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June 6, 2017 Manufacturing Insights

Lampin emphasizes a strong workforce

Bill DiBenedetto (far right), retired president of Lampin Corp. in Uxbridge, said Lampin is willing to invest its resources into making sure employees reach their potential.

Through its compensation package and 100-percent employee ownership, Lampin Corp. of Uxbridge is focused on recruiting and retaining the strongest possible workforce. The company, with 33 employees, goes out of its way to reach out to students in local schools and introduce them to what a career in manufacturing could mean for them.

Bill DiBenedetto, former president of Lampin who recently retired, spoke in April about the company’s employee ownership, recruitment tactics, and work with kids in the Blackstone Valley.

Tell me about your transition into employee-ownership.

The first phase was done in 2002 or 2001, where 31 percent of the company ownership was transferred to the employee owners. The owner at the time kept 69 percent and sold the remaining 31 percent to a trust, which owns the stock on behalf of the employee owners. Then in 2006, the remaining 69 percent of shares were sold to the trust, which made Lampin a 100 percent employee owned company.

Year after year, employee owners accumulate value that stays within the trust. The idea is the value is there for them upon retirement.

It’s more a feeling of payback for a job well done. The owner at that time was looking for a way to transition out of the company. He was concerned that selling the company outright would significantly change its culture. He was looking for a way to say thank you to the people for making it successful, and he thought, "What better way to do that then to sell them the company?"

What are some other ways you support your employees?

We have, hands down, the best compensation program of any company in the Northeast, or probably any company in the United States -- barring what Fortune 500 companies offer to executives. We’re 100-percent owned by employees, which makes us tax exempt. Because of that, our ability to earn is much greater on an annual basis, considering the fact that we’d probably be in a 25- or 27-percent corporate tax bracket. The employees get the benefits from that. We have very significant benefits: 401(k) for instance, and 50 percent of every dollar is matched by the corporation up to the U.S. IRS limits. Nobody does that today. We also pay almost 100-percent full medical benefits to employee owners and families. We pay 100 percent for reimbursement of education. I could go on and on and on. We have disability insurance, paid vacations, several paid holidays a year. If you add it all up, that plus our very high hourly wages, nobody can beat us. And once people are there, they know it and they never want to leave.

What’s the average employee tenure?

Our average employee tenure now is about 15 years. We have some in the 20-35 year range, and we have some in the one year range. When we hire people, we try to hire the best quality individuals that we can find. We look for people that are stable, people that want to be part of a progressive team, or people that want to learn. We’re not necessarily looking for the best, most talented skill sets, because they’re very difficult to find. We’re willing to make the commitment to train and develop our own people as long as we know that they value what the corporation has to offer, because the more we put into the development of those people technically, the more substantial the strength of our labor base is.

How do you make sure your workforce is strong?

Our approach has been to form close bonds and relationships with all of the high schools that are in our area. For Lampin, that means 10 high schools in the Blackstone Valley, one of which is the Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School where they formally train people in machining. We’ve decided they can’t possibly fulfill our needs as well as the needs of all the other companies, so what we want to do is work with the other nine high schools to help those students, advisers and parents to understand the value and opportunity within manufacturing, and over a period of time build up enough enthusiasm among the students, so when the time is right they look towards us for internships.

They can’t run machines until they’re 18 years old. But they can do other assembly tasks that we have or inspection tasks, or support tasks, and get familiar with how the process of manufacturing works and kind of see, "Is this something I want to pursue as part of my career?"

Any opportunity I get to speak at middle schools, I do, because at the middle school, at the 8th and 9th grade level, that’s when you can begin to talk to kids about "Hey have you thought about working? What is working like to you? What does that mean?"

Hopefully they go home and say to their parents, "We had this guy come in today and talk to us about his company. Do you know anything about that, Dad? Or Mom?" We show them little widgets we made and talk to them about our history and our experiences.

We realized a couple of years ago there’s whole segment out of there of parents today, who missed an opportunity for a manufacturing career, because manufacturing was on the downslide. There was little to no interest or funding for manufacturing training within schools for a long period of time. So the parents now who are anywhere from 30, 40, 50 years old, and the teachers, and the guidance counselors who are all that same age, they kind of missed manufacturing.

Companies like mine can’t assume that age group understands what manufacturing is all about. Our job is to teach the parents and the guidance counselors what the fundamentals of manufacturing are, and what the opportunities are, before we get to the kids. But we use the kids to kind of roll them in because that’s our vehicle -- those are the ones we go talk to.

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by Laura Finaldi, WBJ Staff Writer.

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