Hungerford working on ambitious restoration projects in Medina, including Bent’s Opera House
MEDINA – A transformation is taking place around Medina.
Companies have moved in. A hotel is being built, and new businesses are opening.
But in the middle of Medina, another transformation is occurring – a historic one.
And behind it all is a Medina native, born and bred, who when he sold his company chose to invest in his hometown.
Roger Hungerford has stepped up to renovate and essentially save several local landmarks, including Bent’s Hall at the four corners in downtown Medina, the Luther (Stonehurst) Mansion at West Center and Prospect streets and the former Medina High School on Catherine Street.
Hungerford said he has three sides – a family side, a business side and a charitable side.
His family consists of wife Heather Farnsworth, a young daughter and three grown sons.
On the business side, Hungerford and his brother Bill went to work for their father Van at Sigmamotor after college. When Van was approaching retirement and decided to split the company, five businesses were spun off from Sigmamotor. Bill founded American Sigma; Gerald Hilger, who was vice president of sales at Sigmamotor, started Cormed; Frank Bernard became president of Sigmamotor; and a former electronic technician at Sigmamotor started a circuit board company in Akron.
Roger, in 1982 at the age of 31, started Sigma, a company which he would expand to the former skating rink on West Center Street Extension. When an even bigger facility was needed, Roger moved into a small part of the former H.J. Heinz plant, later the home of Fisher Price. When Fisher Price announced in 1995 they were leaving, Roger bought the entire building with the intent of renting out space he didn’t need. He calls it, “The best real estate deal I ever made.”
“I paid $1 million with $125,000 down, with the intent of renting out what I didn’t need,” Hungerford said. “I had five years to pay it off, but Fisher Price needed storage space and I agreed to rent space to them. My annual payment on the building was $192,000, and they paid me $400,000 a year in rent.”
In 2009, Roger had become a leader in his field and entered into a relationship with Baxter Medical Products to sell them 40 percent of his company and lend his technology in correcting some defects in their infusion systems. Three years later Baxter purchased the remaining 60 percent of Sigma International General Medical Apparatus.
Ironically, Roger said his father had an association with Baxter 50 years earlier, when they tried to buy Sigma and Van refused to sell.
Since selling Sigma, Roger has become a major partner in Talis Clinical with the Cleveland Clinic. He says they have taken the technology way beyond advanced.
“My top priority now is to turn Talis Clinical into a successful, large-scale business that could be four times bigger than when I sold Sigma,” Roger said.
He is also in the beginning stages of establishing a second medical technology company at the Pickle Factory with Jason Maine of Brockport.
“This building will never get sold,” Roger said. “The jobs we create will stay here in Medina, and Jason agrees with me.”
As far as the charitable side of Roger, he is a generous donor to many causes in the area, often anonymously.
Because of his career, Roger has had the opportunity to travel nationally and internationally, something he said has only made him appreciate his hometown even more and realize what a great place it is to work and raise a family.
Roger said he is hopeful for the projects he is undertaking in Medina because of all the significant development in the village by other business owners.
“If we didn’t have those people, things would be way tougher,” he said.
Recently, Roger hosted his 1969 classmates at their former alma mater on the occasion of their 50th class reunion.
One classmate was heard remarking, “The things Roger is doing in his hometown will impact the village and its residents for decades, maybe centuries.”
His wife said Roger was encouraged by the look of hopefulness on classmates’ faces as they realized parts of Medina were going to be saved.
Orleans Hub will feature some of the Hungerford’s projects in upcoming articles. The second story in the series will focus on the efforts to save Bent’s Opera House in downtown Medina.