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Global Group’s seat of power

At 71 years old, Saul Feldberg still works 12-hour days.

After all, running one of Vaughan’s largest employers, making sure American presidents and Russian parliamentarians are comfortably seated is not your typical nine-to-five sort of job.

Feldberg started Global Upholstery in 1966 in a 3,500-square-foot factory space on Supertest Rd. in Downsview with six workers. Today, he chairs Global Group, which occupies six million square feet and employs more than 8,000 full-time workers in the U.S., U.K., France, Italy, Brazil, Australia, Israel and Canada.

A quarter of those jobs — more than 2,000 — are situated in Vaughan.

“That would pretty much put them in the top three as far as employers by size range in York Region,” says Peter Campitelli, president and chair of the Vaughan Chamber of Commerce. “The only ones bigger might be Canada’s Wonderland and UPS.”

The same year Global was building its first chair in North York, Vaughan was still a predominately rural township with just 19,000 residents.

It was about 15 years after opening that Feldberg satisfied Global’s need to expand, by acquiring development opportunities in the rapidly growing town north of Steeles Ave.

“It was a natural thing to move north,” Feldberg says. “Land was available at reasonable pricing and the taxation was less.

“There was also a better will-do attitude to attract new people to Vaughan.”

Today, Global’s Vaughan operations represent the “bigger portion” when compared to Toronto, Feldberg says. The company has 1.25 million square feet of manufacturing space and has forged a strong bond with city administrators.

“We’ve always had a good relationship with all the mayors in Vaughan, starting with Mayor (Lorna) Jackson and then (Michael) Di Biase and now with (Linda) Jackson,” he says. “We have access to a lot of people, councillors who know us.”

On an international level, the company provides cushy seating arrangements for U.S. President George W. Bush to take a load off in while at the White House. Final assembly of the presidential chair was done at Global’s Supertest location, though Feldberg says he’s “sure that some of the components came from Vaughan”.

Along with that and other chairs sprinkled around the White House, Feldberg says Global also furnished the Duma, Russia’s parliament, a decade ago.

Despite cradling the world’s leaders, Feldberg has never lost sight of the people who have worked for him over his 41 years in business. He feels an obligation to them well into his golden years, especially now that pressures from Chinese manufacturers and the strong Canadian dollar are posing tough, new challenges.

“I’ll keep going,” he says. “I’m close to the people.

“I was at their weddings, their children’s christenings. It’s like a big family. We call it the Global family.”

Vaughan Today
Friday, October 19, 2007
Page: 7
Section: Vaughan Business
Byline: Philip Alves