W.C. Wood Company Limited

Little did W.C. Wood realize in 1938 that the refrigeration system designed for manufacturing his company’s bulk milk coolers would propel the company from a small farm equipment business into the second largest manufacturer of household freezers in North America.

When Wilbert Copeland (Bert) Wood was born on December 6, 1896, Ontario farmers like his grandfather John and his uncle Charles were still clearing land for farming. Bert was raised on that farm in Luther Township until 1909 when (again like many Ontarians) his family trekked to Saskatchewan where they took a homestead.

He graduated in the early 1920s from the University of Saskatchewan in Agricultural Engineering and joined Massey-Harris in Toronto where he worked as a research engineer on Massey's new farm machinery until the Great Depression forced Massey to lay him off in 1930.

Bert Wood saw the introduction of electrical power across rural Ontario as an opportunity for a new business and founded W.C. Wood Company Limited in February 1930 to manufacture electrical farm equipment. His first product was an electrically powered grain grinder which would save farmers the necessity of having to transport grain from the farm to the feed mills for grinding and back to the farm for feed. He had parts for his grinder cast and tooled at a local machine shop, assembled them on the back porch of his landlady's house, and with the $150 he received from a Brampton-area farmer for his first grinder, he established his new business.

Wood rented an empty candy shop on Howard Park Avenue in Toronto, bought a lathe, and machined the castings for his own electric grinders. From this one-man shop, his company developed over the next 68 years into Canada's leading freezer producer and the largest Canadian-owned appliance manufacturer.

By 1934, W.C. Wood Company had moved to a larger factory on Dundas Street north of Bloor in Toronto where it expanded its electrical farm equipment line to include an oat roller, a farm milking machine, and a farm milk cooler. In 1938 it was the refrigeration system designed for milk coolers that made it possible for W.C. Wood Company to develop its first electrically operated farm freezer. Little did the founder realize at that time that this product would be the stepping stone on the path from farm equipment to appliance manufacturer.

In 1941, the company moved from Toronto to a 25,000 sq.ft. factory at 123 Woolwich Street in Guelph, where, for the next 15 years, it grew, prospered and expanded to a facility of 40,000 sq.ft. By 1956 another move was necessary. The Company acquired the Taylor Forbes property and moved its manufacturing operation to an existing 90,000 sq.ft. plant at 5 Arthur Street South in Guelph where it continued to grow. By 1963, additional space was needed and the first of many additions was undertaken. As a result, the company operated two Guelph plants by 1985, totalling 600,000 sq.ft.

1. W.C. Wood, founder of the company. 2. W.C. Wood appliances.

By this time, the company's total manufacturing was devoted to appliance production: chest and upright freezers, compact refrigerators, compact kitchens, humidifiers, and dehumidifiers. More than 95 percent of the total production was for the domestic market with the remaining being shipped to the United States, South America, Europe, Asia, and the Caribbean.

By 1985 free trade was in the air and the company began focusing on a North American market strategy. As exports began to grow in the second half of the 1980s, it became apparent that a U.S. facility was needed to take advantage of the lower operating costs in the U.S. and to broaden its product line. In April 1990, W.C. Wood opened a 137,000 sq.ft. factory in Ohio to manufacture upright freezers for the North American market.

This new plant has provided numerous benefits to the corporation including significantly lower operating costs in serving the U.S. market, an expanded product line to meet North American needs, and significant additional capacity for its growing North American market. While most of the company's growth over the last decade has been outside Canada, and while the U.S. facility has expanded to over 370,000 sq.ft., the U.S. facility has given the company a broader product base which has resulted in a significant increase in exports of Canadian-made product as well.

Today, more than 50 percent of the company's Canadian production is exported. W.C. Wood employment has grown in both countries. By 1995, a third plant was added to the Guelph-based facilities.

Over the years, the company has received many awards from various sources for its products including the National Industrial Design Award, presented by C.D. Howe, in 1955, numerous customer recognition awards, the Province of Ontario "A" for Achievement Award, and the Canadian Award of Business Excellence.

In 1977, W. C. Wood produced its one-millionth freezer and by 1997 the company celebrated the production of its ten-millionth appliance.

W.C. Wood Company is still a privately owned Canadian company with its owners continuing to work in the business. Its objective is to see that at the end of each year its suppliers, customers, employees, and shareholders are each a little better off as a result of it being in business. The company and its employees will continue to focus on productivity, quality, customer responsiveness, integrity, and organizational effectiness as the cornerstone of its business.