We are often asked why the Ross Video head office and manufacturing facility is located in the small village of Iroquois, Ontario. Here is the answer, as told by John Ross, founder of Ross Video.
When I started Ross Video in my home in a Montreal suburb in January 1974, I had given no thought as to where the company was to be eventually located. My immediate priorities all revolved around designing our first analog switcher and getting it shipped before the small amount of money I had ran out! Later, after the prototype switcher worked, I realized that it was now becoming urgent to rent space and hire employees and thus Montreal would be our permanent location. Suddenly, it occurred to me that if I wanted to, I had one chance to chose a location other than Montreal, but only if I acted quickly.
I first explored Toronto and looked at industrial space and housing. This wasn’t at all affordable on my meager budget. Ottawa followed, with similar results. Then I remembered that my previous employer, Central Dynamics always had considerable difficulty providing service to our largest market, the United States. The American customers absolutely hated dealing with the paperwork needed to ship across the border. There could also be delays of up to two weeks, quite unacceptable in our industry. This started me looking for a company location where we could have a nearby US drop point and thus provide service as good as if we were located in the US. I saw that this was possible near Vancouver, Niagara Falls or along the St. Lawrence River. I then remembered the many pleasant times I had camping with my family in parks along that river and began to wonder if this might be the time for me to exchange the stress of city life and commuting for the tranquility of life in the country and ability to walk to work. As my health had always suffered from the effects of stress and job pressures, this had much appeal. For me at that time, there was quite enough stress just in having a demanding technology job.
One rainy day, having explored Kingston for the second time, I was returning to Montreal with my nine-year-old son David. As I drove along Highway 2, we came to the village of Iroquois (Population 1200), only 15 minutes from Ogdensburg, NY. I realized that I hadn’t looked at it before because of the small size. I drove into the village and stopped in front of what was later to become my beautiful house. What a view! Across the street there was a huge park with the beautiful St. Lawrence River beyond and a big ship was passing. The rain stopped and a rainbow appeared. Was this a sign that I had finally found the right place?
Through my private flying activities, I vaguely knew a few of the Iroquois pilots and that they had made a small grass landing strip in the park. I found where George Jackson, one of the pilots, lived and discussed the possibility of moving here. George, as I was to find out, was very community minded and was determined to see my new business locate in Iroquois. Because there was no suitable housing to attract me, he came up with the brilliant plan to sell me his own house, in spite of it being his dream house that he had designed and built. The down payment was to be whatever I could afford and he would provide the mortgage. He also found that we could rent a small store in the shopping center for $100 per month. Finally, here was something that I could afford. Everything was quickly settled within a month of my visit, including the sale of my Montreal house, and we moved to Iroquois October 1, 1974. George Jackson bought a small mobile home, put it into a field at the edge of town and lived there with his family for several years. I will owe him a debt forever for his help.
Since then, Ross Video has grown well beyond my original vision. I have been very pleased to find that in the country there is no shortage of excellent people for our manufacturing, marketing and office positions. The quality of their skills, attitudes and their efficiency considerably exceeds what I had been used to in Montreal.
Although it took quite a while to understand, I have finally become accustomed to and respectful of country values and their benefit to the company and personal quality of life. Our Iroquois people have created a special working atmosphere, very good team and personal relationships and take immense pride in having a career at Ross Video.
If any town were asked what they needed most, they would answer “Jobs” good paying clean interesting high-tech employment? Ross Video makes a huge difference to Iroquois in many ways that could never be equaled in a city. In addition to providing the jobs, we also are very involved in financially supporting worthy local causes and in working with the local council to make South Dundas township a better place. The Iroquois employees know this and respond appreciatively in many ways.
I have also learned that although our Iroquois people were born in the country, love it and want to have very little part of the city, the majority of engineers, programmers and other professional people were born in a city and are uncomfortable, even bored by country life. Iroquois is not for them. The establishment of our Ottawa R&D facility has resolved that issue and gives our company very uniquely the best of both worlds. -John Ross