Once the darling of the tech sector but now facing an uncertain future smartphone maker BlackBerry faces an uphill struggle for survival.

Canada had never seen a company like Research in Motion before, renamed BlackBerry, which revolutionized wireless communications.

Pioneered by University of Waterloo student, Mike Lazaridis, in just over a decade the Waterloo-based tech start-up soars to meteoric heights.

200 million units sold to date, 72 million subscribers, stock shares worth almost $150 dollars in 2008 and 20,000 employees worldwide.  It’s a Canadian success story that seems unstoppable.  But, competitors soon begin crowding the marketplace, producing innovative devices for a wider audience.  Soon, BlackBerry sees a steady decline in profits and market share.

Historian Ken McLaughlin has chronicled the rise and fall of numerous local businesses.

“Part of our identity goes with it but then it’s recreated in other forms, so it’s not as if it’s buried and tucked away forever.  It’s like another generation emerges from it.” McLaughlin says.

He says one company hardly remembered today, Dominion Woollen in Hespeler, was the BlackBerry of its day, employing almost a third of the town.

“Dominion Woollens and Worsteds was the largest woollen company in the British Empire and during World War II it had over 1,500 workers.” McLaughlin says.

But, after 30 years in business, with consumers turning to newer synthetic fabrics, Dominion Woollens went into receivership in 1959.

Other big businesses have come and gone from Waterloo Region.

McLaughlin reflects on why some have staying power, while others slip away.

Check out the full story this Sunday night at 6:30 p.m. on ProvinceWide with Daiene Vernile.