When husband-and-wife team Kevin and Carole Chase founded the company almost 24 years ago, “neither of us knew what we were doing,” Kevin Chase said in a recent phone interview.
But they must have figured it out.
The company just moved into a $1.3 million-dollar expansion that effectively doubled its space in the Detroit suburb of Clarkston to 28,000 square feet. Chase Plastics had operated from just the second floor of its building, atop 14,000 square feet of space that was mostly vacant. The company gutted that area, remodeled it and moved in early in February.
The month before, the firm broke ground on a 125,000-square-foot, “extremely productive, wireless warehouse” in South Bend, Ind. The $6 million facility will replace a 90,000-square-foot building the company had been leasing.
It’s all a far cry from the firm’s beginnings, when Carole Chase delivered materials out of the trunk of her car. Chase Plastics now offers more than 6,400 products in the U.S. and nine other countries. Its 34-plus resin suppliers span the globe.
Chase said sales grew 9 percent from 2013 to 2014 reaching $217 million, and he expects them to exceed $230 million this year. Some of that growth comes from inroads the company has made into Canada, and from the strength of the U.S. automotive market. Chase Plastics specializes in engineering and specialty thermoplastics used in automotive, medical, electrical and electronics markets.
With all the growth, “We’re hiring frequently,” he said. The company’s careful hiring process probably contributes to the staff’s satisfaction level.
“When we talk to prospective team members, we want them to interview us as much as we interview them,” Chase said. The result? “We have outstanding people who are passionate about their work.”
While the couple retains 68 percent ownership in the company today, some employees now are owners, too — which also might also explain why the staff enjoys working there. Owning part of the company “gets you skin in the game,” Chase said.
“It allows them to understand the future of the business; it gives them a seat at the table. One of the worst decisions an owner can make is to think he or she can do it all on their own.”
Some of the five minority owners have been with the company more than 20 years.
“The younger ones are part of the succession plan,” he said.
Even though the company isn’t family-owned, “We do everything we can to treat all of our 110 employees as a family,” Chase said. “We treat them fairly and honestly, with no favoritism whatsoever — we don’t have time for that.”
When everyone’s in balance, “that’s when you can be productive, effective and have a damn good time,’’ he added. “You’ve got to remember that … it’s not about the money; it’s about why God put you on this earth.”
In addition to the benefits one might expect from a “best place to work” — such as medical and prescription coverage for employees and dependents, flexible spending accounts, a health savings account to which the company contributes $250 annually and so on — Chase Plastics offers a 401(k) program, critical illness insurance, bonuses when objectives are met and partially paid gym memberships.
And then there’s the food. And competitions. And competitions involving food.
“We love to eat and socialize,” the company said in its Best Places to Work submission. “You name it, and we can have a competition on it — all in good fun!”
There are chili cook-offs, barbecues and potlucks, quarterly luncheons, cornhole tournaments and ladder golf games, best-decorated cubicle contests for Halloween and Christmas, competitions for the ugliest sweater, best costume and craziest slippers, and a pumpkin-carving contest.
In some not-so-silly activities, employees get paid (and fed) to help out charities such as Habitat for Humanity. They hold food drives and adopt families for the holidays with gift donations and volunteer work. The company sponsors local school and community sports teams, and all the employees participate in an Adopt-A-Soldier program, sending care packages to troops a few times a year. Often, soldiers will come visit the company when they return home.
Keeping employees healthy is one of the firm’s missions. Its annual onsite health fair offers flu shots, biometric screenings and a masseuse.