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Heuvelton native tells north country youth that hard work and success go hand in hand

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Heuvelton native Kenneth J. Lalonde has some words of advice for the youth of the north country: hard work and determination can mean realized dreams.

Mr. Lalonde, owner of Five Star Tool Company in Rochester, was recently the subject of a Rochester Business Journal profile.

Mr. Lalonde, a 1985 graduate of Heuvelton Central School, left the north country in 1989 after graduating from Clarkson University in search of a job.

“When I went to Clarkson there really weren’t a lot of opportunities up there,” he said. “For me I had to dig hard.”

After spending more than a decade with various companies, including some on the Fortune 200 list, Mr. Lalonde said he realized he wanted to be his own boss.

“I wanted to be in control of my own destiny,” he said.

He said he had grown tired of working without job security and having to deal with large organizations that often couldn’t be bothered to worry about the well-being of their employees.

In 1999, Mr. Lalonde and his wife, Renee, started their search for a company to buy.

Four years later, they settled on Five Star Tool Co.

“We’ve got a great company with a lot of technology and it still has a lot of opportunity for growth,” Mr. Lalonde said.

The company specializes in cutting tools that are used in manufacturing plants operated by General Motors, Chrysler, Boeing and Alcoa in addition to smaller manufacturers.

In addition the company turns out high-end electronic cigarettes and firearm components.

Mr. Lalonde said the company is expecting a lot of growth in the next several years coming from the medical sector as well, in particular dentistry.

“We have capability really to make anything,” he said.

In recent months the company has invested $700,000 in new technology in order to stay on top of the manufacturing field.

Mr. Lalonde attributes his success to growing up in Heuvelton with parents who understood the value of hard work.

The son of Virginia and the late Kenneth Lalonde, Mr. Lalonde said he “was really fortunate” growing up where he did.

His mother worked for 32 years as a factory operator at Acco, and his father worked at New York Telephone Co. in addition to operating a small oil business called “K.J. Lalonde Oil.”

“My parents had an incredible work ethic,” Mr. Lalonde said. “What we did for fun was work.”

Mr. Lalonde said growing up in Heuvelton, everyone paid attention to everyone else, for better or worse, whereas in larger places people can feel isolated.

To young people in the north country who are still in school or just getting started on their careers, Mr. Lalonde said, he hopes to be an example of where hard work can get you.

“[Success is] simple as long as every day you go to work and you have the drive to work or apply yourself in school,” he said. “You can get there if you put your heart and drive in it.”

Even when he was working for other people, Mr. Lalonde said, “I’d go to work every day and I’d pretend my name was on the building.”

Now that he owns his own company he said he strives to treat his employees as well as possible, bringing a small-town sense of caring to the workplace.

Being profiled by the Rochester Business Journal was “a tribute to my employees,” he said. “They’re proud to be there. They treat me good and I treat them good.”

Mr. Lalonde currently lives in Ontario, New York, with his wife and teenage boys, Jacob and Josh.

His mother splits her time between Heuvelton and Florida, and Mr. Lalonde said he comes back to the area every summer.

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