The top two Best Places to Work in the Plastics Industry are family-run businesses — run by the same family.
Micro Mold Co. Inc. and its sister firm, Plastikos Inc., claimed the No. 1 and No. 2 slots, respectively, in the Plastics News ranking.
Mold and tool manufacturer Micro Mold, founded in 1978, is now headed by Ryan Katen, president and general manager. His brother, Philip Katen, is president and general manager of injection molder Plastikos, which was founded in 1989. Plastikos was Plastics News' 2010 Processor of the Year.
Their father, Timothy Katen, was one of the founders of both firms.
“We grew up around the businesses,” Philip Katen said in a recent phone interview. “It was part of our daily conversation around the dinner table.”
Vacations were usually taken in areas where there were customers or potential customers. The kids worked part time in the summers “weeding, cleaning machines, sweeping floors — entry-level positions,” he said.
Their father retired in 2009, but remains active on the board of directors.
Only four years and roughly 15 miles separate Ryan and his older brother. The Erie, Pa.-based companies and their leaders share similar philosophies and objectives, which might explain why they ran neck-and-neck in the Best Places competition.
“We're definitely on the same team, with common goals,” Ryan said. “We work together — but apart enough that we don't drive each other nuts.”
The corporate cultures are a bit different, however.
While most companies claim to be equal-opportunity employers, Plastikos actually works directly with the Catholic Charities' Refugee Resettlement Program to hire international employees for a range of positions, and has worked with the nonprofit Multicultural Community Resource Center's Refugee Social Services program.
“Local programs have afforded a lot of opportunities for refugees in our communities,” Philip said.
Plastikos, with a roster of 108 workers on three shifts, has employed workers from Nepal, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eastern Europe and Iraq.
“A diverse population adds a great range of diversity to the company,” he said.
Micro Mold is much smaller with a 22-person crew.
“Both places are great to work at. I love the environment at both shops and I love the closeness at Micro Mold,” Ryan said.
The companies team up for community service efforts. Last spring, employees participated in a beach clean up at nearby Presque Isle State Park. They are planning to take part in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in October, and the company will match employee donations to the cause.
Both companies said they make charitable contributions based on employees' recommendations.
Plastikos and Micro Mold provide medical benefits, profit sharing, a retirement savings program with matching funds, tuition assistance, formal education and training, bonus plans and wellness programs.
But the key element in maintaining a satisfied workforce, Philip said, is concern for individuals.
“People can tell if you're genuine or not, if you truly care,” he said.