Brooklyn Park, Minn. — When the employees are the owners, they pull together as a tight-knit team to run as efficiently as possible and grow the company.
That's what happens at Diversified Plastics Inc., a custom injection molder based in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Park — winner of the Plastics News Excellence Award for Employee Relations.
James Dow, who found himself out of work when his employer went bankrupt after what he said was mismanagement, decided to start his career over and bought a small, financially troubled company in 1977 with 13 employees. He was new to plastics, so he relied on the hardworking men and women to build up Diversified Plastics. Today the company has 100 employees in Brooklyn Park and a company the firm bought two years ago, Pacific Plastics Injection Molding in Vista, Calif.
"Through a lot of hard work and dedication and getting good people, we just kept growing and growing," Dow said. He promoted a family environment and a culture of collaboration.
So, as Dow got to an age when he was looking to retire, around 2005, offers came in from potential buyers. "People were approaching me all the time wanting to buy the company. They would always assure me that they were going keep all my employees, not to worry. Everybody'll have a job. Well, I wasn't born yesterday. I know better than that. I had 13 people who put their lives into this company, and I wasn't going to have them out in the street," he said.
Dow turned them all down. Then Chief Financial Officer Roger Vang told him about employee stock ownership plans as a way for Dow to retire and turn Diversified Plastics over to his staff. But the company was too small and it took several years for it to make economic sense, Vang said.
Finally, in 2011, Dow created the ESOP.
Workers owning a company can be a powerful motivator. After a computer crash in 2015, employees toiled over several weekends to fix it. Diversified lost no customers.