Rotary Club of Gananoque

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Covidien celebrates 100 years 0

LJ Matheson Gananoque Reporter

Ludlow Technical Products Canada, Ltd. (Covidien) celebrated 100 years of manufacturing in Gananoque with an open house Saturday that culminated with a fireworks display at Confederation Park.

The some 400 employees - the largest full-time employer in Gananoque - also enjoyed an appreciation day at work.

MP Gord Brown, former plant manager Ed Dowd, current manager Liz Burr and Gananoque Mayor Jim Garrah were on hand to extend congratulations Saturday morning among jugglers, face painting, a barbecue, air castles, musical entertainment and even a mini-train offering rides to children.

"It's because of the dedication, the sacrifice and the hard work of the employees - both past and present - that we are able to celebrate 100 years in Gananoque today," said Burr.

Dowd, who quipped that not many people knew what went on inside the building, offered his congratulations as well. "The people here work diligently... and they are successful. I hope they enjoy another 100 years of success," he said.

"In these tough economic times, it's good to see a company like Covidien not only survive, but thrive," said MP Brown. "But I will always know this place as Graphics."

Covidien has a long list of names as well as a rich history in Gananoque.

It started out as Staebler and Baker Ltd. and was founded in 1909 by two Queen's University professors who jointly developed an electrical power recording instrument. The original production location was in the cottage know as 'Napoleon's Hat' on Hay Island in the St. Lawrence River just off the shore of Gananoque, and later moved to a site next to the current Thousand Islands Playhouse.

Shortly after starting their business, Staebler and Baker also began printing the charts needed for their own and other makes of recorders and Canadian Charts and Supplies, a Toronto company formed in the early 1930s, became distributors of charts for Staebler and Baker.

By the end of the '30s both companies had production facilities in Canada and the USA. At that time, a major competitor was Graphic Controls - an American chart manufacturer located in Buffalo, New York.

In 1957 these companies were consolidated under the name Graphic Controls Corporation with International headquarters in Buffalo, New York and in 1967 the Canadian companies were amalgamated to become Graphic Controls Canada, Limited with head office in Gananoque.

Rotoform, another printing company located in a 185 square metre building on Herbert Street (now the company's main meeting room) and owned by then president of Graphic Controls Canada, Basil Rogers, was purchased in 1967.

Prior to the 1967 amalgamation, Staebler and Baker had been located on the St. Lawrence River waterfront close to the old Gananoque Canoe club and in 1967 was moved into the Herbert Street location, with the first of many additions to the building. For many years 'Graphics' maintained, next to the canoe club, a boathouse and cottage which was utilized and appreciated by many visitors from the US and around the world.

Another local chart printer was Maitland Charts, located just outside Brockville, and in 1973 this company was purchased and also moved to Herbert Street.

The Gananoque 'Graphics' engineering department steadily recruited a team of highly skilled designers and machinists and began production of a family of specialized paper converting equipment, for production of recording charts which were sold globally for use in both Industrial and Medical applications.

During the 'Graphics' era they built their own specialized printing presses, high speed rewinders and folders and associated pre-press equipment and shipped these around the world to the various divisions of Graphic Controls. Gananoque equipment was used in such places as Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Venezuela, France, India, Mexico, England, South Africa, Japan, Canada and the USA. They printed recording charts under their own corporate brands and also made many private labeled/OEM charts for companies such as Honeywell, Foxboro, Corometrics, Hewlett Packard, etc.

In late 1978 Graphics purchased EIL - a Montreal manufacturer of ECG electrodes and moved their production equipment and some operators and staff into Gananoque. They also began production of fetal spiral electrodes in the early 1980s and, since then, there has been a steady transition away from paper converting and charts production to the point where now their only products are disposable medical devices. They last printed a chart in 1999 but still rely on the engineering department to design the majority of the production equipment and the machine shop to manufacture and build it.

In 1998 GCC was purchased by Tyco International and, within Tyco Healthcare, they became a subsidiary of Ludlow Technical Products, with headquarters in Chicopee, Massachusetts.

The legal name was changed in August 2004 to Ludlow Technical Products Canada, Ltd. when Graphic Controls was divested by Tyco International.

In July 2007, Tyco Healthcare became Covidien when Tyco International was separated into three separate public companies (although the facility still legally operates as Ludlow Technical Products Canada, Ltd.). Covidien is a $10 billion global leader in medical devices and supplies, diagnostic imaging agents, pharmaceuticals and other healthcare products.

"In separating from Tyco International, we have redefined our company and our mission as we rededicate ourselves to innovation and quality. We aspire to be an integral partner to physicians, clinicians and other medical professionals, supporting their lifesaving work and, as a result, doing our part to improve patient outcomes," said Burr.

"We have a new flag flying and the signs on our building and inside the Lou Jefferies Gananoque TLTI Recreation Centre have been replaced. So, you will no longer see the names Graphic Controls, TYCO or Ludlow, these having been replaced by our new identity Covidien and logo.

"Our factory at 215, Herbert Street, Gananoque, has been a continuous employer in the town since 1909 starting up with just two owner-employees and steadily growing to the point where we now provide work for over 400 - and no signs of stopping."