont where freezers failed, causing a massive loss of autism brain-tissue samples, setting research back decades, as an example of how catastrophic a failure can be.
Masy's freezers are built by Raleigh, N.C.,-based Bahnson Environmental Specialties. Sub-zero temperatures are maintained by massive copper coiling, through which liquid nitrogen is pumped.
The existing freezer is made up of two rooms. Room one is kept at 5 degrees Celsius, and room two at -20 degrees Celsius, inside the second is the row of -115 degrees Celsius doors.
Their new freezer will be a -75 degrees Celsius space accessed through a -20 degrees Celsius room.
Quality work has created a demand, said John Masiello, so we're expanding. Heather Rush, Masy's human-resource cooridnator, said the company will be doing some more hiring once the new freezer is complete, too.
Also speaking during opening remarks, Vice President of Membership Lauren Laidlaw of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council said businesses that are "out to take care of our customer's needs' are examples of members we want to work with."
"You can only grow with a great team," she said. "Masy systems and its employees are helping our state remain a leader in life science."
Apart from the Biotech Council, Masy is a member of a veritable alphabet soup of organizations, including the Pepperell Business Association, International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories, American Society for Quality, Parenteral Drug Association, International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering, and the Pharmaceutical Stability Discussion Group.
Yet another, the Nashua Valley Chamber of Commerce, represented by Executive Director Melissa Fetterholf, said she hoped to continue its mission of promoting and supporting business with Masy in the future.
Follow Luke at twitter.com/lsnashobapub.