W.L. Gore and Associates led the way toward making Flagstaff a high tech community.
When you live in Flagstaff, you soon learn about W.L. Gore, which is Flagstaff’s largest private employer with approximately 1900 employees in highly-sought-after, well-paying jobs with excellent benefits. W.L. Gore and Associates, likely best known to the public for its Gore-Tex fabrics for outerwear, is a large, worldwide corporation involved in a remarkable number of industry sectors with over $3 billion in annual sales.
Flagstaff is the hub for Gore’s important Medical Products Division, the site of development and manufacturing of implantable medical devices, which create healing solutions to complex medical problems. Medical devices are developed, manufactured and packaged on two Flagstaff campuses. Gore’s worldwide work force tops 10,000 employees. In 2013, for the 16th year in a row, Gore earned a position on Fortune Magazine’s annual list of the U.S. 100 Best companies to work for, ranking 21st overall.
Gore has brought hundreds of medical products to market, including such things as synthetic vascular grafts, endovascular and interventional devices, surgical meshes for hernia repair, and sutures for use in vascular, cardiac and general surgery procedures. More than 35 million innovative Gore medical devices have been implanted, saving and improving the quality of lives around the world. The medical products manufactured by Gore in Flagstaff typically enhance the body’s own tissues and organs to allow less invasive procedures and restore normal functioning.
Gore is privately-owned, growing out of early work by Gore family members who ventured into engineering and technology. The company was founded in the basement of their home in Newark, Delaware in 1959 as an electronics company. Gore’s presence in Flagstaff dates back to the company’s early expansion, when in 1967, Flagstaff became the site of Gore’s second facility with just 30 employees. Founder Bill Gore was born in a small Idaho town, and on a two-week tour of the West with his wife Vieve in 1957, the couple visited Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California and Arizona. They fell in love with Flagstaff at first glance.
According to Platte Cline’s Mountain Town, the Gores saw Flagstaff as the ideal distribution site with special qualities that were paramount in their considerations: beauty of surroundings, healthful climate, a city large enough to serve their needs without being too big – including educational and cultural facilities – and able and eager workers.
The 1969 discovery of a remarkably versatile new polymer by Bill Gore, (son of founders Bill and Vieve Gore), an early version of its microporous Gore-Tex expanded polytetraflouroethylene (ePTFE) fabric technology – the scientific words for the Gore-Tex fabric — led the enterprise into myriad new applications in medical, fabric, and industrial markets.
Gore’s Flagstaff operation was transformed from the manufacture of electrical products to medical products early in the company’s history. Company literature described Flagstaff as the “center of excellence in our worldwide medical products business.” The company is still headquartered in Newark, with a number of facilities clustered in the vicinity of Newark and Elkton Maryland. There are roughly 45 facilities around the world.
From its inception, Gore’s corporate culture touted minimal hierarchies and careful attention to teamwork functioning. Bill Gore first presented the concept of a “lattice” organization to Gore associates in 1967. He later proposed a flat, lattice-like organization structure where everyone shares the same title as ‘associate.’ There are neither chains of command nor predetermined channels of communication. “Leaders” are present instead of “bosses.” The corporate structure and culture have been shown to be a significant contributor to associate satisfaction and retention.
Gore remains on the list of the 200 largest privately held companies in the U.S. The company has been granted more than 200 patents worldwide in its wide range of fields, virtually all based on the one material, the versatile polymer ePTFE. Gore prefers the private ownership and believes it reinforces a key element of its culture to “take a long term view” when assessing business situations.
This interesting company, Flagstaff’s major private employer, is one of the many reasons people love to live in Flagstaff. Learn more about living in Flagstaff.