In a sea of start-ups, Waterloo Region doesn’t often revel in a 60-year anniversary. But, on November 12, 2017, in a quiet business park at what used to be the northern edge of Waterloo, Electronic Craftsmen celebrated 60 years of business evolution and innovation.
Electronic Craftsmen has been creating custom transformers and inductors in Waterloo since 1956.
“I have the financial records from that first year of business,” says Tom Bresele, who started as a junior design engineer at Electronic Craftsmen 33 years ago before climbing the ranks to his current role as President. “It was ridiculous…something like $200 or $300 in sales.”
Few records exist documenting the early days of the business. Financial records indicate that the company was incorporated as an enterprise in 1956 after purchasing assets from the Electro Coil Company. Those early years housed 15 employees in the original Bridgeport and Weber location and in 1967, following the purchase of the business by Fred Sayers, the growing company migrated to 73 Schaefer Street, which continues to serve as its home today. The company was subsequently purchased from the estate of Fred Sayers by Management in 2009.
Staffed by many like Bresele who have occupied their desk for 10, 20 or more than 30 years, the Electronic Craftsmen team has seen the ebbs and flows of manufacturing in the area over time. Sixty years of business in Waterloo Region called for adaptation to ever-changing environments.
“Electronic Craftsmen is in Waterloo Region because this area used to be the home to industries we worked with most: radio and television,” says Bresele, naming a tiny slice of the manufacturing culture that the Region – and Electronic Craftsmen – once relied on so heavily.
But adapting to regional change isn’t Electronic Craftsmen’s only forte. Given the global and constant need for power electronics and energy storage applications, Electronic Craftsmen often finds itself at the hand of international matters or trend shifts.
Like a lot of businesses following September 11, 2001, Electronic Craftsmen felt the change in economy. "Our clients in aviation dropped orders dramatically, but on the flip side, we saw airport security business increase exponentially. That carried the business for the year,” says Blaine Gray, Vice President at E Craftsmen. Industry changes like offshore developments, increased shipping rates and dying technologies have been a challenge for the team at Electronic Craftsmen, but are also at the heart of their resilience.
“Change or die, I call it. We’ll always adapt to what our customers need,” Bresele says, having directed the business through a number of the aforementioned industry shifts. “We’ll always have an emerging-technology customer in our pipeline.” And they have. Electronic Craftsmen has grown immensely from early business of making small parts for communications technologies. The team of about 55 now serves international clients in fields that range from aviation, aerospace & military to renewables and industrial automation.
"It's a lot of diversity. We’ll churn out 300 or so designs every year and that’ll turn into 100 different new parts; we learn something new every single day,” says Gray. Bresele doesn’t see an end to this learning in sight. “People will always need transformers, maybe differently, but we’ll adapt to that, too. We’ve made it 60 years; we’ve got another 60 ahead of us.”