East Longmeadow, Mass.
Employee health care benefits have been wasting away, year after year, as companies work to contain costs and keep their bottom lines in shape. Northstar Recycling Co. Inc. has figured out how to keep both its employees and budget healthy.
Northstar, which ranks No. 1 on Plastics News' Best Places to Work list this year, covers 100 percent of all in-network deductibles for employees and their dependents, from the very first dollar. Or, employees can apply the same amount of money toward an out-of-network deductible. Even part-timers are eligible.
“We found a great solution,” said chief marketing officer Jeff Cartun. “We go to a high-deductible plan and then just cover everyone's deductible.”
The East Longmeadow, Mass.-based firm, owned by brothers Seth and Noah Goodman, employs 21 in the home office and three remotely. It was founded in 1995, but claims its roots as a family business go back five generations to the days of rag recycling.
These days, the Goodmans focus on helping companies achieve zero-waste-to-landfill status. Though landfills sometimes are the last, best option, Northstar develops customized plans that allow customers to make money while disposing of waste through a variety of methods, Cartun said. The company operates nationwide, moving all kinds of material, specializing in hard-to-dispose-of items. Plastics make up 50 percent of the materials it handles.
As a private company, Northstar declined to reveal annual sales, but Cartun said, “We are growing nicely.” Last year, the company added two employees in anticipation of growth.
All Northstar Recycling employees occasionally receive a $500 after-tax cash bonus to acknowledge company achievements. Recently, the bonus was awarded twice in 12 months.
Annual bonuses are performance-based and the company provides matching funds for its retirement plan.
In addition to monetary rewards, employees have been treated to trips to Jackson Hole, Wyo., for skiing, a Montana horse ranch, a Berkshire spa and resort, and a Broadway musical. But even if they don't leave town, employees have a chance to get away: The office features a lounge with a TV and PlayStation, a patio with a grill and satellite radio for each employee. Each week, employees get a free lunch at a local diner.
And, while some might not consider this a benefit, Northstar has an on-site barber shop where employees can cut each other's hair. Really.
There are fitness programs and gym memberships, and Northstar pays for any interested employee to participate in the Hartford Marathon. There is motorbike riding, scavenger hunts, art classes and an “intensively competitive” white elephant party. There are usually a couple of dogs in the office who contribute to the relaxed atmosphere.
There are leadership programs, and career and personal development plans customized for each employee based on their needs and interests.
“We are open to all options, based on the situation,” Cartun said recently by phone.
The company boasts a family-first environment and employees are permitted and even encouraged to bring their children to work when they have day-care issues.
Northstar also extends its generosity to the community, Cartun said. The company is involved with the Springfield Jewish Community Center, the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts and the Sinai Temple of Springfield. The firm also supports local schools and sports leagues.
“One of their main goals when [the Goodmans] created Northstar was to be able to go to work with people who are excited about their jobs and want to be here,” Cartun said.
“The benefits are the results, not the cause,” he said. “The cause is [the Goodmans'] dedication to treating everyone with respect and letting them know they are valued. That's what makes this a special place.”