Founded in 1964 by Bob and Marcia Goltermann, Berkeley, Ill.-based KI Industries Inc. is a supplier of decorative plastic parts for the appliance and automotive industries. KI ranks No. 5 among suppliers on Plastics News' Best Places to Work list for 2021.
KI operates as an employee-owned organization, so the employees share in its success. Since the inception of the employee stock ownership plan in 2012, the company has grown more than 500 percent.
"We focus heavily on the ownership aspect for all our U.S.-based employees, and it has made a difference in the value of our organization and in the value of our employees' retirement accounts," according to the company, which has 54 employees in the U.S. There are also offices and facilities in China and Mexico.
ESOP Month is celebrated in October, complete with cookouts, contests, challenges, games and prizes. But due to COVID-19 in 2020, the company celebrated online with contests and games.
Other stress-relieving activities are offered throughout the year to promote the ESOP culture, including 15-minute massages, picnics, bingo, paper airplane contests, silly hat day and potlucks. Retirements, quarterly updates, lunch and learns, and Super Bowl parties call for employee lunches. At holiday parties, employees leave with a gift, from Apple products to a television.
KI employees can start contributing to their retirement accounts on the first day of employment.
KI pays for 100 percent of premiums for employees' dental and vision benefits as well as life insurance and short-term and long-term benefits. Ancillary benefits include pet insurance and legal insurance. KI also recently added insurance for employees when they travel outside of their home country.
KI said it was "successful in negotiating a two-year rate guarantee" with its health insurance provider to be able to offer the same plan benefits with no increased costs for this year. KI funds a health savings account of up to $800 in contributions per eligible employee.
Ten paid holidays are offered per year, as well as 10 vacation days, two personal days and unlimited sick days after one year with the company.
The company highlights one employee per month in a monthly spotlight, which gives co-workers a chance to get to know one another.
When the pandemic hit, all but 12 KI employees started working remotely. In June 2020, the company returned to 50 percent capacity with rotating schedules in each department. As of Oct. 1, there had been zero cases of COVID-19.
The company provides monthly updates to its staff via written communication and video town hall meetings.
CEO Mike MacLean said he is incredibly proud of the KI employees and that 2020 taught them to focus on what is in front of them. "We should all focus on showing up and being the best version of ourselves," he said.
KI previously made the Best Places to Work list by PN in 2018-20. It has also made the Best Places to Work list in 2019 and 2020 by Crain's Chicago Business, a sister publication of PN.
"KI Industries is a trusted supplier of decorative products for over 50 years," KI said. "We specialize in working with OEMs to design and manufacture decorative plastic and die-cast components for appliance, automotive and consumer products. As we are employee-owned, our ESOP culture drives the way we partner with employees. Our culture is one of a focused, growth mindset within a 'family' environment."