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Garmin celebrates major expansion in Southern Alberta

They’re raising the roof – literally – at Cochrane’s high tech superstar Garmin Canada.
Software engineer Harrison Chin demonstrated how he can operate a trolling motor with his Garmin "wristwatch."

They’re raising the roof – literally – at Cochrane’s high tech superstar Garmin Canada.

Garmin Canada, Inc., an affiliate of Garmin, has opened its newly expanded third floor to associates after a year of construction to its existing building in Cochrane.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony and celebration took place on Wednesday morning, where the superlatives flowed freely.

Founder Jim Rooney said when he started up in a garage in Cochrane a little more than 20 years ago he never dreamed he’d see a building like the three-story modern edifice they now occupy, with space for over 400 associates. They currently have 200 associates, so there’s plenty of room for continued expansion.

“It wasn’t in my wildest dreams. It was hard to think what to expect, but we’ve come a long, long way since then,” he said.

“I say this a lot – there’s no better place to live, work and play.”

The soft-spoken founder of the incredibly successful high tech company doesn’t maybe fit the mold of the brash entrepreneur. He credits the people he’s gathered around him with the success of Garmin.

“They’re all a huge part of it. Honestly, this is my second family,” Rooney said as he looked around at the throngs of people milling around after the formal speeches.

He said they were all passionate about what they do.

“We have a lot of fun making things, and making some of the best things in the world.”

Senior Software Engineer Harrison Chin is clearly having fun as he cannot suppress his smile during a demonstration of how he controls a trolling motor with his Garmin “watch” on his wrist.

This Garmin device allows the operator of a fishing boat to control the speed and direction of the boat while keeping their hands free to catch fish.

And is has an added safety feature.

“It’s called ‘Man Overboard,’” Chin explains. “If you fall out of the boat, it will tell you which way to swim back.”

The pride on Chin’s smiling face is a common feature of all the other employees who explained what they do to The Eagle.

The Garmin building has become the keystone structure in downtown Cochrane, and a beacon of success in the high tech business sector.

Addressing his staff, Rooney said he never dreamed they’d end up delivering “hundreds of products to tens of millions of customers all around the world. You guys should be really proud,” he said.

The diverse team is comprised primarily of engineers, technical and business professionals who work with Garmin offices around the world to drive innovation and development for the company’s fitness and outdoor products.

“The success that Garmin is seeing with the expansion of the third floor translates into success for our community,” said mayor Jeff Genung at the ceremony.

Genung said the community is grateful to Garmin for choosing Cochrane as their home base.

Garmin Canada is an ideal place to build and test products, and we are proud to continue to grow alongside Cochrane. We get so much support from our active community to help us test and refine our products, and this gives our associates an opportunity to spend time giving back to the community through organizations such as Bike Cochrane, the Cochrane Food Bank and Footstock,” Rooney said.

That’s just a partial list of the community groups that Garmin generously supports, without much fanfare. Last year Garmin employees logged over 382 volunteer hours in the community.

The expansion provides additional space for labs, test equipment, and office amenities.

As part of an investment by Garmin to reduce carbon emissions and utilize renewable energy sources where possible, rooftop solar panels were part of the expansion. The solar panels will supply almost one third of current needs, with the balance sourced from the renewable energy grid.

Josh Jensen, the IT manager who demonstrates the sophisticated monitoring systems attached to the new solar panels, shows how he can get readouts for each individual panel, either on his laptop or even on his smart phone.

He too can’t stop smiling. He proudly lets his geek flag fly.

“I intend to be the geekiest person here,” he said.

On Thursday April 18th, Garmin Canada will host an open house from 6 pm to 8 pm to give residents of Cochrane, Calgary and the surrounding communities a chance to learn more and see firsthand what the company does. Garmin is at 30 Bow St, right beside Good Earth Coffee House.

Garmin Canada is a key site for research and development for Garmin. The site originated as a small tech start-up in Cochrane, AB that was acquired by Garmin nearly 20 years ago.

Garmin International, Inc. is a subsidiary of Garmin Ltd. (NYSE: GRMN). Garmin Ltd. is incorporated in Switzerland, and its principal subsidiaries are located in the United States, Taiwan and the United Kingdom. Garmin is a registered trademark of Garmin Ltd. or its subsidiaries.

Howard May

About the Author: Howard May

Howard was a journalist with the Calgary Herald and with the Abbotsford Times in BC, where he won a BC/Yukon Community Newspaper Association award for best outdoor writing.
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