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July 01, 2009  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Girardin Celebrates 50-Year Anniversary

Family-owned school and commercial bus manufacturer and distributor marks five decades in the business with a trade show featuring products from its suppliers, and interactive contest for attendees and live entertainment in St.-Hyacinthe, Quebec.

by Kelly Roher, Senior Editor


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Girardin Minibus Inc.’s foray into the school bus industry began in 1958 when the Quebec government centralized the province’s education system, necessitating the transport of students to schools in larger towns.

Founder Lionel Girardin saw this as an opportunity, and he acquired one of the first school bus contracts in the province. He purchased the company’s first bus from a scrap yard and restored it with help from his sons André and Marcel.

The company was initially based in the small village of St.-Félix-de-Kingsey in Quebec, but to foster growth, Lionel and André established a new location in Drummondville (the current headquarters) several years later.

In 1968, Girardin acquired a franchise to distribute buses manufactured by Blue Bird Corp.; the companies have maintained a successful partnership.

When Lionel Girardin passed away in 1972, André and Marcel took over the company. It has since enjoyed milestones on the manufacturing front, with models including the MB-II minibus and the G5 school bus.

Girardin continues to operate as a family-owned business. André’s son Steve is president of Girardin Minibus, while Steve’s brother, Dave, is president of dealer A. Girardin Inc.

The Girardins celebrated their company’s history and 50 years in business on May 23 with team members, suppliers, Blue Bird officials and school and commercial bus owners, among others, at the Hotel des Seigneurs in St.- Hyacinthe, Quebec.

Trade show highlights
The day’s events, which drew approximately 900 attendees, commenced with a trade show featuring a Girardin Minibus booth with information on its school and commercial buses, as well as booths for the company’s major suppliers.

Girardin Parts, which sells and stores school bus components from a 22,000 square-foot warehouse, had two booths at the show — one with chassis components and the other with bus body parts and supplies from such companies as Rosco Vision Systems and Weldon Technologies Inc.

Allison Transmission Inc. and Cummins Inc. were also represented. On display at the Cummins booth was an engine used in Girardin units, and there was a slide show that explained how selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology works. (SCR is the emissions solution that Cummins is utilizing to help school bus manufacturers meet the EPA’s 2010 emissions standards.)

At wheelchair passenger safety solutions provider Q’Straint’s booth, components of the company’s occupant securement products were on view. Q’Straint celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. In a testament to the closeness of the Girardin family, Q’Straint President Jean-Marc Girardin’s three children now work with him at this family-owned business and are helping him to prepare for the next generation of Q’Straint leadership.

(Jean-Marc Girardin is one of Lionel Girardin’s five sons. In the early 1980s, Jean-Marc directed the opening of Girardin Minibus’ factory in Cambridge, Ontario, to produce the Bantam Minibus.)

Wheelchair lift provider Ricon Corp. has also enjoyed a long and successful relationship with Girardin Minibus. Ricon’s KSeries KlearVue lift was on display at the trade show. According to Jean-François Viau, regional sales manager, the company released a new and improved version of this lift and its other wheelchair lift for school buses, the S-Series unit, earlier this year. They are built based on the company’s next generation model for the K- and S-Series line — the “L” model. (The older, first generation model is the “F” model.)

For information on the new K-Series KlearVue and S-Series lifts, see the February 2009 issue of SCHOOL BUS FLEET.

There were also several school and commercial buses at the trade show, including four small school buses manufactured by Girardin (one was the G5) and three large school buses manufactured by Blue Bird.

Blue Bird launches the TX3
Toward the end of the trade show, Blue Bird officials unveiled the company’s TX3 school bus. Two versions were on view — one with English text and another with French text. Attendees had an opportunity to board both buses, sit in the driver’s seat, look under the hood and examine the other components.

The Blue Bird TX3 is the same Type D All American school bus that the company unveiled at the National Association for Pupil Transportation Trade Show in Myrtle Beach, S.C., last October. Blue Bird officials said the bus has been branded as the TX3 primarily for eastern Canada as marketed by A. Girardin Inc. to its option content specifications.

Ending on a festive note
Attendees enjoyed refreshments at a cocktail hour that followed the trade show and then went to dinner, which was accompanied by entertainment from Samina, a jazz singer.

In addition to the live music, Steve and Dave Girardin introduced a video that synopsized the company’s inception and achievements over the past 50 years, and they thanked attendees and members of the Girardin family for their support.

Also during dinner, the winners of a contest held during the trade show were announced.

(Bus company owners entered to win one of three seven-day cruises for two people to the east Caribbean on the Oasis of the Seas ship by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.)

The contest winners were Doris Besson of Autobus Gérard Besson, Carole Grondin of Autobus Carole Grondin Enr., and Remy Boivin of Autobus Montmagny Inc.

The evening ended with a concert from a French disco group named the Boogie Wonder Band.


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