North Canaan’s BD celebrates 50 years
NORTH CANAAN — Half a century ago, the very rural local landscape was an unusual place to consider as a spot for a manufacturing plant. Becton-Dickinson Co., now known as BD, was a little more than 50 years old at the time, expanding and about to go public with shares on the New York Stock Exchange.Perhaps former plant manager Jim Levy should have suggested they’d gone too far afield when he arrived in 1961 to interview prospective employees. He and his team were stuck in a motel room as 20 inches of snow fell. They did not conduct a single interview.But the company has grown and thrived since then, despite that inauspicious debut. Last week, the North Canaan plant celebrated its 50th anniversary, and also celebrated having risen to a phenomenal production level. Much credit goes to the commitment and years of experience of its employees. What was known then as the Canaan Division began with eight employees producing the first plastic disposable syringes, at a rate of 100,000 per year. Through eight expansions — and remarkable advances in technology to protect users and healthcare workers — they now annually produce two billion syringes.One year, when the country was threatened with a pandemic, production was boosted to 2.4 billion.“I try to imagine what two and a half billion syringes would look like in the parking lot,” an employee said in a video presentation. “I can’t put my mind around it.”The ceremony and brunch, under a tent on the front lawn, brought dignitaries from all over including town and business leaders, legislators, the governor and a contingent of the company’s top executives. All 333 employees joined them, but not all at once. A full production crew kept product rolling out the door, then wasrelieved by the crew that had just dined.The proceedings included a donation to the 21st Century Fund for Housatonic Valley Regional High School and ongoing work on a science and technology center. The donation was in honor of the late Jack Mahoney, former principal at Housatonic Valley Regional High School and a founder of the fund. BD associates mentor high school students and have given an annual scholarship for the last 25 years.Plant Manager David Anderson and company officials talked not only about the ways BD and its employees contribute to healthier lives, but the many other ways they support the community, such as donating to United Way and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.Gov. Dannel Malloy spoke for only a few minutes, but said he felt compelled to come to the celebration because of the great partnership BD has with the community.“The way you reach out across the state is something I can celebrate just as much as this 50th anniversary,” Malloy said.He spoke of “333 people doing fantastic work and still caring about producing the best product they can.“In many ways, this is a state story, of Yankee ingenuity, mentoring and developing a quality workforce.”There was a proclamation from the state General Assembly presented by state Sen. Andrew Roraback (R-30), and greetings from Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Congressman Chris Murphy in Washington, where the anniversary was recognized at the U.S. capital.A reason to celebrate, too, is the plant’s advances in the area of sustainability. As of February of this year, the plant is “landfill free.” One hundred percent of its electrical needs, which have been reduced by 25 percent, are served by certified renewable sources. Its fuel oil consumption was reduced by 20 percent and water consumption by 18 percent.