Niagara Bottling LLC has happy employees and plans to add many more.
The family-owned company, which ranked No. 10 on Plastics News' list of Best Places to Work in the Plastics Industry, has grown quickly in the past decade and is still expanding.
Last year, Niagara opened plants in Gahanna, Ohio; Aurora, Colo.; and Missouri City, Texas. This year, the company already has opened a facility in Puyallup, Wash., near Tacoma, and plans to open two more by the end of the year, in Pleasant Prairie, Wis., and Atlanta.
Andy Peykoff founded the company in 1963 and, after suffering a stroke in 2002, turned the reins over to his son, Andy Peykoff II. At that time, Niagara employed about 150.
The younger Peykoff became a 26-year-old CEO — and that helped to shape the corporate culture.
“When you're young, you don't want to hire industry veterans, because you don't think they're going to listen to you. That's what you think,” he said. “So we ended up with a young management team. ... It was an atmosphere where people could make mistakes. They weren't expected to know everything.
“We've stayed true to that philosophy. We often give people opportunities at a young age that they wouldn't necessarily have at another company.”
Today, Ontario, Calif.-based Niagara employs about 1,800; it created 600-plus jobs just last year and more are on the way. The growth, Peykoff said, is due in part to the “rising tide” in the bottling business, especially in private-label bottles. But the company has increased its competitiveness, he said, by adding faster, more efficient equipment and using technology to produce more with less.
Niagara is a manufacturer, “but we're also a technology company,” he said.
Niagara employees receive an array of benefits. In its application for Best Places to Work, the company said, “one-third of Niagara team members are enrolled in plans that require a mere $10 co-pay for office visits, urgent care visits, lab services and prescription drugs.”
“Even our high-deductible plans are wrapped with a low-cost medical gap plan to keep team member out-of-pocket costs low,” the company said.
Niagara even offers pet insurance.
The company has a plethora of formal employee recognition/appreciation programs including safety awards, production awards and quality issue awards among several others.
Niagara organizes quarterly activities for each department such as bowling, laser tag, sports and games. The firm also sponsors sports teams for the employees including soccer, softball and basketball. There are monthly birthday celebrations, “free-lunch Wednesdays” all summer, holiday lunches, team potlucks and family picnics.
The company also emphasizes safety with rewards. Each of the firm's 12 plants is allotted as much as $10,000 annually to reward employees for good safety records, and a new car is given away every year at each facility that meets its safety goals.
Another priority for the company is wellness — and it became even more of a priority a few years back when Peykoff himself accepted a challenge.
“My wife said, ‘Andy, you're looking a little soft.' ”
And so began a competition with his wife. “And that started this big thing,” Peykoff said of the company's annual Get Fit Challenge, an eight-week contest among employees. The top three winners from each location receive gym memberships.
One benefit that doesn't involve money or swag: Niagara's corporate culture. The company aims for an atmosphere of honesty and appreciation, and according to Peykoff, that pays off for everyone.
“If you do what you say you're going to do, if you have integrity, people have respect for that,” he said. “And people who give it their all tend to rise in our company.”