Tioga Diabetic Optical Laboratories: Philadelphia Native Re-establishes Manufacturing to Underserved Communities

PHILADELPHIA–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Philadelphia native and optometrist, Chelise Firmin’s O.D. dream of running an ophthalmic manufacturing facility will become a reality in September thanks to a joint venture with social impact investor and urban healthcare real estate development firm, TPP Capital Holdings, and a collaboration between four optical industry chief executives.

A Spelman and New England College of Optometry graduate, Dr. Firmin is the 45-year-old proprietor of Tioga Diabetic Optical Laboratories. As a black owned for-profit pre-revenue medical device manufacturing company, Tioga Diabetic Optical Laboratories produces protective eyewear and specialized eyeglass lenses for the pre-diabetic and diabetic population. The laboratory is also a resource for independent eye care professionals and their patients, state and federal programs, managed care organizations, insurance companies, union organizations, military, and corporate institutions.

Dr. Firmin recently secured $3.5 million in financing to complete two eyewear production laboratories, and is currently raising $3 million in private equity from a cross section of social impact investors and healthcare and tech founders to support working capital, inventory and outfitting the facility. The company also received a $750,000 Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant from State of Pennsylvania and a $500,000 Neighborhood Economic Development (NED) grant from City of Philadelphia Department of Commerce, making Tioga Optical Medical Laboratories the first of its kind to receive this type of city and state funding. “It just shows the support that the state and city have for entrepreneurship, black owned businesses, manufacturing and to see us succeed in serving our target population and create in-demand livable wage jobs,” said Dr. Firmin. The 5 Story 18,639-square-foot state-of-the art facility to be built in a SBA HubZone and Federal Qualified Opportunity Zone is expected to employ 34 full-time people within 3 years of operation including issuance of American Board of Opticianry Certification for formerly incarcerated women from state correctional institutions. Twenty two of the 34 full-time Jobs will be earmarked for residents, persons with low and moderate income and women who were formally incarcerated.

The optical lab will function as a fully automated manufacturing facility and outpatient center for pediatric and adult diabetics. It will have an optical dispensary aimed at improving access to comprehensive diabetic care and increasing awareness of the diabetes-related epidemic among underserved communities in North Philadelphia, Greater Philadelphia, the State of Pennsylvania, and as far as the Eastern Seaboard.

The CEO’s of Satisloh North America, DAC Technologies, Norwood Device & Diagnostics, and Eye Designs have also provided each of their companies’ extensive industry expertise and resources to assist in hastening the development of the facility and the opening date. Satisloh North America has also agreed to provide at no charge, academy training for their new employees to include certifications on the specific equipment trained on at the Satisloh academy, (Germantown, WI). “We are excited to partner with Satisloh North America, DAC Technologies, Norwood Device & Diagnostics, and Eye Designs CEO’s to establish Tioga Diabetic Optical Laboratories™,” said Dr. Chelise Firmin. “With their expertise and on-going advisory, we are confident that we will provide high-quality customer-focused eye care at scale in the region,” she said.

The 12-18 month construction project will break ground in September and simultaneously start full operations as a virtual optical lab for OSHA approved protective eyewear, Pediatric and diabetic eyeglasses, lens prescriptions, frames, coatings and associated parts.

For more information visit www.tiogaoptical.com


Monife Stout