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Recruits help foster growth at resin distributor Chase Plastic

By: By Gary Anglebrandt
CRAIN'S DETROIT BUSINESS

March 21, 2013

CLARKSTON, MICH. — All other things being equal, wooing prospective job prospects often comes down to convincing them they will have opportunities to grow.

One local plastics company has learned by experience that the investment is well worth it -- and helps a growing company grow faster.

Clarkston-based Chase Plastic Services Inc. is a distributor of higher-end raw thermoplastics materials for plastics product manufacturers. The company's model is based on going well beyond supplying raw materials. If a customer is having trouble with the end product, Chase sends engineers to see if the physical properties of the materials need tweaking. They also perform tests and, if need be, locate third-parties that might be able to help.

That requires Chase to hire talented engineers who are also sought by much larger companies. Making the need more urgent: Chase's growth strategy is based on having highly skilled people throughout its workforce of about 90 employees. Even the salespeople -- not just the technical teams in the field -- have engineering degrees. Chase President Kevin Chase and Vice President Carole Chase see that as their angle against the competition.

"You have to be that material engineer resource for your customer," said Kevin Chase of the requirements of his sales staff.

It appears to be working. The company had revenue of about $181 million last year, up from $164 million in 2011. The attention to talent has been a driver of growth since the company's inception in 1992, they said.

Chase takes years to develop relationships with students at the undergrad and sometimes high school level so that when graduation time comes, those students have Chase top of mind.

Jason Merkle is a Chase technical services and application development engineer who has a master's degree in plastics engineering from the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Kevin Chase began talking to Merkle about internships when the student was still an undergrad at Ferris State University. Merkle did three internships with Chase, working in purchasing, customer service and engineering, and the company offered him a job two months before he finished grad school.

Merkle said he checked out some other offers -- one of them "significantly larger than Chase" -- but went with Chase because he was impressed with the company's clear appreciation for talent.

"They had goals for me from the get-go," Merkle said.

It also helped that he didn't have to settle lower in return for the appreciation. He said the pay and benefits are above average and there are plenty of opportunities for advancement.