Durbin visits Cook Canton

By:  Larry Eskridge
Canton Daily Ledger

CANTON —In 1963, Bill Cook invented a new method for surgically removing kidney stones.

And, according to Steve Ferguson, chairman of the board for the Cook Group, the first person he tried it out on was his wife, Gayle.

Five years later, the daughter of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) had to have a kidney stone removed, using the same method.


Durbin related the story as he toured the Cook plant in Canton during a downstate tour of area businesses to learn the best way to expand employment and improve the use of cutting edge technology in the state. To that end, Durbin was visiting downstate companies which were doing well in the current hard economic times and trying to find out why.

"This type of plant gives people a chance to work near their homes, and we want to make that concept grow," Durbin said.

Durbin praised the Canton plant for making a dynamic product which was "revolutionizing the medical field and saving lives every singe day."

Durbin noted he had visited a similar facility in Boston where a majority of the workers spoke English as a second language. He added most of the catheters were found to be faulty. He also said workers at the Canton plant were taking time to make sure quality is their number one priority, which he said requires a lot more hands-on work than automated factories. It was also noted more than 80 percent of the products produced by Cook Medical were made in the United States.

During Durbin's visit, Ferguson and plant manager Shawn Lawrence explained the history of Cook Medical and the variety of devices produced at the Canton plant. Lawrence noted all of the work was done by hand rather than automation. A total of 60 workers were currently employed, and at full capacity the plant can employ 300.

Durbin remarked 300 jobs at the Cook plant would translate into 1,000 more jobs in the community.

Ferguson added the price of the catheters manufactured in Canton have come down over the years.

Canton Mayor Kevin Meade told Durbin that Canton was comparable to many cities and towns in Illinois, with the major employer for many years closing its doors and throwing people out of work. He noted federal dollars had been used to help improve the area so the Cook company would be able to locate here. Meade noted it took both public and private money to make the new plant a reality and create jobs, adding it was the partnership between the public and private sectors which made the venture successful.

"This is an example of what a small town should do to create jobs," Meade said.

Other improvements provided by the Cook organization were noted, including the new hotel and the renovation of many downtown buildings. In addition, Meade noted the factory had been architecturally designed to fit in with the church across the street.

Ferguson said the city of Canton was great to work with, getting things done in a timely manner. "Government needs to understand that," Ferguson added, referring to costs that mount for private businesses due to government delays.

Ferguson also spoke with Durbin about taxes and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations which he said were slowing down advancements in medical technology. He noted user fees put in place by government had slowed approval of technology rather than increased it, which was the rationale behind the measure.

Durbin also visited the actual working part of the plant, where he spoke to workers and discussed the process.

"We are honored to have him take the time to visit us," said Ferguson. "We really want him to get the message about job creation and see what we do first hand."

Ferguson added he wanted to see the regulatory environment changed so that approval of new products can be done in a timely manner without cutting corners.

"The bottom line is that the most important thing is to create jobs, good paying jobs that can't be outsourced overseas," said Durbin. "Illinois has the potential to do that."

Ferguson noted the quality and efficacy of the work by Canton employees could stand up against anywhere else in the world.