When Kendall Fullerton rides his bike to work, he stops at the Whole Foods building site on Bayview north of Eglinton to give the construction crew a cheer.
“They’re using Lincoln Electric welding equipment built right here in Leaside at our Lincoln Electric plant on Wicksteed,” he says. “I recognize the 1,600-pound machine mounted on the back a truck four stories down at the bottom of the construction site. “
This Canadian subsidiary of a U.S. firm is not only one of Leaside’s first industrial companies, it is the largest welding equipment company in the world today.
“And out of 40 plus global manufacturing locations, Lincoln Canada is the most profitable outside of the U.S.A,” adds Fullerton, operations manager since 2006, who started his career at Lincoln out of engineering school in 1987.
He says it’s earned that position because of a focus on welding that goes back almost 100 years to headquarters in Cleveland and the reputation of its products.
“Bridges, cars, trucks, heavy equipment—these things all depend on welding pieces of steel together properly in order to keep people safe,” says Fullerton. “That’s the kind of quality Leaside can be very proud of.”
The Lincoln Electric Company of Canada was incorporated in 1916 to distribute the U.S.-made welding equipment and industrial motors. In 1940 Lincoln moved its operation from downtown Toronto to Leaside where it erected Canada’s first welded steel building, where it still is at 179 Wicksteed. The company eventually became one of Leaside’s largest employers.
“We made our last electric motor in 1999,” says Fullerton, “Today we are 100 percent focused on everything to do with welding—the actual welders, the consumables (weld wire, steel rods, etc.) and the supplies.” Supplies these days include welding helmets that look like goalie masks as well as masks, gloves and clothing that the retail arm of the company refers to as accessories.
“Accessories for female welders these days is a growing demand,” he adds.
A notable feature of the company is its compensation system, set up during the Depression as a way of building co-operation and ownership between management and labour.
“Many companies created incentive plans at the time because they needed to encourage staff to stay during difficult times,” explains Fullerton. “But Lincoln was one of the few that kept their incentive plan in place.”
There are two aspects to the plan, a piecework bonus for shop floor employees based on skill and effort, and an annual bonus based on individual and company performance.
“Seventeen percent of what we make each year is set aside for the Incentive Profit Sharing Program and it’s available to everyone,” says Fullerton.
Sue McKay, who has worked at Lincoln Electric for 48 years, says that in all her time with the company “there was only one year that we did not make a profit so there wasn’t a bonus”. The first one of $17,748 was paid and shared in 1940 with 76 employees. (The value of this today would be over $1.2 million.)
“I was always close enough to get home to my children, and I’ve built a life around the people I know here.”
Fullerton, his wife Marie and four kids moved to Leaside in the 1990s to be close to Lincoln, and his kids all attended Leaside schools. Northlea parents know Marie for her former role in the schools’ annual welcome back BBQ each fall.
Lincoln Electric has always attracted employees who were glad not to have to commute long distances or downtown to work, says Jason Brisebois, Director of Human Resources and Communications.
In the years ahead, he says, residents can expect to see growth and continued environmental efforts in the Leaside facility. They recently earned their ISO 50001 certification, only the fourth company in Canada to do so.
Today, Lincoln Electric exports their Leaside-manufactured machines all over the world, supports the domestic demand for steel-based welding consumables and sells aluminum welding consumables globally, including in China.
“We’re very successful, and we intend to keep it that way,” say Fullerton and Brisebois.