Proto Labs to expand Wake County operations; add 170 jobs

Proto Labs, which moved into the Triangle last year by acquiring a Raleigh 3D printing company, is expanding in Wake County and adding 170 jobs over the next five years.

Proto, a fast-growing, publicly traded company based in Maple Plain, Minn., also has agreed to invest $25 million in a new Cary facility. The company currently employs 106 people in Raleigh and plans to maintain that facility as well “for the time being,” according to a company spokeswoman.

Gov. Pat McCrory’s office announced Proto’s expansion plans Thursday. The company is eligible to receive a $150,000 grant from the One North Carolina Fund if it meets its hiring and investment targets.

The state grant also requires a local match. The Cary Town Council is scheduled to consider a $150,000 grant at a public hearing June 25.

Last year Proto expanded into 3D printing when it acquired Raleigh-based FineLine Prototyping for $38 million. Proto also produces prototypes and low-volume production parts via injection molding and CNC (computerized numerical control) machining.

Proto posted annual revenue of $209.6 million in 2014, up 28.5 percent from 2013. The 3D printing it acquired from FineLine has become its fastest-growing business, rising 48 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014 and jumping 79 percent in the latest quarter.

Chief Financial Officer John Way said in an interview that the 3D printing business is being driven by market demand and Proto’s ability to sell the service to its existing customer base.

In addition to adding 21 workers at its Raleigh facility since FineLine was acquired in April 2014, Proto also has expanded its production capacity by 80 percent by investing in new equipment, Way said.

Rob Connelly, who was the founder and president of FineLine, is Proto’s vice president of additive manufacturing. Additive manufacturing is the industry term for 3D printing.

Way said that the company has an agreement in principal to acquire a Cary building but isn’t disclosing any details until it closes.

The annual payroll for the new Proto jobs will exceed $7.5 million, which averages out to an annual salary of about $44,100 per employee.