In half a century, a lot can change.
When W.L. Gore & Associates set up shop in Flagstaff 50 years ago, the city had a population of about 20,000, Flagstaff City Council was mulling the idea of installing parking meters and one-way streets downtown, and on April 16, 1967, boneless rump steak was on sale at Namco Meat Market for 69 cents a pound.
Today the city has a population of nearly 70,000, parking meters are making a comeback, there are residents who never knew that some downtown streets were once two-way, and a bottom round roast at Safeway goes for $1.97 a pound.
Gore has grown from one building on Fourth Street to 11 that are spread throughout the community and house about 2,000 employees. Gore is known for its production of many different products including cables, electronic components, fabrics -- including its Gore-Tex line -- fibers, filtration products, items for the pharmaceutical industry, sealants, vents and medical devices.
The Flagstaff branch originally manufactured products for the computer and aerospace industry, but in the 1970s switched to making medical devices that treat heart conditions, such as heart defects, aortic aneurysms and peripheral artery disease.
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According to the the company, founders Bill and Vieve Gore picked Flagstaff as a base of operations for the western branch of the Delaware-based company because of its scenic beauty and location near Interstate 40, Route 66 and the railroad.
The couple founded Gore in 1958 in the basement of their home to serve the electronics market. Bill had previously worked for DuPont. In 1958, Bill Gore worked with a new polymer or plastic, polytetrafluorethylene, that would eventually be used to create the ribbons of wire that are now widely used in computers and other electronics, including cables that NASA used in the exploration of the moon.
In 1969, Bob Gore, Bill and Vieve’s son, attempted to stretch PTFE to its breaking point and found out that it makes the material stronger and highly porous. This led to the creation of the company’s Gore-Tex fabric, sealants, filters and eventually medical devices such as patches, grafts, sutures, and implants to treat aortic aneurysms and other medical conditions.
According to the company, physicians have implanted more than 40 million Gore medical products into patients over the last 40 years.
The company also encourages its employees to volunteer in their communities. According to the company, Flagstaff employees and the company have donated around $600,000 annually and volunteered 50,000 hours of service to local nonprofits.