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Extreme Tool makes the Upper Peninsula attractive for employees

By: Jeannie Reall

March 19, 2014

Mike Zacharias had an unusual reaction upon learning his firm made the Plastics News Best Places to Work list.

“I was surprised about being a finalist,” he said. “It’s not an easy place to work.”

Both employee and customer satisfaction are important at Extreme Tool & Engineering Inc., he said, and it can be challenging to align the two objectives.

“I push people really hard to keep our clients happy. I try to do that in a way that allows people balance and to have a life,” he said. “It’s nice to hear … that we are able to do both.”

The company ranked No. 5 on the top 10 list.

Zacharias said he tries to foster a “team environment.” Anyone on the floor can stop him to talk — about family, hobbies, sports or the like.

“And there’s not a job in this shop I haven’t done or wouldn’t do,” he said.

He is president of the tool and mold maker and co-owner with his wife, Shari, who is corporate controller and secretary. They started the company in 1998 with six people. The firm now employs 78.

Education is a priority for Zacharias, who sees it as a benefit for all involved.

“We pretty much pay for anything [educational] that relates to the job. I feel like I can bring in the best tools, technology and equipment in the world, but it’s only as good as the people running it,” he said. “Selfishly, the reason I do it is for business, but … it helps employees move forward and feel better in their careers.”

Extreme Tool offers health insurance, a retirement program with matching funds and profit sharing. The company also supports the National Wild Turkey Federation and Walleyes For Tomorrow.

“Our business is a long way away from a lot of things,” Zacharias said in a recent phone interview. “It’s more difficult to get to. But we focus on the positive: clean air and water, no crime.”

The company is located near Ironwood, Mich., on the far western end of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The plant is about 15 minutes from the largest lake in the Upper Peninsula, Lake Gogebic, in the Ottawa National Forest.

Customers who visit enjoy the location and often choose to stay in a cabin on the lake rather than a hotel, Zacharias said.

“And our employees enjoy the natural resources.”