George Swingle, the founder of LEDCO laminating machinery company of Hemlock NY in 1985.
Photo courtesy of Livonia Gazette.
From small identification cards to six-foot billboards, laminating (bonding by heat and pressure) has become a familiar process to all of us over the last 25 years. Interestingly enough, one of the strongholds of the laminating industry is in the Hemlock - Honeoye area.
“Probably more advances in the art of laminating have come from this area than anywhere else in the country,” says George Swingle. Mr. Swingle ought to know, he has been involved with the laminating process for many years and along with Lloyd Dresser of Honeoye invented the heat shield principle for laminating machines.
This past week, Mr. Swingle watched as a backhoe began digging for the foundation of the second expansion of Ledco, the laminating machine manufacturing firm locate in Hemlock NY, of which he is founder and president. Ledco is now a subsidiary of Graphic Laminating of Cleveland, Ohio. Ledco stands for Laminating Equipment Design Corporation.
Perhaps in keeping with the hamlet in which it is located, Ledco is very low key. Even many residents of Hemlock are not sure just what is done in the one-story red building located at the corner of Rt. 15A and Big Tree Rd. Most will tell you, “Oh, they do laminating.” No, they do not. What the 31 employees do is to make machines which are then used to do laminating.
Just as varied as the size and types of machines made by the company, are the clients for whom the machines are produced. The company has contracts with the federal government, the State of New York and other states, and private concerns including such giants as Eastman Kodak. Doing its part to maintain the balance of trade, Ledco ships many of its machines to Europe and even to Japan.
George Swingle’s association with laminating began with his introduction by Honeoye’s Guthrie Stone to the late Lloyd Dresser. Out of that partnership came the former D & S Company the forerunner of what is now Laminex of Honeoye.
After leaving Laminex, Mr. Swingle decided to start his own laminating machine firm. A native of nearby Allens Hill and a former student at the Hemlock School, he liked the area and wanted to locate his new business nearby.
In 1973, he moved into the old building across from the 1812 Country Store. It had once been the ironworks part of Wemett’s Country Craftsmen. A computer firm was in one end of the building. “The other end was a mess,” said Mr. Swingle, “we had to remove three or four inches of dirt and grime.” Mr. Swingle also saw to it that the field of weeds were cleared and personally attended to the planting of shrubs.
After a while, the computer firm moved out and by 1980, Ledco needed to make its first expansion. They constructed a metal building which now houses the assembly shop and the stock and shipping area. In the original part of the building is located the machine shop.
The new part which will provide both additional office and work areas will be a metal building approximately 40 feet by 100 feet enclosing the original building. A new office entrance will open onto Big Tree Rd. Plans also call for the new building to be landscaped.
Unchallenged as Hemlock’s leading industry, the company makes an effort to employ people from the local area. An office staff of six and some 25 machinists, assemblers and stockmen make up the present workforce. Mr. Swingle said the company had hired about ten new persons over the last few months and would anticipate hiring as many as 20 additional employees after the expansion is completed, hopefully early in 1986.
Ledco is somewhat of a family business. Son, James Swingle is general manager, and daughters, Marilyn Swingle and Judith Gibson are also employed with the company. Other supervisory personnel include Shop foreman, Willard Bongren of Canadice and assembly foreman Rich Jenner of Bristol.
While it is unlikely you very often come into contact with the machines made by Ledco, you probably do come in contact daily with some laminated item done on one of those machines.
Probably most common are the ID photos used for work and school identification. But lamination is also used for teaching and training manuals, for children’s books and games, for overhead viewer plates, etc. Though, Ledco does not provide the machines for the New York State Drivers’ Licenses, they have provided them for some states, including Michigan, one of the first to use photo licenses. Currently, Ledco works closely with Eastman Kodak in the production of machines in connection with its new photo identification and datacode process. Hemlock, is even listed as the location of a sales office on a current Kodak brochure promoting the new process.
When asked why Social Security Cards, one of the most used and long-life ID cards one ever has, is not only not laminated but states on it, “don’t laminate,” Mr. Swingle laughed and replied, “I noticed it myself when I recently had to replace mine. We’ll have to look into that.”
While Ledco may keep a rather low profile locally, certainly it is one of the leaders in the laminating industry and an asset to both the economy and the growing reputation of our area for quality made products.