1 feel a tremendous bond of loyalty to our employees and our community.’
FOR A CORPORATE EXEC who spends too much time on the road, David Ganong manages to stay close to his small-town roots. The shingled two-storey house where he and his wife Diane live in St. Stephen, N.B., is just down the street from where he grew up. Looking out his window, he can see the brick Ganong Bros, building, home to the family’s first major candy factory in 1886 which now houses its flagship confectionery store as well as the community’s Chocolate Museum.
Piloting his SUV across town towards the company’s headquarters and state-of-theart 7,400 sq. m chocolate factory—located, of course, on Chocolate Drive—Ganong passes a nursing home and middle school housed in buildings donated by his family. He sees kids who play on Ganong-sponsored baseball, soccer and hockey teams and who skate at the town rink where the ice surface is tended by a Zamboni bought with the family firm’s help. At a stoplight, Ganong waves to some of his 230 employees, all of whom seem to greet him as “David” whether they are senior executives or maintenance staff.
It’s a scene straight from the pages of Stephen Leacock: a close-knit, happy community where, under a sunny spring sky, the harsh realities of the 21st century seem far away. Not long ago, St. Stephen, a working-class town of nearly 5,000 on the Maine border, seemed to be on the skids. Now, it’s undergoing a rebirth. And if any single person is responsible, it’s Ganong who, at 58, is more than just the president of a company that this year expects to sell nearly seven million kg of chocolates, candy and fruit snacks throughout Canada
and the United States. The father of three is the latest in a line of businessmen known for valuing the common good as much as the bottom line. And if that’s not remarkable enough these days, he stubbornly does so at a time when the pressures to change have never been greater. “St. Stephen has made a tremendous commitment to us,” he explains. “I feel a tremendous bond of loyalty to our employees and our community.”
He’s not just mouthing platitudes. Ganong, his family and company support local social agencies and help fund tourist draws like the Chocolate Museum and summer Chocolate Fest. More important is what Ganong does not do. Like his family predecessors, he refuses to move the company out of St. Stephen even though it clearly makes business sense to be closer to bigger markets. That means saying No when the multinational confectionery giants come shopping, as they do several times a year. “Giving up ownership is the first step towards taking jobs out of this area,” he says. “We’re determined never to see that happen.”
How determined? Well, Ganong, who has an MBA from the University of Western Ontario, says he would only consider moving to ensure the company’s long-term survival. “The landscape of Atlantic Canada is littered with the corpses of branch plant operations controlled outside of the region,” Ganong says. Keeping ownership in local hands, he feels, is the best way to ensure those chocolates keep rolling off the St. Stephen conveyor belt. And that his family’s legacy in its hometown lives on long after he’s gone.
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