Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I Gotta Meet this Guy!

I’ve written several times this year about Bill & Gayle Cook’s efforts to resurrect and restore two early 1900s resorts to their past glory in French Lick, IN. You can see those blogs in our archives (May 3, May 29 and October 16, 2008).

Now, he’s back home in Canton, IL, where he was born and raised (graduated Canton Senior High School, 1949), doing something similar. But, first let me tell you a bit about the Cooks.

They started their business, Cook Group, in 1963, in a spare bedroom of their apartment in Bloomington, IN. The company quickly became a leader in medical technologies and is still headquartered there. The Cook’s have done very well, landing on numerous lists of the wealthiest Americans.

Here is what Forbes said about Bill Cook in October in their Forbes 400 List:
Used blowtorch, soldering iron and plastic tubing to develop cardiovascular catheter. Now the world’s largest privately held medical device manufacturer. Products include stents, embolization coils, needles, vena cava filters. Sales now $1.5 billion. At work by 5 a.m.; eats in company cafeteria.

In June, Cook returned to Canton to purchase two historic downtown buildings that date from the 1880s. Already they have taken off the exterior façade, stabilized the buildings, and are beginning the meticulous restoration of buildings that Cook shopped in as a youth. When completed, the buildings will consist of retail space on the first floor and well-appointed apartments on the second.

And, then last week he was back again to announce plans to rehab an old International Harvester industrial site that has been unoccupied since the early 80s into a new manufacturing plant that will hire 100 jobs and help to bring added vitality to the adjacent downtown. The plant will produce high tech “vascular introducers” or tubes that go into blood vessels so that stents can be inserted.

Cook compared what he is doing to planting a seed, “Once it blossoms, we anticipate the roots will spread throughout the community and nourish further growth.”

And, he returned home with these projects, because, as he added, “My personality came from here.”

We need more Bill Cooks in this world!

Tomorrow: How Canton enticed Bill Cook back home.

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